Many educators of professionals use arts-based approaches, but often explore this within the confines of their own professional disciplines. This paper consists of a thematic review of the literature on arts and professional education, which cuts across professional disciplines in an attempt to identify the specific contribution the arts can make to professional education. The review identified five broad approaches to the use of the arts in professional education: exploring their role in professional practice, illustrating professional issues and dilemmas, developing empathy and insight, exploring professional identities and developing self-awareness and interpersonal expression. Woven through these approaches we found that the development of a more sophisticated epistemology and a critical social perspective were common outcomes of art-based work in professional education. Arts-based approaches may help learners to make a critical assessment of their own roles and identities within professions, and to consider the impact of professions in shaping the broader society.