Professionalism in the Creative Industries

In the creative industries, by which I mean those industries that generate and commercialise ideas, knowledge and creativity, does the concept of professionalism apply? In the case of my chosen field, web development, is being a professional with an advanced degree important?

Certainly, there are still many employers who, when they advertise for jobs, state that they are looking for someone with a university-level degree and years of experience in a chosen discipline. Many employers in the creative industry still feel a potential employee should have made the commitment to hone their skills through gaining degrees and certifications.

students graduating
Is having a degree important?

However, does this approach run the risk of disqualifying those that did not have the opportunity to go into higher education but still have the same, or possibly greater, skills? Is a web developer only someone with a relevant degree or is it anyone that puts in the time and effort to learn web development? Being rigid when it comes to professionalism in the creative industries could lead to worthy candidates not even being considered as they do not have the ‘right’ education.

This does not mean that having a professional code of conduct is not important in the creative industry. It can provide structure for companies as they know that a new employee, during their education, has been taught the practical and soft skills they need to know to a known level.

a man with a sticker on his head at a computer in an office
A professional at work?

In his book, Ethics in Computing, Joseph Migga Kizza characterises professionalism in four ways – commitment, integrity, responsibility and accountability. I believe these codes can certainly apply to the web development industry. Companies and freelancers both need to show commitment to the job in hand, to not give up and continually strive for improvement. Having integrity shows you can be trusted and that also leads into responsibility, where you need to show that you can be relied upon and be honest in your work. In the creative industry, you must perform to the best of your ability when you create a website, app, animation or game and that creation should reach a standard that is expected from your client. Finally, accountability is especially important as, at the end of the day, you must be accountable for the outcome of a project and, hopefully, following these other codes of conduct you can produce something to be proud of.

For web development we have the W3C Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct that lays out the expected and acceptable behaviours for professionals in this field. This not only helps the individual following this code but also benefits the organisation as it promotes their public image.

These sites were especially helpful in creating this blog piece:

Craig on Professionalism – Professionalism, its meaning and place in the creative industries.

Expert Web Design – What ethical responsibilities does a web developer have?

Mind Tools – Professionalism – Developing this vital characteristic.