IS IT POSSIBLE TO BE PROFESSIONAL WITHOUT BEING ETHICAL? – William Robb. First Published in Ethics at work: issues in the workplace and in education. Proceedings of the conference held at the Auckland Institute of Technology, New Zealand, 20-22 June 1991

Often, in articles and papers on professional ethics what it means to be professional is not made clear. This paper explicates what it means to be professional.  In this paper (see link below) Robb explains how “professional” can mean a) being paid, b) being a prostitute, c) doing something full time, d) being a member of a profession, e) being knowledgeable and competent, f) being of service to others.



He goes on to explain that being of service to others entails giving the best possible quality helping relationship, giving nine criteria to assess whether or not the helping relationship is “best quality”. The paper concludes that the best quality helping relationship, does, in effect, entail being ethical. Consequently, even if you are paid, do something full time and are a member of a profession, you cannot call yourself a “professional” unless you do what is ethical.

This means that phrases such as “ethical professional” and “ethical delivery of ethical services” are tautologies. Other authors have tried to make this point by qualifying “professional” with, for example,  ” authentic”, “responsible”, “humane”,  “real” and “true”.

Being professional means being ethical