At the most fundamental level, professional bodies generally set standards in two broad areas namely minimum qualifications for admission or entrance to the profession and professional practice standards. All perform advocacy for their respective industry whilst promoting the professional standards, fostering professional learning and seeking to enhance the status of their particular profession. Many professional bodies also engage in research related to the functions of the profession that they represent.

A consultancy was conducted by the Canberra Institute of Technology in 1999 for the Public Safety Industry Training Advisory Board in respect to advancing police professionalisation. The Institute identified the following broad range of functions that are undertaken by professional bodies:

  • Providing courses on specific areas of expertise;
  • Mandating and providing compulsory professional development;
  • Publishing a professional journal and conducting research;
  • Facilitating fellowship amongst members;
  • Lobbying to influence legislative and administrative processes;
  • Advancing the profession in the eyes of the community and other professions;
  • Developing a code of ethics;
  • Registering practitioners;
  • Managing complaints against members;
  • Developing standards that form the basis of university courses;
  • Accrediting courses and monitoring their delivery by universities to ensure professional standards are maintained;
  • Quality assurance audits of highly specialised functions;