'Occupation' vs 'Profession': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on October 9, 2023

Are you wondering about the difference between an 'occupation' vs. 'profession?' I can help!

Here is the short answer:

  • 'Occupation' is a noun that means a job or the principal way someone makes a living. 
  • 'Profession' is a noun that means a vocation or career that requires you to take vows or have specialized training. 

The above answer is just a brief overview. There is much more to learn about these terms. So, keep reading!

What is the Difference Between 'Occupation' vs. 'Profession?'

The major difference between an 'occupation' and a 'profession' is that an 'occupation' focuses more on one or a few specific tasks. A 'profession' is a career that involves many facets and requires specialized training, education, or vocational vows.

Here are some examples:

  • Police Officer - Profession
  • Lawyer - Profession
  • Doctor - Profession
  • Author - Profession
  • Teacher - Profession
  • Cashier - Occupation
  • Electrician - Occupation
  • Oilfield Worker - Occupation
  • Marketing Manager - Occupation
  • Lifeguard - Occupation

Definition of 'Occupation': What Does 'Occupation' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary the definition of an 'occupation' is a noun that means:

  • An activity someone engages in
  • The principal way someone makes a living
  • A vocation
  • Holding an office, position, or title

It can also mean:

  • The occupancy, use, settlement, and possession of land
  • The act of taking over land, an area, or a place
  • Seizure of an area
  • The seizure and control of an area by the military of a foreign nation
  • A military who controls a foreign land or the policies that govern it

Synonyms and Similar Words to 'Occupation'

  • Profession
  • Calling
  • Vocation
  • Employment
  • Job
  • Career
  • Trade
  • Livelihood
  • Enterprise
  • Art
  • Office
  • Task
  • Assignment
  • Field
  • Gig
  • Craft
  • Business

Definition of 'Profession': What Does 'Profession' Mean?

The same source defines 'profession' as a noun that means:

  • A career requiring specialized training, knowledge, and often lengthy education
  • The act of taking religious vows
  • The act of publicly stating one's beliefs, allegiance, or faith
  • A primary calling, vocation, or career
  • A body of individuals engaging in a field or career

Synonyms and Similar Words to 'Occupation'

  • Vocation
  • Occupation
  • Field
  • Work
  • Employment
  • Enterprise
  • Living
  • Trade

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Occupation' vs. 'Profession'

You know the difference between these terms. So, let's look at how you pronounce 'occupation' vs. 'profession.' Learning how to pronounce these terms will help to give you confidence to use them in conversation.

So, here is a pronunciation guide you can reference: 

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'occupation':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'profession':


When and How to Use 'Occupation' vs. 'Profession'

Knowing the definitions of words and how to use them are two different things. So, here are some tips for when and how to use 'occupation' vs. 'profession.'

  • Use 'occupation' for a job that does not require extensive training or vows.

For example, you could say:

I am looking for a part-time occupation with good pay. 

  • Use 'occupation' for a takeover of foreign land.

So, you could say:

Their occupation of the foreign country is unwelcome.

  • Use 'occupation' for a military group that is holding, using, or controlling a foreign area or land.

As an example, you could say:

The occupation has been here far too long.

  • Use 'profession' when you are talking about a career that requires extensive education.

So, you might say:

She just finished her residency, and she is excited to start her profession.

  • Use 'profession' for a calling that requires you to make vows.

For example, you can say:

The priestly profession requires you to take a vow of poverty and chastity. 

Sample Sentences Using 'Occupation' vs. 'Profession'

Now, read these sample sentences using 'occupation' vs. 'profession' to ensure that you understand how to use each in casual conversations or formal business communications.


  • I do not want to go to school for years. I want to find an occupation I love with sufficient pay.
  • I have to find an occupation that pays well before the end of the month. Otherwise, I may run out of money in my savings before I receive my first bi-monthly paycheck.
  • The income I earn from my occupation isn't enough to buy a mansion, but I live a comfortable life.
  • She never expected her high school occupation to become a life-long career.
  • After wasting her time in several dead-end occupations, she decided to go back to school.
  • He finally found an occupation he enjoys with room for advancement.


  • She works in a noble profession, but it does not pay well.
  • Many parents want their children to enter into a prestigious profession.
  • The orthopedic surgical resident had a bird's eye view of what he would be doing in his profession while he watched the fellow perform a complicated surgery to repair a patient's spine from the surgical theater.
  • They had to burn the midnight oil many nights to prepare for their demanding profession.
  • She is passionate about mentoring young people who show interest in her profession.
  • There was a time when I considered a profession as a Catholic nun. However, I realized living a life dictated by strict canon law was not for me.


  • He thought he would be happy after he left his mediocre occupation for a lucrative profession, but the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
  • He has always been a gentleman and a scholar, so it is not surprising that he is excelling in his profession.
  • Almost anyone can find an occupation, but a profession often requires a unique set of talents and skills.

Final Advice on the Difference Between 'Occupation' vs. 'Profession'

Finally, let's review what you learned about the difference between an 'occupation' and vs. 'profession':

  • An 'occupation' is a job, vocation, calling, or career, that typically requires little upfront training.
  • A 'profession' is a career or calling that typically requires vows or extensive training and knowledge. 

People may have many 'occupations' throughout their lives but generally choose or invest in education and training for one 'profession.' However, these words are technically synonyms or alternatives to each other. So, you can use 'occupation' and 'profession' interchangeably in some situations.

To learn about other confusing words like these, check out the other guides here. Each contains useful tips, definitions, pronunciations, and examples.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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