Words like profession and professional are used in many different ways, but what do these words really mean?

In the recently published second edition of Professional Issues in Information Technology, Frank Bott comments that professional employees are ones of a certain status, who are expected, within limits, to put the interests of the organisation they work for above their own convenience. To describe someone as a real professional implies that they can be relied on to carry out their work competently and conscientiously regardless of the circumstances. A professional piece of work means a piece of work that meets established standards of quality.

There is no single definition of a profession. The meaning of the word depends on who is using it and what the context is. However, if we look at a range of occupations that would commonly be described as professions - lawyers, doctors, dentists, accountants, veterinary surgeons, architects and so on - we see that there are a number of characteristics that most of them have in common:

  • Substantial education and training are required in order to practise the profession.
  • The members of the profession themselves decide the nature of this training and, more generally, control entry to the profession.
  • The profession is organised into one or more professional bodies.
  • Members of the profession are expected to conduct their professional activities in accordance with codes of conduct laid down by the professional bodies and enforced by them.

With these characteristics in mind and reflecting on your work, do you consider yourself to be a professional and is this based on any of the above characteristics, or on other factors? Please share your thoughts on this.

About the author

Karen joined BCS in 2008 working in the Marketing team. Having graduated in marketing in the pre-www era, she has relished the challenge to keep up to date with the latest developments in technology and new media.