Answered By: Elyse Wolf
Last Updated: Sep 22, 2022     Views: 28

What are professional ethics and why do we need a code? According to the Encyclopedia of Ethics, professional ethics are commitments and values that certain professionals within our society follow (Goldman, 2001). Following a specific code of values and norms allows certain expectations, guidance, and structure for individuals within professions. This also allows the public to better understand the behavior, norms and expectations when they engage with these groups.  

Searching the Web

  1. Start with a profession or specific type of organization in mind. Keep in mind that some codes may require either a paid association membership or signing up for free. You are always encouraged to sign up for free but are not required to join any paid membership or organization.
  2. Try a simple keyword search in the open web search of your choice. Let’s say I was looking for any code of ethics that librarians might have, and I know there are several large professional organizations such as the American Library Association or the American College of Research Libraries. Searches I might try could be: librarians AND code AND ethics, libraries AND ethics AND professional, American Library Association AND code AND ethics.
  3. Explore. Using the first set of keywords, one of the first results I see is a Profession Ethics, Tools, Publications & Resources page This link opens in a new window on the American Libraries Association website. Visiting this site, I see a professional code of ethics and lots of other links out to standards and guidelines that might also be useful to me. Be curious and take some time to dive into the information you find and let it lead you into other areas as you work.

Using the Occupational Outlook Handbook

Another way to unearth a professional code of ethics is to use the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook This link opens in a new window. This handbook allows you to search by occupation groups such as architecture and engineering, business and financial, healthcare, and more.

  1. Select an occupation you are interested in. For example, Architects This link opens in a new window from the Engineering section.
  2. Look in the “How to Become One” section. In our “Architects” example, there is information on education, training and licenses, certifications, and registrations.
  3. Look in the “Education” section. Using the example again the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and the National Architectural Accrediting Board are mentioned.
  4. Visit the organization's homepage. These would be great organization websites to visit to understand if a code of ethics applies to the architectural profession.

Not seeing anything? Switch back to an open web search and keep digging. Check out the history and origin stories of these organizations to better understand how they were created.

Have you tried some of these tips above and have questions? Reach out to a librarian via chat, email or phone and we are happy to help!


Goldman, A. H. (2001). Professional ethics. In L. C. Becker, & C. B. Becker (Eds.), Encyclopedia of ethics (2nd ed.). Routledge

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