Professional services are occupations in the service sector requiring special training in liberal arts and pure sciences education or professional development education.[1] Some professional services, such as architects, accountants, engineers, doctors, and lawyers require the practitioner to hold professional degrees or licenses and possess specific skills. Other professional services involve providing specialist business support to businesses of all sizes and in all sectors; this can include tax advice, supporting a company with accounting, IT services, public relations services or providing management services.[2]


Many industry groups have been used for academic research, while looking at professional services firms, making a clear definition hard to attain. Some work has been directed at better defining professional service firms (PSF). In particular, Von Nordenflycht generated a taxonomy of professional service firms, defining four types:[3]

  1. Classic PSFs (e.g. law and accounting firms): characterized by a high knowledge intensity, a professionalized workforce, and low capital intensity
  2. Professional campuses (e.g. hospitals): characterized by high knowledge intensity, a professionalized workforce, and high capital intensity
  3. Neo-PSFs (e.g. management consultants): characterized by high knowledge intensity and a low capital intensity
  4. Technology developers (e.g. R&D firms, biotechs): characterized by high knowledge intensity and a high capital intensity

Frameworks such as this aid the ability of managers and academics to better understand how such firms manage themselves and how to judge benchmark practices.

Example occupations

There is no definitive list of occupations in professional services, but examples include the following:


Professional services can be provided by sole proprietors, partnerships or corporations. A person providing the service can often be described as a consultant. In law, barristers normally organise themselves into chambers. Businesses in other industries, such as banks and retailers, can employ individuals or teams to offer professional services for their customers. Major cities such as London and New York are leading global centres for professional services firms.[4][5]


The marketing and selection of professional-service providers may depend on factors such as skill, knowledge, experience, reputation, capacity, ethics, and creativity.[6][7] Large corporations may have a formal procurement process for engaging professional services.[8] Prices for services, even within the same field, may vary greatly. Professional-service providers may offer fixed rates for specific work, charge in relation to the number or seniority of people engaged, or charge in relation to the success or profit generated by the project.[9]

See also


  1. ^ "Professional services". The Office of Fair Trading. Archived from the original on 2 April 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  2. ^ "What are professional services?". PwC. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  3. ^ Von Nordenflycht, A, "What is a professional service firm? Toward a theory and taxonomy of knowledge-intensive firms", Academy of Management Review, Vol. 35, No. 1. (2010), pp. 155–174
  4. ^ "Key Facts about the UK as an International Financial Centre 2014" (PDF). TheCityUK. 3 July 2014. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 May 2017. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  5. ^ "The Global Financial Centres Index 17" (PDF). Long Finance. March 2015. p. 32. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 April 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  6. ^ "Choosing an Accountant" (PDF). Duquesne University Small Business Development Center. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  7. ^ "Selection Criteria". Association of Management Consulting Firms. Archived from the original on 1 July 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  8. ^ "A Guide on How to Select a Project Management Consultancy". Project Management Institute. Archived from the original on 21 December 2010. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  9. ^ "How management consultants are cashing in on austerity". The Guardian. 17 October 2016. Retrieved 17 October 2016.