Difference Between Ethics and Professionalism

Ethics vs Professionalism

Though the terms professionalism and ethics are used interchangeably by some people, there are a lot of difference between the two. These terms are widely used in the corporate sector referring to the conduct of employees and employers. Ethics can be understood as guidelines that are imposed on a particular set of individuals. An ethical code assists the employee to work transparently within the corporate setting. But the term professionalism is a bit different to ethics. It is true that maintaining ethics is also considered as one of the features of professionalism, but this is only a single feature. This article attempts to highlight the difference between ethics and professionalism through an understanding of the two terms.

What are Ethics?

Ethics are guidelines for individuals, which clearly state the dos and don’ts. Ethics exists in many contexts. Especially in the industrial setting, ethics are considered as vital. In this context, a work ethic is imposed on all employees. This guides the employees to be ethically correct in all their actions. Ethics include a number of features such as confidentiality, respect, honesty, transparency, competency, etc. This can be understood through an example. Counseling is a profession where the significance of the ethical code is very high. A counselor is expected to be ethical throughout his or her practice so that it is beneficial for the counselor and counselee, the society at large and also the counseling profession. Let us take the case of competency. It is expected that all counselors should be competent in practicing counseling. If the counselor is not competent, he will not be able to assist the client and can even cause damage to the client. This is why in any profession ethics is established.

Ethics vs Professionalism

Competency is one of the ethics

What is Professionalism?

Professionalism can be defined as the skills, competence and the conduct displayed by an individual of a certain profession. It is also expected that such a person cultivate a polite demeanor when dealing with clients and fellow professionals. Professionalism encompasses a variety of dimensions. It is not only polite behavior or else academic competence; on the contrary, it is a mixture of a number of qualities that contribute to professionalism. A professional needs to have specialized knowledge in his particular field. This is one of the main characteristics of a true professional. If the individual has gaps in his knowledge, the contribution, that he can make, is minimal. Being competent is also important. If an individual has all the academic certificates but, still fails to work competently, then it is also disruptive to the individual as well as organizational performance. Other traits such as honesty, integrity, politeness are also important for a professional. This can be considered as one of the great assets of the corporate sector as it allows the individual to perform well.

Difference Between Ethics and Professionalism

Professionalism makes a good employee

What is the difference between Ethics and Professionalism?

• Ethics refers to the guidelines that state the dos and don’ts in a specific context whereas professionalism refers to the specific traits that are expected of a professional.

• Ethics are usually stated whereas professionalism is cultivated by the individual personally.


Images Courtesy: Navy counselor and health professional via Wikicommons (Public Domain)