Professional bodies are organisations whose members are individual professionals. In some professions it is compulsory to be a member of the professional body, in others it is not. This usually depends on whether or not the profession requires the professional to have a ‘licence to practice’, or to be on a professional register, in order to do their job. This is related to how the profession is regulated i.e. who is responsible for making sure that professionals are doing their jobs properly.

The professional body may have a number of functions. They may:

  • Set and assess professional examinations
  • Provide support for Continuing Professional Development through learning opportunities and tools for recording and planning
  • Publish professional journals or magazines
  • Provide networks for professionals to meet and discuss their field of expertise
  • Issue a Code of Conduct to guide professional behaviour
  • Deal with complaints against professionals and implement disciplinary procedures
  • Be enabling fairer access to the professions, so that people from all backgrounds can become professionals. Find out more at our Fair Access section.
  • Provide careers support and opportunities for students, graduates and people already working.

Not all professional bodies have regulatory functions. In some professions it is necessary to be registered with the regulator but not the professional body, who may provide a set of services to their professional members without regulating them (an example of this is the Nursing and Midwifery Council which is the regulator, and the Royal College of Nursing or of Midwifery which are the professional bodies for that sector).

Most professional bodies offer a way to climb up the membership ladder towards being a ‘Fellow’ or in some cases a ‘Chartered’ professional.