There are a number of characteristics that help distinguish between professional and non-professional occupations.
- Entry into a professional occupation typically requires an extensive period of specialized training of an intellectual nature.
- The theoretical knowledge and practical skills held by professionals are considered important to the well-being of the broader society.
- The professions are typically self-regulated and have considerable control over their areas of activity – this helps to ensure that professional services are provided by those who have the required knowledge and skills.
- Professionals often have a wide degree of autonomy in their work.
- The public expects that professionals will act in an ethical way, thereby protecting their well-being.
These points illustrate that society allows some professions considerable autonomy in how they regulate their operations and license their members. In return, these professions are expected to place the welfare of the public above their own interests and maintain high standards of competency to meet this expectation.