Ethics is an important topic for engineers of every level and field. When you become a professional engineer, however, you are held to a higher standard. That is why one of the requirements for maintaining your professional engineers’ license is to meet a certain number of professional development hours with at least two being in ethics.
As professional engineers, we are trusted with projects that impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The NJSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers is a document that was put together to help us keep that fact in mind and be a guiding factor in making hard decisions during our careers. The code of ethics can be summed up with two key points that we will explore in more depth: safety and honesty.
Safety is Key
The preamble to the NJSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers states that engineers “require honesty, impartiality, fairness, and equity, and must be dedicated to the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare.” When it comes to ethics as a professional engineer, it is about so much more than preventing illegal activity. It is about making sure the lives we touch with our work are protected from incompetence and are at the forefront of our minds as we work.
Even the parts of the Code of Ethics for Professional Engineers that deal with honesty and integrity go back to safety issues. The things we help design, build, and maintain could result in a loss of life if we put profits, personal advancement, or anything else in front of people.
Integrity and Honesty
Another important reason to have a code of ethics for professional engineers is it sets a standard for professional behavior. You know you can expect another PE to behave with honesty and integrity since they adhere to the same creed as you. The public can also be assured you are not pulling a fast one or working for your own gain. The standard of professional behavior provides the people who you work with and for a foundation of trust that you are going to operate in the project’s and public’s best interest.
While the code of ethics seems fairly straightforward and clear cut, having courses about it are important for navigating your day-to-day. The professional development classes help guide you through real life cases that have come before the Board of Ethical Review, so you can see the nuances of the code and how it can be used to make better decisions.
We hope this brief overview of why ethics are important for professional engineers has made you eager to learn more. You can read the full code of ethics by visiting the NJSPE’s ethics page or by attending one of NSPE’s ethics webinars. If you would like to see more content about the importance of ethics, please feel free to let us know in the comments below or by filling out our “Ask NJSPE” form.