A Guide to the Social Work Code of Ethics

Overview:  Social Worker Code of Ethics

Choosing to pursue your social work degree is a significant commitment. It means dedicating your time and energy toward a career that can present many challenges – and opportunities – over the course of your work life. There will be many people to influence and guide you along your path as a social worker, along with a professional code of ethics that defines expectations.

The code of ethics published by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) outlines the values, principles, and standards of acceptable conduct to be embraced by all social workers and social work students. Studying for your social work degree means being part of a greater population of professionals who hold true to key beliefs, such as:

Core Values

The values inherent to the social work have been in place since the founding of the profession. These values provide the foundation of what is unique to social work in successfully addressing the complexity of the human experience. These values include service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence.

Ethical Principles

The ethical principles contained within the code closely mirror the core values in defining the ideals of the social work profession such as: helping people in need; challenging social injustice; respecting each person; recognizing the importance of relationships; behaving in a trustworthy manner; and enhancing professional expertise.

Ethical Standards

There are also several ethical standards that direct the professional activities of all social workers. Briefly, these encompass:

Responsibilities to Clients

Social workers’ primary responsibility is to promote the well­being of clients, balancing loyalty with legal obligations.

Responsibilities to Colleagues

Colleagues should treat one another with respect, avoid criticism, cooperate across disciplines, maintain confidentiality, and otherwise collaborate in service to their clients.

Responsibilities in Practice Settings

Social workers are expected to consult and supervise, access outside resources, adhere to employment agreements, and work to ensure the proper care of clients.

Responsibilities as Professionals

The main responsibilities of a social worker are to be professionally competent, refrain from discrimination, guard against dishonesty or fraud, and exit from any compromising situations.

Responsibilities to the Profession

Social workers should strive to exhibit integrity, accurately represent social work, participate in research, and commit to the overall development of the profession.

Responsibilities to Society

Social workers are also accountable for promoting and securing the well-being of all persons in their communities and across the globe, by advocating for social, economic and political justice.

Social work is a profession dedicated to enhancing the quality of life, the pursuit of social justice, and helping a wide range of individuals to reach their full potential. Offered by the School of Social Work at the University of New England, the Master of Social Work online option is open to students from a variety of educational backgrounds. The program envisions a world where social workers are at the forefront of advocating with individuals and communities for human dignity and social inclusion by mobilizing efforts to end inequalities, exploitation and violence.

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