The Concept of Professionalism: Professional Work, Professional Practice and Learning

  • Julia EvettsEmail author
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


For a long time, the sociological analysis of professional work has differentiated professionalism as a special means of organizing work and controlling workers and in contrast to the hierarchical, bureaucratic and managerial controls of industrial and commercial organizations. But professional work is changing and being changed as increasingly professionals (such as doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers) now work in employing organizations; lawyers and accountants in large professional service firms (PSFs) and sometimes in international and commercial organizations; pharmacists in national (retailing) companies; and engineers, journalists, performing artists, the armed forces and police find occupational control of their work and discretionary decision-making increasingly difficult to sustain.

The paper begins with a section on defining the field of professional work, professional practice and its learning. The paper continues with a second section on the concept of professionalism, its history and current developments. The third section of the paper considers the changes, challenges and opportunities of the practice of professional work within employing organizations. The fourth section of the paper identifies some of the important contributions made by researchers on professional work to public policy developments, assessment and evaluation.


Professionalism Professional work Professional practice Learning 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Sociology and Social PolicyUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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