Profession – Concept, training, characteristics and examples

We explain what a profession is, how it is acquired, its characteristics and examples. Also, differences between profession and trade.

Professions emerged as work became more specific.

What is a profession?

When we talk about a profession, we usually refer to a job or dedication that we carry out in exchange for financial remuneration and for which we have trained or prepared through the acquisition of specialized knowledge. In the latter, it differs from a trade, although colloquially both terms are used synonymously.

The word profession comes from Latin professio, translatable as “occupation”, and which in turn is made up of Latin voices pro- (“Ahead”) and fateri (“Confess” or “admit”), since it is linked to the verb profess, which means “to follow a doctrine, belief or religion.”

So, in principle, having a profession implies following a specific doctrine to carry out a job: a doctrine that is precisely controlled and transmitted by the institutions in charge of training professionals.

Professions are acquired in academies or institutes of higher education, and that consist of the management of a series of specialized knowledge, which allow solving problems that others cannot, or in any case, in the best possible way. This implies not only a specialized method, but also a code of ethics (or professional code of ethics) that contains the moral rules by which any professional must be guided.

The professions arose from the hand of higher education, as the work became more and more specific, requiring highly qualified workers, that is, endowed with knowledge different from the popular ones. This trend increased as science and technology became a daily tool at work in the post-Industrial Revolution world.

Characteristics of a profession

Any profession is characterized by the following features:

  • They include a series of specific knowledge that can only be acquired through academic training, and not mere practice.
  • They are accompanied by a professional code of ethics and on some occasions by a collegiate body that ensures its compliance and that gives legitimacy to the practitioners of said profession.
  • They exist in literally all areas of human knowledge, and can be classified into technical or applied professions (those that are oriented towards solving everyday problems) and academic professions (those that are oriented towards the accumulation and revision of knowledge).
  • They are exclusive, in the sense that a person without the necessary training cannot perform the work of a professional, or at least not in the same way and expecting the same results.
  • The profession can be put into practice or not, since a professional in one area can dedicate himself to a different trade, if he meets the conditions for it.

Examples of professions

The following are examples of today’s professions:

  • Architect
  • Psychologist
  • teacher
  • Computer technician
  • Engineer
  • Doctor
  • Writer
  • Economist
  • Political scientist
  • Historian
  • Librarian
  • Chemical
  • Administrator
  • Geologist
  • Accountant

Differences between profession and trade

profession trade
Training in a trade requires exercise and practice.

The main difference between a trade and a profession is that a trade can be practiced by anyone who takes the time to learn the necessary method or technique to carry it out, through direct experience.

On the other hand, a profession requires a body of specialized knowledge that can only be acquired through study, and therefore empowers the professional to carry out highly specialized tasks.

In other words, trades are learned over time, with practice, and can be performed by virtually anyone. Instead, professions require a wealth of highly specialized knowledge, available only to a professional.

For example: we allow a doctor to operate on us because he is a highly trained professional to carry out delicate work, on which our life depends; something that not just anyone could learn through trial and error (and certainly not at the same human cost).

Instead, a doctor may spend his spare time learning the trade of carpentry through trial and error, until he is fluent enough to make a worthy chair. It is not, obviously, that one job is better than the other, but that one can be acquired through specialized training, and the other requires training and practice.