What are Professional Bodies?

Being able to apply for membership at a professional body can be a great thing. The problem arises when you’re not quite sure what they are exactly and what the point is of joining one. Understanding what they are can be a tricky thing, but we think we have the answers.

What is a Professional Body?

In short terms, a professional body is an organisation where its members are professionals in a specific field. The professional body aims to further and build a specific profession. This can be seen with many professions such as the medical field, accounting field, business field, and teachers.

What is the Role of a Professional Body?

The role of a professional body is to safeguard the public interest. Professional bodies are trusted with the overseeing of a specific field and standardising of practices. It is a body that controls the practices of its members to ensure that they are doing what they should and how they should. They often provide its members with licences that can be revoked if a member is not acting according to standards like being unethical.

A professional body also provides its members with certain benefits and advantages. Being part of a professional body you also get discounts on software and workshops related to your field.

With a professional body you can also get designations and titles. Designations are letters that get added after your name. This states that you are a professional and certified in a certain profession. A title is, for example, something to indicate you’re a doctor or professor. Like Dr or prof. before a name.

Often a professional body has certain ties and partnerships with other bodies in other countries. If you’re part of a body that has these ties, it will make it easier for you to get work in the countries where the partnerships are.

Many professional bodies are involved in accrediting degrees, defining and examining the skills and competencies necessary to practice a person, and granting professional certifications to indicate that a person is qualified in the subject area. Sometimes membership of a professional body is synonymous with certification, though not always. Membership of a professional body, as a legal requirement, can in some professions form the primary formal basis for gaining entry to and setting up practice within the profession.

Examples of Professional Bodies


The ICBA, or the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers and Accountants. They used to be part of the ICB itself but split in 2015 when academic guidelines and laws changed. Where the ICB now only focuses on education and training, the ICBA focuses on professional memberships for people that studied with the ICB. The ICBA represent a way to get professional recognition for your studies and your work experience.

The ICBA works at improving the image, training and professionalism of their field. Their field being people working in Finance, Accounting, Bookkeeping and Office Administration. The ICBA certify qualifications and awards designations. That means that they evaluate your qualifications and work experience and based on that they give you a certain level of membership. With the membership you get to use certain designation letters behind your name.


The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is the professional body for anybody in the health profession. This includes doctors, dentists, psychologists, and surgeons. If you want to practice in the health profession, you have to be registered with them as your membership goes hand in hand with your licence to practice. If you lose your membership you are not allowed to practice.

Joining a professional body has multiple benefits. From protecting you and the public, to discounts, and titles and designations.


Written by: Maretha Lubbe

Last updated: April 17, 2019