The word professional traditionally means a person who has obtained a degree in a professional field. The term professional is used more generally to denote a white collar working person, or a person who performs commercially in a field typically reserved for hobbyists or amateurs.
In western nations, such as the United States, the term commonly describes highly educated, mostly salaried workers, who enjoy considerable work autonomy, a comfortable salary, and are commonly engaged in creative and intellectually challenging work.Less technically, it may also refer to a person having impressive competence in a particular activity.
Because of the personal and confidential nature of many professional services and thus the necessity to place a great deal of trust in them, most professionals are held up to strict ethical and moral regulations.
Main criteria for professional include the following:
- Academic qualifications - A teaching degree (University doctoral program), engineering, medical, or law degree - i.e., university college/institute.
- Expert and specialized knowledge in field which one is practicing professionally.
- Excellent manual/practical and literary skills in relation to profession.
- High quality work in (examples): creations, products, services, presentations, consultancy, primary/other research, administrative, marketing or other work endeavours.
- A high standard of professional ethics, behaviour and work activities while carrying out one's profession (as an employee, self-employed person, career, enterprise, business, company, or partnership/associate/colleague, etc.). The professional owes a higher duty to a client, often a privilege of confidentiality, as well as a duty not to abandon the client just because he or she may not be able to pay or remunerate the professional. Often the professional is required to put the interest of the client ahead of his own interests.
- Reasonable work moral and motivation. Having interest and desire to do a job well as holding positive attitude towards the profession are important elements in attaining a high level of professionalism.
- Participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs b : having a particular profession as a permanent career c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return
In Britain and elsewhere, professionalism is often designated by Royal Charter.
In narrow usage, not all expertise is considered a profession. Although sometimes referred to as professions, such occupations as skilled construction work are more generally thought of as trades or crafts. The completion of an apprenticeship is generally associated with skilled labor or trades such as carpenter, electrician, plumber, bricklayer and other similar occupations. A related (though not always valid) distinction would be that a professional does mainly mental or administrative work, as opposed to engaging in physical work. Many companies include the word professional in their company name to signify the quality of their workmanship or service
In sports, a professional is someone who participates for money. The opposite is amateur, meaning a person who does not play for money, but in an academic (e.g. college football) or other private setting. The term "professional" is commonly used incorrectly when referring to sports, as the distinction simply refers to how the athlete is funded, and not necessarily competitions or achievements.
Sometimes the professional status of an activity is controversial; for example, there is debate as to whether professionals should be allowed to compete in the Olympic Games. The motivation for money (either in rewards, salaries or advertising revenue) is sometimes seen as a corrupting influence, tainting a sport.
It has been suggested that the crude, all or nothing categories, of professional or amateur should be reconsidered. A historical shift is occurring with the rise of Pro-Ams, a new category of people that are pursuing amateur activities to professional standards.