What is a Profession? | Definition vs Meaning

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term ‘profession’ refers to an occupation that entails the application of ‘professed’ knowledge of some field, subject or science.

Thus, two points are critical when defining ‘profession.’

  1. It comprises skill or expertise in a particular field, subject or science.
  2. It entails the application of those skills. 

Accordingly, a profession requires an individual to undergo rigorous training and acquire formal education to become a part of it.

Besides skill and application, the term ‘profession’ has an element of declaration or vow inherent in it as ‘profession’ also means an announcement of one’s belief in a religious order.

Consequently, an individual in a profession is expected to follow some ethical standards concerning that field. 

Key Takeaways

  1. A profession is a type of occupation that requires specialized education, training, and skills to perform a specific job.
  2. A profession has a governing body that regulates standards and practices within the field.
  3. Examples of professions include doctors, lawyers, engineers, and accountants.
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Origin and Evolution of the Term ‘Profession.’

The term ‘Profession’ traces its origin in the Latin word ‘Profiteri‘ (old) and ‘Professio’ (new), meaning ‘declaring publicly’, primarily something that is of great importance.

Interestingly, in those days, nothing was more important than religion, as reflected by the fact that Webster’s Third New International Dictionary first described the term ‘profess’ as the act of taking a religious oath publicly.

Eventually, as time passed, this narrow, specific and restricted meaning of the word ‘Profession’ expanded to incorporate a public declaration of non-religious ideas.

Accordingly, with the advent of modern times, as liberal-capitalist ideas started gaining more importance and eventually became the order of the day, the term ‘Profession’ acquired a more secular connotation.

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Besides that, as specialisation became one of the main components of the liberal-capitalist system, the word ‘Profession’ began to be associated with expertise and skill.

This argument is further confirmed by the fact that during the 16th century-a peak time of the Renaissance period, the word ‘Profession’ was used for the first time to refer to occupations like medicine, law, theology and military. These were considered the field of the learned and elites.

Besides, ‘Profession’ is a truncated version of the word ‘liberal profession’, Anglicised from the French word “profession libérale” in the 19th century.

‘Profession’, with its current classless (upper-middle) and predominantly economic connotation, was adopted in the 20th century.

As of today, the term ‘Profession’ refers to any occupation practised by individuals with the relevant qualifications and skills to serve the interest of a client or the general public.

However, it is neither a trade nor an industry. It differs from both terms insofar as a code of ethics governs the individuals who are a part of it.

Milestones that Transform an Occupation into a Profession

While all professions may involve an ‘occupation’, not all occupations are professions. Instead, a ‘profession’ is just one of the types of ‘occupation’. An ‘occupation’ to be called a ‘profession’ has to achieve the following significant breakthroughs:

  1.  Becoming a full-time vocation.
  2.  The founding of a training school.
  3. The origination of a university school.
  4. The setting up of a local association.
  5. The founding of a national association of professional ethics.
  6. The institution of state licensing laws.


The following are some significant examples of a profession:

  1. Scientist
  2. Architecture
  3. Information Technology
  4. Distributor
  5. Medicine, and many more.
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Advantages of Profession

Some significant advantages of a profession include the following:

  1. It focuses on enhancing efficiency.
  2. It is based on specialisation and enhancement of skills.
  3. A code of conduct governs it and, therefore, makes individuals responsible.

Disadvantages of Profession

The following are some principal disadvantages of a profession:

  1. With a strict code of conduct, a ‘profession’ sometimes encroaches upon an individual’s personal space.
  2. Too much adherence to professional conduct often increases the stress levels of individual members of a profession.
  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23707630
  2. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ286271

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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26 thoughts on “What is a Profession? | Definition vs Meaning”

  1. I found this article very informative and thorough, the historical context of the term ‘Profession’ adds a new depth of understanding.

  2. Although the historical context is interesting, the advantages and disadvantages of profession seem too subjective.

  3. The article presented the historical evolution of the term ‘Profession’ eloquently. The milestones are a significant addition that sets the article apart.

  4. I found this article very informative, it provides a clear definition. The milestones section is insightful.


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