The Zookeeper's Hippopotamus Oath?
October 17, 2010 1:59 PM   Subscribe

What other professions and trades besides the medical profession's Hippocratic Oath have charters, mission or oaths that guide their ethical behaviour?

Does your profession have such a guide - does it help you with your everyday practice?

btw Apologies for such terrible wordplay - as a kid I did think it was the Hippopotamus Oath.
posted by pipstar to Work & Money (36 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
National Society of Professional Engineers Code of Ethics. Note that not every professional engineer is a Professional Engineer, if you get my meaning, but I think it's fair to say that most American engineering companies have similar ethics and standards.
posted by muddgirl at 2:03 PM on October 17, 2010

In order to be licensed as an attorney, you must take an oath in each state. They differ, but here's the Maine one (which goes back to the days when Maine was part of Massachusetts):

You solemnly swear that you will do no falsehood nor consent to the doing of any in court, and that if you know of an intention to commit any, you will give knowledge thereof to the justices of the court or some of them that it may be prevented; you will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any false, groundless or unlawful suit nor give aid or consent to the same; that you will delay no man for lucre or malice, but will conduct yourself in the office of an attorney within the courts according to the best of your knowledge and discretion, and with all good fidelity, as well as to the courts, as to your clients. So help you God
posted by Sukey Says at 2:03 PM on October 17, 2010

Most professional organizations have codes of ethics that are meant to guide behaviour. Here's a list of them. I imagine that the organizations themselves expect their members to agree to/abide by them as a condition of membership.
posted by jquinby at 2:03 PM on October 17, 2010

...on second pass, most of the links on that page I posted are deader than dead. Here's an example, however, for the California Locksmiths Association.
posted by jquinby at 2:05 PM on October 17, 2010

Principal officers of the federal government, including the President, Senators and Congressmen, Cabinet members, and federal judges, swear various oaths.

Lawyers swear state-by-state oaths.

Certain religious leaders swear oaths.

I suspect nearly any profession with either high social status or high barriers to entry (that is, it's hard to get in but you make a lot of money once you're in) will try to preserve its mystique and its guild-like community-cohesion through oaths, shibboleths, and other rituals.
posted by foursentences at 2:07 PM on October 17, 2010

For the practice of psychology/counseling/mental health work (in the US), the ethical codes are determined by the professional organizations that correspond with type of license:
American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Code of Ethics
National Association for Social Workers Code of Ethics
American Counseling Association's Code of Ethics
(and so forth -- each state generally also has professional orgs that regulate ethical standards for practitioners in that state)
posted by so_gracefully at 2:08 PM on October 17, 2010

Librarians! Not oaths, just codes/guides.
posted by grapesaresour at 2:08 PM on October 17, 2010

Boy, was that careless of me. The religious oath I linked to is propaganda from an anti-Catholic website. Still, some religious leaders do swear oaths.
posted by foursentences at 2:10 PM on October 17, 2010

There's also the recent attempt by some business schools (notably Harvard Business School) to have graduates swear an oath concerning ethical conduct. No, really.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:17 PM on October 17, 2010

Another set of APA ethical guidelines (jointly written with AERA and NCME educational research organizations) are the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. Those standards are taken very seriously by measurement professionals.

You don't have to swear by it, but you can be taken to court and use the Standards as a defense for your decisions.
posted by parkerjackson at 2:17 PM on October 17, 2010

Teachers don't officially swear an oath, but their certificates are bound up in a code of ethics (it varies by state) and can be revoked they are found to violate the code. I know the Alaska one (under which I am licensed) specifically forbids all sorts of things like murder, forgery, child abuse etc. for which they'll pull your license.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:19 PM on October 17, 2010

I'm a physicist, and we did swear a short oath at the graduation ceremony, promising to uphold scientific principles, refrain from abusing scientific truth for personal gain and generally behave. A similar thing happens with almost all academic disciplines here in Greece, engineers being a notable exception, but is largely ceremonial.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:29 PM on October 17, 2010

Civil servants in the UK (including me) have the Civil Service Code. The Government Ministers we work for have the Ministerial Code - which includes a requirement not to ask us to do anything that breaks the Civil Service Code.

The Code doesn't directly help me in my everyday work, but that is partly because the value of impartiality is pretty fundamental to the culture within government departments in the UK. (Others may laugh at this but my experience of working in various departments is that you work with very few people who do not think giving impartial advice to Ministers is an absolute prerequisite of the job). And it's partly because other values, like integrity. are so woolly - and, well, you see people sacrifice this to climb the ladder in every profession I suppose.

Where I think the Code does help is with people far senior to me who are asked to do things by Ministers that breach it - eg implement decisions that conflict with the Code, spend money ill-advisedly (eg in support of a policy that is proven to be poor value for money or breaches contractual rules etc). The Code gets prayed in aid at times like that and it is generally enough to stop that kind of thing.
posted by greycap at 2:32 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Social workers in Ontario, Canada have a code of ethics and standards of practice.
posted by analog at 2:36 PM on October 17, 2010

The Oath of Enlistment or Oath of Office for anyone in the US Military.
posted by matty at 3:12 PM on October 17, 2010

The ISC2, a certifying body for information security practitioners, has a code of ethics which it requires prospective members/certificants to sign.
posted by deadmessenger at 3:40 PM on October 17, 2010

Here's the National Press Photographers' Association (of America)'s Code of Ethics, which governs photojournalism in any serious newsroom in the US. I've never sworn an oath on it, but when you're a member of the NPPA I think you sign something that says you agree to that code. The big worldwide photojournalism competitions (World Press, BOP, POYi) have codes very similar that govern eligibility for the award. And, a rule of thumb in an American newsroom, if a photographer breaks the NPPA Code of Ethics (or, at least, the newspaper's employment handbook's code of ethics which would be very similar to the NPPA's code), he or she will most likely be fired.

I should also say that the code does not generally apply in full to portraiture, especially in the magazine portraiture and double-especially for magazine cover portraiture.
posted by msbrauer at 3:41 PM on October 17, 2010

I'm not one, but just about every police force in the world would have a professional standards document they have to swear to abide by (and if they don't, they should). Here's the Code of Conduct for my State's cops.

And if you read between the lines, you have a potted history of the major and minor misdoings of the NSW Police in the last couple of decades
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:45 PM on October 17, 2010

The American Anthropological Association has a code of ethics for anthropological work, and the Society for Applied Anthropology also maintains a list of guidelines of Ethical and Professional Responsibilities. You don't swear by them, but they are fairly frequently used/taught as guides.
posted by anthropophagous at 3:48 PM on October 17, 2010

People with the Chartered Financial Analyst designation are supposed to follow the CFA Institute's Code of Ethics & Standards of Professional Conduct. Not every investment analyst is a charterholder--it's very common among sell-side research analysts at investment banks and buy-side analysts at mutual fund companies and long-only institutional money managers, but not as common at hedge funds. I don't think many retail financial advisors are charterholders since there are other designations aimed at financial planning.

The code and standards are useful in that they are thorough and taken seriously by most CFA charterholders. The most useful aspect is the standard of investment performance reporting, which I'd say is the industry standard.
posted by mullacc at 3:53 PM on October 17, 2010

Members of the American Institute of Certified Planners (urban and regional planners) attest that they will comply with this Code.
posted by carmicha at 4:09 PM on October 17, 2010

The Veterinarian's Oath. I'm sure the ACZV has something specific as well, OP. ;)

As for 'high-earning'/'high-status' professions with shibboleths and rituals protecting the ranks, let me also mention the equally important Veterinary Technicians' Oath, and that veterinary technicians also have a code of ethics. Nobody becomes a licensed vet tech for the cash money and elite status. (Not many veterinarians, either, but full-time, licensed techs have a median salary of $24-25K. And man, people who shape up for the emergency vet sure have no problem treating the triaging techs like subhumans.)

The oaths, however, are general. What they mean in practice is a lot of issues like this. I'm sure anthropophagous could point out all of the hashing out and social negotiations involved with defining how the oaths apply in practice. There's certainly not always agreement, and sometimes even when there is general agreement, two missions collide with each other.

happy belated veterinary technicians' week. I love vet techs.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 4:15 PM on October 17, 2010

The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) has a code of ethics that developed with the intention that communication is a basic human right.
posted by shortyJBot at 4:16 PM on October 17, 2010

My (annoying, sucky) ethics text defines a "profession" in a strict way, one marker of which is having a specific code of ethics. So, by that definition, ALL "profession"s have specific codes--otherwise it is just a job.

You might find the Wikpedia article on "profession" to be useful (it has a list of "established professions", by roughly the same markers... code of ethics, etc.).

(Software Engineering, for example, is NOT a profession, because there is no mandated ethical code, but many may belong to IEEE which does have such a code.)
posted by anaelith at 4:17 PM on October 17, 2010

Of course, each military branch:
I am a United States Sailor.
I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and I will obey the orders of those appointed over me.
I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world.
I proudly serve my country's Navy combat team with Honor, Courage and Commitment.
I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.

As well as specific creeds for petty officers and, I believe, anyone higher than that.
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:57 PM on October 17, 2010

Engineering graduates of Canadian universities participate in the Iron Ring ceremony upon graduation ("The Calling of an Engineer", which was developed by Rudyard Kipling). This ceremony includes an Obligation (oath).
posted by Simon Barclay at 5:20 PM on October 17, 2010

Social Workers! The code includes a specific admonishment to recognize "the inherent worth and dignity" in each person.
posted by OmieWise at 5:56 PM on October 17, 2010

Along with oaths, lawyers are bound by Rules of Professional Responsibility that are codified in statute in each state -- if I violate that code, I'm a lawbreaker, and can be sued as well as risk losing my license.

Judges are bound by the Code of Judicial Conduct in each state.
posted by freshwater at 8:32 PM on October 17, 2010

Code of ethics for archivists
posted by unknowncommand at 8:50 PM on October 17, 2010

Nurses in the U.S. abide by the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics. Sadly it is not available for free on the ANA's website, but I have the printed version and it's about 25 pages long. So it's not so much an oath that is sworn, but instead a more detailed guide to ethical behavior for nurses.

Doctors also have a much more extensive ethical code than the simple "do no harm" that everybody knows about.
posted by vytae at 10:34 PM on October 17, 2010

A collected list of codes of ethics for librarians (created by various professional associations) around the world, including protocols for indigenous materials.

I concur with the observation that it is a code of ethics (and a shared set of professional values) that makes a profession a profession.
posted by wingless_angel at 2:13 AM on October 18, 2010

Solicitors in England and Wales have to abide by the Solicitor's Code of Conduct.
posted by freya_lamb at 4:06 AM on October 18, 2010

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has a Code of Ethics (Section 3 of the Members Handbook).
posted by jonnyploy at 4:22 AM on October 18, 2010

Geologists tend to have Codes of Conduct. As a licensed geologist in NC, mine's written into the rules as I imagine is similar to other states that have licenses. The largest professional organization for geologists in the US, the Geological Society of America, also has one.
posted by pappy at 9:57 AM on October 18, 2010

The American Massage Therapy Association has a code of ethics, as do other professional groups relating to bodywork.
posted by purpletangerine at 11:57 AM on October 18, 2010

Someone else mentioned that the US military branches have a code. The Israeli army has one too - it is a core part of every training course in the IDF, from basic training to Brigadier General-level division command courses.

Check it out here.
posted by eytanb at 2:06 PM on October 19, 2010

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