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What is a Profession?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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A profession refers to an occupation that requires specialized education, knowledge, training and ethics. Although professionals make their living in what they do, this paid work is often more than just a job or occupation alone. Whether the occupation is law, medicine, plumbing, writing, interior design or baseball, those who are in it are expected to meet and maintain common standards.

Professions are, ideally, made up of people with high ethical standards who have special knowledge and skills. The responsibility of people in certain occupations to the public is an important distinction from those who may participate in the fields on an amateur or non-professional basis. For example, if a homeowner hires a non-licensed plumber to save money, he or she wouldn't be able to hold this person to the same standards as a licensed professional in the same industry.

People within some careers are at a much different level, as well as held to a higher degree of responsibility, than those doing the same thing as a hobby or on a more casual basis. For instance, an aspiring writer who writes for no or low pay wouldn't necessarily be expected to produce the same quality of work as a professionally experienced author who makes a full-time living at the craft. In some professions, an amateur or hobby level isn't allowed for reasons of public safety. For example, only a professional physician with qualified credentials is permitted to treat patients as a medical doctor.

Professional development is often a key feature of this type of job. Those within a specific profession usually don't just complete the initial education and credentials, but typically must renew licensing or take updating courses. Professional associations typically set standards as well as guidelines for refresher courses and other types of career updating.

For example, the American professional body, the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), offers access to refresher courses for members who have been out of the workforce for some time. It suggests which type of courses are recommended for legal assistants, or paralegals, depending on their particular situation. A variety of delivery methods for refresher courses is offered to provide convenience for members. For instance, NALA's courses are usually offered in-person as well as through different Internet learning options.

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Discussion Comments

By anon997017 — On Nov 06, 2016

What are the levels of professions?

By mutsy — On Jan 18, 2011

Sunshine31-This is rich and rewarding field because there are very few professions that allow you to see the direct impact that you are making.

With the education profession you see the impact of your teaching by the questions your students ask during your lecture and the grades they receive.

Sometimes the teacher becomes a mentor in the student’s life which adds even more reward to this profession.

The downside of this profession is the pay but teachers that seek this profession do so because of altruistic reasons and not for the money.

It would be nice to offer a professional bonus for teachers that really go out of their way for the students that they teach. However, merit incentives have been shot down by the teacher’s union in many states. I think that this is a leadership profession that should have more financial rewards.

By sunshine31 — On Jan 15, 2011

SauteePan-I heard about that and thought it was incredible news. I know that the education profession is also a calling because people that go into this profession do so in order to serve children.

People in the education field are like nurses in that they want to serve the public and enhance their quality of life.

Educators are important people because they help shape the minds of students and in many cases they are people that children look up to and often rely on for guidance.

By SauteePan — On Jan 13, 2011

Comfyshoes-I agree that the public health profession is growing and it is really recession proof because you will always have sick and infirmed people to treat.

I think that the research profession is also a vital one especially with respect to medical science and psychology.

Those engaged in a research profession really need to have a PhD or doctorate in the field that they specialize in so that they can conduct research in their field.

Research in the medical field helps us understand how certain drugs affect a typical person and through this research remains how the drugs are perfected and brought on the market.

For example, recently there was a medical breakthrough in which researchers discovered a way to isolate a cancer cell from the body through a blood test.

The procedure would also allow cancer patients more targeted treatments and could actually begin to contain the cancer if it has not spread. This is really remarkable news because often cancer treatments are not always effective on all patients.

This procedure allows more cancer patients the opportunity to receive a better prognosis for their future. Hopefully a cure for this dreaded disease is just around the corner.

By comfyshoes — On Jan 11, 2011

The nursing profession is really a calling that people have in which they choose to care for others.

Nursing as a profession requires a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree for the RN profession and a passing grade on the nursing board’s exam.

This is a profession will exponential growth because the population is getting older. People that work in the nursing profession also work as contract nurses and travel to various hospitals.

These nurses usually earn from $35 to $50 per hour. Nurses can also go into hospital administration and seek a leadership role as a nursing supervisor or a hospital executive.

These nurses usually seek a MBA in nursing administration in order to understand the business side of running a hospital.

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