I just came across a few web posts that caused me to contemplate again what exactly is a "profession" and thence what is a "professional" -- questions that have been posed in one form or another for centuries!
To start with, there's "the oldest profession" of which I have no direct knowledge so can only presume/assume that it has practitioners with quite different levels of experience, skill, customer satisfaction, and income levels!
I just came across this very recent (November 22) article in the Architecture and Design section of Dr. Dobb's Portal: Split Brains and Half-baked Architects -- and interestingly it makes the point "Depth is not enough, you also need breadth of knowledge" (italics mine). Maybe it's breadth of knowledge (and a dash of "wisdom") that distinguishes a mere practitioner from a "true professional" no matter how extensive is the experience that the practitioner has.
An also at Dr. Dobb's there's When is enough modeling enough? which in reviewing Jane Jacobs' book Dark Age Ahead quotes here as describing describes "five pillars" that our society depends on: Community and family, higher education, the effective practice of science and science-based technology, effective taxation, and self-policing by the learned professions. So here's another term: the learned professions -- whichever they are, presumably those that have been practiced for centuries or millennia: the likes of medicine, law and engineering.
Where does that leave "information technology" as a profession, and who if any are its professionals?
What is an IT architect? What is is an analyst, an analyst/programmer, a programmer, ...?
For example, there's the popular topic: "Is a programmer different from a developer?" See for yourself by trying a Google search like this:
RELATED LINKS (added 19 December 2006):
There's an article over at TheServerSide that to an extent impinges on the above topic: "He's Just a Techie" - Image and Impact of the Software Developer (December 2003).
And for a different perspective on experience and professionalism there's How to be a genius ... in only ten years, no less!