Another group is trying to corner its labor market.
A legislative committee just voted out a proposal to create a colegio for political scientists. Although the word is the same in Spanish, a professional colegio is not a secondary school. In Latin American countries it is an organization that encompasses certain white-collar work.
Here the lawyers have a colegio, and so do the physicians, surgeons, nurses and even journalists. So do many other job categories. These colegios are created by law and given certain responsibilities.
One attribute sometimes is that to practice the type of work an individual must belong to the colegio. The Colegio de Periodistas de Costa Rica enforced such a requirement until an expat newsman challenged the criminal sanctions before the Interamerican Court of Human Rights and won in 1985.
Still, the proposed law for a political scientist colegio, No. 19.638, also contains a criminal sanction for those who exercise the work without belonging to the colegio, which also covers individuals in international relations.
The bill also permits contracting a person for political science reasons who is not a colegio member for a short period.
In order to belong to the colegio, an applicant must have a bachelor’s or licenciatura from a Costa Rica higher education institution specifically in political science.
Also accepted are those whose foreign degrees are accepted by the Consejo Nacional de Rectores.
In the Middle Ages, five professions were recognized: Law, medicine, engineering, education and religion. Since then, the urge to be called a professional has mushroomed, but Latin America is a place where membership is obligatory for some job categories.
The proposed law also would allow the political science colegio to fix fees of its members. That is a hot-button issue now because the Colegio de Médicos y Cirujanos, has just set some mandatory fees for its members that some consider disproportional.
The proposed law stops short of identifying exactly what is a political scientist or someone involved in international relations. A good guess certainly would include lobbyists, some staffers at the legislature and others in government agencies.
However, the American Political Science Association has a long list of job titles that it considers appropriate for political science graduates. They range from CIA analyst to Web content editor.
Also lacking in the proposed bill is a description of the professional ethics, although the measure would set up an ethics committee.
The proposed law won approval from the legislature’s Comisión Permanente Especial de Relaciones Internacionales y Comercio Exterior.
The basic definition of a profession is one that has a defined body of knowledge that requires special education to practice. The professional association, or colegio in this case, is responsible for enforcing standards and punishing deviations from them. The sociological definition is much tighter than the definition used in common speech, such as calling an athlete a professional.