Someone who earns a living performing an activity

What is a Professional?

The term professional refers to anyone who earns their living from performing an activity that requires a certain level of education, skill, or training. There is typically a required standard of competency, knowledge, or education that must be demonstrated (often in the form of an exam or credential), as well as adhering to codes of conduct and ethical standards.

professional in a suit

Types of Professionals

There are many different types of professionals. Whether they are athletes or business people, there are many categories and groups, which are listed below.

Types of professionals include:

Professional Standards

Professional standards are a set of practices, ethics, and behaviors that members of a particular professional group must adhere to. These sets of standards are frequently agreed to by a governing body that represents the interests of the group.

Examples of professional standards include:

  • Accountability – takes responsibility for their actions
  • Confidentiality – keeps all sensitive information private and away from those who shouldn’t have access to it
  • Fiduciary duty – places the needs of clients before their own
  • Honesty – always being truthful
  • Integrity – having strong moral principles
  • Law-abiding – follows all governing laws in the jurisdictions they perform activities
  • Loyalty – remain committed to their profession
  • Objectivity – not swayed or influenced by biases
  • Transparency – revealing all relevant information and not concealing anything

Professional woman working

Professional vs. Amateur

A professional performs an activity to earn a living and has demonstrated a certain level of competence or earned a credential, whereas an amateur performs an activity as a hobby, pastime, or without compensation.

Examples of amateurs include:

  • Amateur athletes
  • Amateur theater
  • Amateur photography


There are many examples of the types of designations that professionals must earn or choose to earn in carrying out their activities.

Common designations include:

  • Notary Public (NP)
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)
  • Registered Interior Designer (RID)
  • Professional Engineer (PE)
  • Certified Scrum Master (SCM)
  • Juris Doctor (JD)
  • Medical Doctor (MD)

See a full list of designations in the United States here.

Professional Designation (FMVA)

Additional Resources

Thank you for reading CFI’s guide on professionals. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following resources will be helpful:

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