According to Merriam-Webster, "take office" means "to begin the job or responsibility of one in a position of authority especially in the government" (my emphasis). Does this mean that it's awkward to use this expression about other professions (e.g. teachers, physicians, professors... what have you)? And, if so, what's a more general expression that I can use for any profession?
Not every jobholder is an officeholder. So I don't think you can use the phrase "take office" with any job. Rather you can use expressions like "start a job" or "begin work".
Consider this dialogue:
When do you start?
I begin work on January 1.
So when can we use the phrase "take office"?
I think we can use the phrase "take office" when we are talking about government jobs. The word "office" in this expression refers to government office.
We can find an example of this expression on Wikipedia:
Biden won the general election by defeating Republican Lawrence T. Messick, and took office on January 5, 1971. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Biden)
A lot of people are asking a very good question, which is, what does the word "office" mean?
Here is one definition of the word "office":
An office is a government job.
This definition helps us answer many questions, like the following:
Q: What is an officer?
A: An officer is a person who holds a government office.
Q: What is an office holder?
A: The words office holder and officer are synonyms.
Q: Has the word "office" been misused over the years?
A: Yes, the word "office" has been misused on many occasions.
Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and Barack Obama are all officers who have held the Office of the President of the United States.
Supreme Court judges are officers.
Pope Francis is an officer. The Vatican is a government that governs Vatican City and the Roman Catholic Church. The office of the Pope is called the Papacy.
1Thank you! So, you're saying it can only be used about government positions? Or couldit be used about any job as long as the person holds an office?– GerdaMar 6 at 1:02
2@Gerda It also has usage in academics ("office of the president") and in religion ("Pope Francis took office in March 2013"). In every case, a person who takes office is an officeholder. It is probably mistaken to say that someone "took office" if they are not an officeholder and if they have never been an officeholder.– ktm5124Mar 6 at 1:43
5Good answer. I'd quibble that not every government job is an "office". If someone got a job as, say, a clerk at the Motor Vehicle Bureau, I don't think we'd describe him as "taking office". "Office" implies a position of leadership or authority, so I wouldn't be surprised if someone said, "The new members of the board of directors of the corporation will take office on January 1", or if someone referred to other high-ranking people in a corporation, academic institution, etc, as "taking office". But yes, I wouldn't use it for any job.– JayMar 6 at 4:01
1@Gerda One can also "take office" following election to a position such as Chair or Secretary of a voluntary organisation.– PeterMar 6 at 11:38
5Isn't government a red herring? You take office when you become an office-holder; that is, when you hold a specific (usually named) position of responsibility in some organisation — whether that's the President of a country, the Data Protection Officer in a company, the person in charge of publicity for a local charity, or a trustee of a church.– giddsMar 6 at 12:44
While a teacher has authority over their students, that's not the sense of "authority" being used here. "Authority" means acting on behalf of an organization. One can "take office" as chief of police, but not as beat cop. As a dean of a college, but not as a professor. The "office" exists separately from the person, and is a particular authority to be exercised by someone, not a general job category.
For a general term, you can say "starting working", "began in their position", etc.
3"Take office" may be appropriate for positions that aren't "of authority". For instance, for a professor taking an existing chair, "Jill Prof took office as the Jack Superstar Professor of Thingamajigs". Even for a very menial position, "Joe Minutes has taken office as the secretary of the assembly of homeowners and will be taking minutes of the meeting" . It's like you said, the "office" should be a post with an individually recognizable existence pertaining to an individually recognizable duty beyond the person that currently occupies it. "Authority" seems to be ancillary to the concept. Mar 6 at 12:09
As an amusing side note, if you said someone was going to take office and they were not staring a job with authority (as @accumulation describes) then it would mean you were attacking the office building by force.