A professional is a member of a profession. The term also describes the standards of education and training that prepare members of the profession with the particular knowledge and skills necessary to perform the role of that profession. In addition, most professionals are subject to strict codes of conduct enshrining rigorous ethical and moral obligations. Professional standards of practice and ethics for a particular field are typically agreed upon and maintained through widely recognized professional associations. Some definitions of "professional" limit this term to those professions that serve some important aspect of public interest  and the general good of society.
In some cultures, the term is used as shorthand to describe a particular social stratum of well-educated workers who enjoy considerable work autonomy and who are commonly engaged in creative and intellectually challenging work.
In narrow usage, not all expertise is considered a profession. Although sometimes referred to as professions, occupations such as skilled construction and maintenance 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, mason, painter, plumber and other similar occupations. A related distinction would be that a professional does mainly mental work, as opposed to engaging in physical work.
Although professional training appears to be ideologically neutral, it may be biased towards those with higher class backgrounds and a formal education. In his 2000 book, Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-Battering System that Shapes Their Lives, Jeff Schmidt observes that qualified professionals are less creative and diverse in their opinions and habits than non-professionals, which he attributes to the subtle indoctrination and filtering which accompanies the process of professional training. His evidence is both qualitative and quantitative, including professional examinations, industry statistics and personal accounts of trainees and professionals. A study on journalistic professionalism argued that professionalism is a combination of two factors, secondary socialization of journalists in the workplace and the fetishization of journalistic norms and standards. In this way, undesirable traits in new employees can be weeded out, and remaining employees are free to cynically criticize their professional norms as long as they keep working and following them. The latter concept adapted from philosopher Slavoj Žižek and his concept of ideology.
The etymology and historical meaning of the term professional seems to indicate an individual whose philosophy and habits have been conditioned by a professor. So, a professional is the follower of a professor. Plumbers are therefore not considered professionals. While they certainly make a living doing what they do, with a particular expertise, and with a certain expectation of manners, plumbers do not acquire their skills through a professor, or even through a professional professor. They learn from private firms that distribute the knowledge, or they learn from friendly association with a master plumber.
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- Harvey, L.; Mason, S.; Ward, R. (1995). Role of Professional Bodies in Higher Education Quality Monitoring. Birmingham: Quality in Higher Education Project. ISBN 1-85920-108-3.
- Sullivan, William M. (2nd ed. 2005). Work and Integrity: The Crisis and Promise of Professionalism in America. Jossey Bass.
- Gardner, Howard and Shulman, Lee S., The Professions in America Today: Crucial but Fragile. Daedalus, Summer 2005. (pgs. 13-14)
- Gilbert, D. (1998). The American class structure: In an age of growing inequality. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Press.
- Beeghley, L. (2004). The structure of social stratification in the United States. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
- Eichar, D. (1989). Occupation and Class Consciousness in America. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-26111-4
- Ehrenreich, B. (1989). Fear of falling: The inner life of the middle class. New York: Harper Perennial.
- Schmidt, Jeff, 2000, Disciplined Minds - A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-Battering System that Shapes their Lives, Rowman & Littlefield, pp.293.
- Hearns-Branaman, Jesse Owen (2013). "Journalistic professionalism as indirect control and fetishistic disavowal Journalism". Jou.sagepub.com.
- Žižek, Slavoj, 1989, The Sublime Object of Ideology (London, Verso)