Today we answer a question from Soheila in Iran. She writes:
What’s the difference between job, occupation, career and profession? – Soheila, Iran
Thank you for asking this question. The four words you named have small differences.
I will start with “job,” the simplest of the words. A “job” is work people do, usually for money. It can mean work a person does for a single employer. That work might last for years or a much shorter period, as in this example.
The shortest job I have ever had lasted three weeks.
We may also use the word “job” to talk about unpaid work, as in housework:
Mother said, “Cleaning your room is your most important job today.”
The word “occupation” is more general, and means the kind of work a person does. For example,
I left my previous occupation to be a professional artist.
We also use “occupation” to talk about things people enjoy spending a lot of time doing, as in this example:
Hai’s favorite occupation is playing tennis.
But note that this use of the word has become less common over time.
A “career” is what people do over a longer period of time. We use the word “career” to talk about a series of jobs over a person’s lifetime. Some people plan a career while others simply try for better jobs. You can also use “career” to talk about what someone does in school, the military or performing arts.
General George Patton had many victories in his military career.
A “career” depends on your goals and the path you want to take through your working life. It does not always require that you have special training.
However, a “profession” is a kind of occupation that requires special training, knowledge or skills. For some occupations, you must successfully complete a study program at a college or university. Or you must pass a test and practice in your field of expertise for some time before you can become a professional.
Here are two examples:
Magazines can be about any profession like medicine, law, engineering, teaching and so on.
I have spent years learning my profession and I will not quit easily.
Comparing all four words
Finally, let us compare all four words in Soheila’s question:
A job is work you do, sometimes for pay.
An occupation is something you spend your time on.
A career is the path you follow through your working life.
A profession is a career that requires special knowledge or skills.
I hope this helps to answer the question. And that’s Ask a Teacher.
What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m Jill Robbins.
Jill Robbins wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
profession – n. a paid occupation or calling
previous – adj. existing or happening before the present time
practice – v. to do something again and again in order to become better at it
quit – v. to resign from a job; to leave a place permanently
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