Engineering Ethics

Engineering ethics is a field of study that not only encompasses ethical issues relating to the practice of engineering, it also includes engineering education.  Key issues in the realm include whether engineers have similar ethical obligations as other professionals and whether they are ethically responsible for the impacts of the technologies they create. Most engineering professional societies have adopted codes of ethics that help to articulate and formalize the values and principles that their members are expected to uphold.

Over the past several decades, there has been growing recognition of the importance of incorporating ethics into the undergraduate engineering curriculum. This is in part due to the increased complexity of engineering  in the global and digital age.  A more immediate reason, however, centers on changes in accreditation and licensing standards. In 1998, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which accredits engineering schools in the United States and in other regions of the world, approved new accreditation criteria that embraced a heightened role for ethics in engineering education.  These new criteria, known as Engineering Criteria 2000 (or EC 2000), went into effect in 2001 and require schools to demonstrate that their graduates have an “awareness of ethical and contextual considerations in engineering”.  Furthermore, the National Council of Examinations for Engineers and Surveyors (NCEES), which produces the examinations used by states for issuing professional engineering licenses, has integrated ethics questions into their exams.