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What They Do

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Ethicists help people and organizations develop and maintain ethical and responsible behavior. They also study standards of conduct and moral judgment.

"Ethics...is an attempt to give critical and reflective answers to several key questions: How ought we to live? What ought we to do? And what's worth having or wanting?" says Laura Pincus Hartman. Hartman is director of an institute that studies ethics.

"Having ethics, or a system of ethics, in an organization is important because everybody needs a code of behavior that they can live by, especially in the workplace," says John Gawthrop, an ethicist.

"This means making people realize that they're responsible for their own actions by fostering a sense of individual responsibility."

Eileen Morgan is an organizational consultant and business ethicist. She says the goal of an ethicist is to help organizations understand systems and structures that promote ethical decision making.

Ethicists may focus on different areas: business, medicine, law, philosophy, government, science, environment or education.

Medical ethicists help decide issues of life and death, whether research and experimentation on humans is ethical, and other heath-care dilemmas.

Business ethicists help organizations balance profit margins with a variety of issues. They may include environmental responsibility, employee issues, privacy issues, equal opportunity issues, conflicts of interest and social responsibilities.

At a Glance

Resolve moral dilemmas

  • Bioethics is a hot field
  • Ethicists can focus on a lot of different areas
  • You'll need a graduate degree with a concentration in your chosen discipline