Ethical Behaviour -Frameworks and Codes

Learning ethical practices in career development.

CPD Assessments
Ethical Behaviour - Frameworks and Codes

Ethical Behaviour - Frameworks and Codes


In the 21st century, ethics remains the cornerstone of career development. Career development is guided by the Competency Framework for Career Development Practitioners in South Africa and The Code of Ethics for Career Development Practitioners.

These documents assist in the interpretation and application of evaluation tools and assessments in career guidance, counselling and development. The aim of ethical practices in career development is to create responsible, credible and consistent career development services which also serve to protect the public and the practitioner.

Case Study

Noma is having a tough time at school. She is currently in Grade 11 and needs some help with career information. Noma heard that there was a local Career Services Centre in the area but she was really hesitant to approach strangers to talk about the issues which were bothering her. Internally, Noma was stressed and didn't have many people to talk too about her troubles. Busi is a friend from the same class and she comes to visit. Busi mentioned that she had been to the Career Services Centre the day before. Noma was surprised and told Busi how anxious she was seeing strangers to discuss personal issues. Busi talked to Noma in great detail about her experience at the Career Centre. She mentioned to Noma that the practitioner said that all information shared was private and won't be shared with anyone else. She also mentioned how professional the practitioner was at all times. She did not feel threatened or inferior in any way. The information that she was provided with was very beneficial and it helped her gain clarity. Busi admits that everyone at the Career Centre made her feel respected. There was no judgement even when she told the practitioner about the foolish things she had done last year. Busi felt very safe and relaxed with the practitioner.

Noma listens to Busi and feels that she could also give the Career Services Centre a try and asks Busi to accompany her the following day because Noma now expects the practitioners to behave in the same way towards her, as they did with Busi.

What are Ethics? 

Ethics refers to a set of moral principles or rules of conduct which must be followed by all practitioners. Ethics helps to determine the choices practitioners make and it is therefore the foundation of the nature and course of actions taken by the practitioner. Practitioners, as well as those who assist others in helping professions, are expected to behave in an ethical manner. Having an Ethical Framework ensures ethical accountability and creates certain expectations.

By nature of the profession, practitioners must act in the best interest of their client, promoting client goals, protecting client rights, maximising good and minimising harm (Stein, 1990).

According to the competency Framework for Career Development Practitioners in South Africa, ethical behaviour reflects professionalism which is a trait that both clients and colleagues expect when interacting. SACDA has developed The Code of Ethics for Career Development Practitioners. The summary of the introduction (preamble), states the following:

  1. Career development practitioners provide professional services to clients on the premise that work is a basic human right. 
  2. Career development practitioners are engaged in a broad spectrum of professional services within and between many fields such as education, human resources, social work and psychology, as applied in the South African educational, career and community contexts. 
  3. The Code of Ethics is intended to support the culture of quality services in line with the Competency Framework for Career Development Practitioners in South Africa. 
  4. The Code of Ethics does not replace legislation and regulations that career development practitioners are required to follow according to the regulations within which they work and the services they provide. 
  5. When the Code of Ethics is combined with the Competency Framework for Career Development Practitioners in South Africa, a standard of services will be defined that should be provided to the public by career development practitioners. 
Practitioners need to possess a clear understanding of the Code of Ethics for Career Development Practitioners - refer to the South African Career Development Association (SACDA) website.

Ethical behaviour implies excellence in all that one does and includes showing respect and integrity in behaviour; with proper self-management and case-management skills. Professional behaviour includes establishment and management of stakeholder relationships and industry networks.

Consequences of Unethical Behaviour

Unethical behaviour has the potential to harm both the client and the practitioner. It can negatively affect the reputation, credibility and registration of the career development practitioner. Unethical conduct or behaviour could result in legal action against the practitioner. 

Career development practitioners need to become proficient with the Ethical Code and Standards governing their profession. Doing so will help practitioners expand their knowledge and understanding of this field. Other ways of expanding one's knowledge are:

  • Teaching others about the key tenets of the code, as understanding the concepts offers greater insight into the ethical code.
  • Creating or thinking of an ethical dilemma a practitioner could face, then applying the ethical code and standards to that dilemma to try and resolve the issue.
Ethical Responsibilities of Career Development Practitioners to Clients

  • Career development practitioners are under obligation to respect the human worth and dignity of every person to whom services are being rendered. This means that career practitioners accept that individuals have a right to make their own choices, to take responsibility for those choices, to engage in self-development and to maintain confidentiality. 
  • Career practitioners are obligated to provide equal opportunities without prejudice to persons of different educational backgrounds, gender, race, ethnicity, disability, or religion, and to avoid all forms of discrimination. Career practitioners are not to harass or judge a client in any way.
  • Confidentiality is of paramount importance in the field of career development; however, in certain situations it is considered acceptable to release confidential information. These include situations where: A practitioner has been subpoenaed or ordered by a court of law to disclose information; The practitioner suspects that a child or elderly person is being abused; The individual or client involved is at risk of harming themselves or others; or A practitioner intends to explore a case with a fellow professional for supervision purposes.
  • Career practitioners must accept that clients are the expert or authority in their own lives. For this reason, a practitioner should not dictate or impose what is the best or most appropriate choice for a client, they should not offer advice, and should not portray themselves as an expert with all the answers.
  • Practitioners are advised against giving career support to friends and co-workers as this could influence the objectivity of the practitioner.
In career development and career advancement, a career practitioner should seek to be involved in supervision to increase their skills and knowledge. Practitioners should also obtain training periodically to be able to provide competent services to diverse clients and to ensure that they are able to use new techniques and theories effectively. Career practitioners should strive to be current and innovative in the content and contexts of career development services.

Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 2.0 South Africa (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 ZA) 

This means you can share and adapt this work but not for commercial purposes. You will only need to include the following reference to the original content in all shared works.

Kindly attribute as follows:

Beukes, C. J., Mahadave, K., & Kanhai, K. (2022). Professional Development Portfolio for Career Development Practitioners (1st ed.)CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 ZA, 


Karuna Mahadave

Christopher John Beukes