The length of the road a novice follows is a matter of degrees of emersion into the topic of genealogical research. The more you dig into your family's past, following the leads and bread crumbs sprinkled about by your ancestors, the more fascinated you become. Just when you answer one burning question about Uncle Joe, larger questions arise about where Uncle Joe's parents came from. And so it goes until you join associations and societies, attend conferences and courses, purchase a host of "how to" books, and gain the aptitude and ability to use more and more resources.
One day you find yourself solving a friend's family mysteries and your success breeds its own destiny. The day arrives when you contemplate what it takes or what you would have to do to become a professional genealogist.
The dictionary definition of professional is, "of or pertaining to an occupation pursued for gain," or "one skilled in a profession, craft, or art." The root word "profess" comes from the Latin "confession."
It occurs to me that there are two reasons for becoming a professional genealogist. The first reason can exist without working for money. Being a professional of any activity or endeavor is a testament to being good at what you do. A professional may appear to be able to easily apply his or her trade, but is actually taking care with each step according to the know-how that he or she has acquired through practicer and study.
The second reason would be to apply the skills of genealogical research as a paying profession. Either way, you would be helping others with their quest to research family history.
As with many professions, you are not official or quite accepted as a true professional unless you have a sheep skin or a shingle hung for view. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) can guide you through all the hoops and hurdles you must jump through and over in order to acquire certification. The Association has a website offers tips on Becoming a Professional . For more information, you can send your request with postage paid, self addressed return envelope to APG, PO Box 40393, Denver, Co. 80204-0393. Contacting the APG is the logical first step in your climb toward becoming a professional. The Association looks highly on a prospective professionals, if they participate in national genealogical conferences such as those sponsored by the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), National Genealogical Society (NGS), and the annual, APG Professional Management Conference.
If you wonder where you are in relationship to skill sets, you can check out the testing programs offered through The Board for the Certification of Genealogists (BCG) and The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGEN). In addition, it would be a good thing to consult the APG Code of Ethics.
Of course, if you are looking forward in being paid for your services, then you will also have to confront business practices, networking with other genealogists, and marketing as part of your bag of tricks. Such topics are readily discussed through various genealogical conferences and courses, and through the websites of the various national genealogical associations mentioned previously.
In summary, you may want to ask yourself if you are willing to take your genealogical research skills to the next level. Degree of ability follows determination and spirit to engage and conquer new and different plateaus. Why you made the climb in the first place is as simple as deciding to do so.