The CFA Program curriculum defines a profession as “an occupational community that has specific education, expert knowledge, and a framework of practice and behavior that underpins community trust, respect, and recognition.”
Professions are typically subject to both licensure and must meet certain technical standards. Unlike guilds or trade bodies, professions are subject to high ethical standards and a mission to serve society. Professions usually set and enforce professional conduct rules for their members.
There are several ways professions go about building trust among their customers and society at large. These include:
Normalizing professional behavior by setting and enforcing ethical standards.
Providing service to society through a high commitment to client service, and by advocating for higher ethical and educational standards within the profession.
A focus on clients through a high standard of care, and in the case of the investment profession, through a fiduciary duty to act solely for the client’s benefit.
High entry standards that fully equip those who enter the profession with the ethical, technical, and knowledge-based competence required. Such standards serve as a signal to the market that the professional will deliver high standards of practice.
A body of expert knowledge developed by skilled practitioners and made available to all members of the profession.
Encouraging continuing education to ensure that practitioners stay current with evolving best practices.
Monitoring professional conduct through self-regulation to maintain the integrity and reputation of the profession.
Collegial relationships among members, even when competing.
Recognition as oversight bodies that provide ongoing support to members and a mission that emphasizes excellence, integrity, and public service.
Member engagement through volunteerism. Members are responsible for setting and abiding by the standards they set for others, and for mentoring developing professionals.