Hippocratic Oath for developers

The software engineering code of ethics

Written in antiquity, the Hippocratic Oath is held sacred by physicians, who continue today to swear that they will uphold its principles regarding a number of professional ethical standards.

Much closer to us, would you be surprised to learn that software developers also have a code of ethics? Indeed, such a code exists. It was initially written and published in 1997 by ACM/IEEE-CS joint task force on Software Engineering Ethics and Professional Practices.

Of course, nobody will ask you to swear on it 😉… But still we find it interesting to guide you to discover its fundamentals. As like Hippocratic Oath precepts, they are even more relevant today.

Do you respect the code? A quick overview

As a first step, you will find below the short version of the Software Engineering Code of Ethics. Before going into the details, the following eight principles describe a healthy approach to software development (or any line of work, in fact). In our future posts, we will mainly focus on the detailed clauses of principle 3, which deals with software production.

Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice (Short Version) ©


The short version of the code summarizes aspirations at a high level of the abstraction; the clauses that are included in the full version give examples and details of how these aspirations change the way we act as software engineering professionals. […]

Software engineers shall commit themselves to making the analysis, specification, design, development, testing and maintenance of software a beneficial and respected profession. In accordance with their commitment to the health, safety and welfare of the public, software engineers shall adhere to the following eight principles:

Software engineers shall act consistently with the public interest.

Client and employer
Software engineers shall act in a manner that is in the best interests of their client and employer consistent with the public interest.

Software engineers shall ensure that their products and related modifications meet the highest professional standards possible.

Software engineers shall maintain integrity and independence in their professional judgment.

Software engineering managers and leaders shall subscribe to and promote an ethical approach to the management of software development and maintenance.

Software engineers shall advance the integrity and reputation of the profession consistent with the public interest.

Software engineers shall be fair to and supportive of their colleagues.

Software engineers shall participate in lifelong learning regarding the practice of their profession and shall promote an ethical approach to the practice of the profession.

Curious to know more? Just follow us for a guided tour!

In our future articles, we will dive into details of the full detailed version of the code. You will see how to comply with some key principles in your day-to-day software development practice. Stay tuned!

References and further reading

  • Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice, copyright (c) 1999 by the Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
  • The joint ACM/IEEE-CS Software Engineering Code was published as: Don Gotterbarn, Keith Miller, and Simon Rogerson. 1997. Software engineering code of ethics. Commun. ACM 40, 11 (November 1997), 110-118. DOI: 10.1145/265684.265699.
  • Last version 5.2 was jointly approved by the ACM and the IEEE-CS as the standard for teaching and practicing software engineering.


Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp

Leave a Comment

Related Posts

How to make your developers happy

How to make your developers happy

There’s no shortage of articles on how to improve software quality via process improvement. Today I want to look at things from the other side, from the software developer’s point

Improving code quality

Software quality: To the rescue!

In this post we’ll show what a healthy relationship with code quality looks like. After our introductory post, software quality (‘SQ’ for friends) might seem intimidating, maybe even daunting. But

How SpaceX develops software

How SpaceX develops software

SpaceX, a pioneer in commercial space transportation, most recently successfully took Astronauts to the space station with their Crew Dragon launch vehicle. SpaceX have essentially gone from a blank sheet of paper and text books to


Software quality: Origin story

Software quality is a vast field, which has been the subject of many studies, standards and tools for a long time (if we think in “Software time”). To make it

Hey there!

Subscribe and get an email every time we’ve got a new quality piece on here.