According to a Gallup poll published early this year, 79% of American respondents rate the ethical standards of nurses as high or very high, putting them at the top of the polling company’s list of “Americans’ Ratings of Honesty and Ethics of Professions.” Medical doctors (62%) and pharmacists (58%) came next. Other professionals who scored well include high school teachers, police officers, accountants, judges, and clergy.
The bottom of the ranking? Car salespeople, members of Congress, and – at the very bottom – telemarketers. (Congress is one of the 14 least trusted institutions in America.)
Defining “ethical” professions can be subjective and can vary depending on individual perspectives and cultural norms. However, certain lines of work tend to be associated with ethical concerns more frequently than others.
Some are clearly beyond the pale. There is no conceivable ethical justification for drug dealing, human trafficking, running a sweatshop, or, worst of all, killing others for profit – though all of these are full-time professions for some morally corrupt individuals.
Other professions can be legitimate – and ethical – but also provide opportunities for the unscrupulous to profit at the expense of others. Political lobbying and debt collection and settlement are examples. (Here’s a list of the American cities with the most credit card debt.)
To compile a list of the 20 most unethical professions – both unequivocally and potentially – 24/7 Tempo consulted various online sources, including job review and news sites. The list is not meant to be comprehensive, as almost any profession – even those that rated high in that Gallup poll – can offer opportunities for unethical behavior.
It is important to remember that some of the examples on this list represent only certain individuals within these professions and do not imply that everyone involved in these occupations is unethical. There are ethical professionals within at least some of these fields who strive to uphold integrity and make positive contributions.