The terms profession and occupation are often used interchangeably in everyday speech. In educational settings, occupational education is used to describe shorter, nonacademic programs that lead to paraprofessional careers, while professional education usually describes postgraduate programs leading to degrees, licenses and advanced certification.

Occupational Education

Sometimes referred to as vocational, technical, or career education, an occupational education program may be offered at the high school or community college level or at specialized vocational schools. Many occupations require certification, but this can usually be achieved in two years or less. Examples of careers that require occupational education are cosmetologist and building trades such as electrician, plumber and air conditioning repair person; occupational education programs are also available, and sometimes required for, paraprofessional jobs such as nursing assistant or paralegal.

Professional Education

Professional education, also called postgraduate education, is commonly used to describe education at the master's-degree level and above leading to degrees and certifications in science, education medicine and fine arts. Professional education can also mean ongoing professional development undertaken after a student has obtained the initial degree and is working in the field. Some professions require a certain type and amount of continuing professional education on a regular basis to keep professional knowledge and certification meaningful and up to date.