What is a Profession? | Definition and 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 it comes to defining ‘profession.’

  1. It comprises of 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’ have 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 as a part of a profession is expected to follow some ethical standards concerning that field. 

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 from the fact that Webster’s Third New International Dictionary first described the term ‘profess’ as the act of taking 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 as well.

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.

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 often military. These were considered as the field of the learned and elites.

Besides that, the term ‘Profession’ is a truncated version of the word ‘liberal profession’ which in turn has been 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 of these 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.

Advantages of Profession

Some significant advantages of a profession include:

  1. It focuses on enhancing efficiency.
  2. It is based on specialisation and enhancement of skills.
  3. It is governed by a code of conduct 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
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