This paper reports on a subset of findings from a large systematic scoping literature review on professional identity in social work. Against the backdrop of contemporary practice contexts, especially concerns about constrained resources and poor working conditions, there are growing calls to understand the factors that impact the professional identities of qualified social workers. To examine how professional identity is developed and crystalised, a search strategy was implemented across academic databases to gather peer-reviewed social work literature spanning a 20-year period. Screening produced a total of 65 sources for analysis. Our paper reports on the findings that were derived from thematic analysis of the findings section of the empirical studies (n = 49) and the main discussion section of the non-empirical (n = 16) studies. The findings revealed a range of positive and negative factors that impact upon developing, sustaining and/or threatening the professional identity of social workers. Among the positive impacts are themes related to coherence and congruence in professional identity as well as pride and access to ongoing learning. In contrast, the negative impacts highlighted issues related to incoherency, as well as ambivalent or poor external perceptions that produce a lower regard for social work. Implications for evidence-informed systemic measures that prioritise the development and sustainability of professional identity are outlined for professional associations and employers. The need for further research that examines these positive and negative factors are identified to better understand variables that contribute to social workers developing and sustaining coherent professional identities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 06 Apr 2024
EventJoint Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development: Respecting Diversity through Joint Action - Atlapa Conference Centre, Panama City, Panama
Duration: 04 Apr 202407 Apr 2024


ConferenceJoint Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development
CityPanama City
Internet address


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