The government will tell employers that they must stop predominantly recruiting those who have been privately educated.
Professions including medicine, finance and law will be told they must do more to take in people from state schools as part of a new drive to increase social mobility.
The move comes as figures show that 75% of judges, 70% of finance directors, and 45% of top civil servants were privately educated, although just 7% of children go to independent schools.
A government panel will be created to which professional bodies will be expected to outline plans for improving the mix of people they recruit.
The initiative is part of the government’s response to a report by Alan Milburn, a former Labour cabinet minister, who called for action to break the “closed shop mentality” which characterises some professions, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Pat McFadden, the business minister, said: “The door to the professions, where many of society’s good jobs lie and many more will come in the future, is too often closed.
“The task is, of course, not only for government. It is also for the professions, and a revamped forum representing the professions will be brought together and asked to focus on how to ensure they draw from the widest possible pool of talent.”
The prime minister Gordon Brown added: “Our mission must be to ensure that all of Britain’s people, from whatever background, are allowed to develop their talents and learn a skill which will transform their lives.”