The Importance of Ethics in Engineering and Common Problems

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Apr 7, 2021

Apr 7, 2021 • by Rebecca Smith

In our society, few professionals hold as much power as engineers. Although many people assume that engineers perform strictly behind-the-scenes work, focusing on keeping our everyday infrastructure ticking, this is not the full story. Engineers are responsible for the designs and creations that affect every single aspect of our lives.

They are also responsible for the medical treatment we receive, the access to public services we all enjoy, law enforcement, and more. That is why ethics in engineering is a crucial and increasingly talked-about topic within the industry.

In order to be a successful and qualified engineer, you will need to be able to demonstrate the importance of ethics in science and engineering. With that in mind, let's break down the key ethical issues in engineering that you need to understand.

1. Professional vs Personal Ethics in Engineering

When it comes to virtue ethics in engineering, the main considerations you need to take into account are professional and personal ethics. As this guide to the engineer code of ethics explains, professional ethics refer to the ethics you need to apply when following corporate rules. Meanwhile, personal ethics describe the morals of the work that you do.

For example, professional ethics might include honoring the agreements you make with partners on the job, while personal ethics consider how an engineering project might affect the life of the community. Many issues in engineering ethics can be divided into these two camps. 

2. Engineering Ethics and Public Safety 

A huge component of engineering ethics concerns public safety. For example, ethics in chemical engineering are needed to ensure that a chemical plant does not damage the surrounding community.

Highway engineering ethics might assess whether a highway would cut a neighborhood off from public services or cause segregation. An electrical engineer will need to consider how a design can best guarantee the safety of users for the foreseeable future. Public safety is always an engineer's priority. 

3. Engineering Ethics and Responsibility

A central tenet of engineering ethics is that the engineer has a burden of responsibility that they must apply to everything in their career. Crucially, this sense of responsibility supersedes your other obligations.

This means that, if your manager is instructing you to take an unethical action, such as designing a polluting engine in order to save money, it is your responsibility to push back against that and make a positive change. 

4. Emerging Problems in Engineering 

The realm of ethics in engineering is constantly evolving, just as the field of engineering is always changing. As new technologies with new impacts come to dominate the field, it is essential to stay on top of the ethical considerations and challenges that are emerging.

For example, artificial intelligence is now a dominant technology across virtually all engineering sectors. But how can we ensure that AI and the algorithms that power it are themselves ethical, and not shaped by human prejudices? A qualified engineer must always be engaged with the ethical considerations that matter now. 

Find Ethical Engineering Jobs Today

Understanding ethics in engineering will help you find the kind of quality engineering careers that you will fund fulfilling. To find quality engineering careers, we have got you covered. Make sure to consult our Jobs Search to kickstart your engineering career today.