Difference between an Occupation and Profession

Updated on March 9, 2017

Remember those nasty and ample forms you need to fill in when you go to various institutions? What puzzles you about them? Is it the “profession” box followed by the “occupation” box? If you had to ask left and right what other people filled in, then you need to read this article. It will tell you the difference between occupation and profession.

Definitions

Occupation
A taxi driver carrying out his occupation

An occupation defines the type of activity undertaken by a person to earn his livelihood. Theoretically, these are jobs anybody can perform at one point, as no special and long-term training is necessary. In most companies, the wages of these people are low to medium and it mainly depends on how much they can produce. They always answer to someone else and they have an average social status.

Examples of occupations are drivers, shopkeepers, dog walkers, clerks, receptionists, or delivery workers. In a sense, this is what occupies your time and what you get paid to do.

profession
A surgeon practicing his profession

A profession is an occupation for which you trained. It is one in which your service is repaid depending on your skill and experience in the industry. The better your training and the more experience you gain in your profession, the more people appreciate you.

Professions have work ethics and a special professional stature. Responsibility lies with the individual, given the extensive training and the consistent compensations received for their work.

Examples of professions are doctors, lawyers, financial experts, and professors. These people are paid for what they know and how they act on what they know.

Occupation vs Profession

So what is the difference between an occupation and profession?

Your occupation is what you do for money, and your profession is what you trained for. For example, a person who studied medicine and is a practicing doctor can say that his occupation is the same as his profession. A person training as a doctor but working as a receptionist has a different occupation than his profession.

Also, while you can be the best in your occupation, these are jobs with specific limitations: they need the basics of having someone there to do them, there is often little pay, and they come with no social status. A profession, on the other hand, is an opportunity for constant growth. Once the compulsory academic training is completed, a professional is required to have specialized training. Extra courses and experience are considered a plus. Everything that adds to a professional’s level of skills and knowledge contributes to an income and status increase.

Therefore, an occupation is just a job many people can do for money without special training being required. Even professionals can have a different occupation. However, a person who does not have special training cannot have access to a profession. There is an ethical work code for every profession and it comes with a regulated status for the professional.

There are also differences in the way in which we refer to professions and occupations. A person can work as a waiter, as a shopkeeper, or as a baby-sitter. Yet if you have a profession you have a title of doctor, lawyer, or professor, to name a few. Also, occupations may be interchangeable, especially since there is not considerable time investment required for training or education. On the other hand, a profession often means life-long training and time invested. Only some people have the time and resources to specialize in more than one profession.

Comparison Chart

OccupationProfession
Something that occupies your time and pays you for itSomething you train for and get paid to do
No special training requiredMuch training is required, from higher education to expensive training and specialization
Is something you can do even if you trained for something elseYou must train specifically for one type of profession to be able to practice
Salaries are low to medium; there is a limit to how much you can makeSalaries are high and depend on how well-prepared the professional is
Implies that there is always someone to answer toImplies enough training for the professional to be responsible for the job themselves
Has no ethical codeThere is an ethical work code as well as a regulated status
A person can have several throughout his lifeA person usually has just one occupation
Pays for your timePays for what you know