Code of Ethics

Approved by the 1996 NASW Delegate Assembly and revised by the 2008 NASW Delegate Assembly

The NASW Code of Ethics is intended to serve as a guide to the everyday professional conduct of social workers. This Code includes four sections:

  • The first Section, "Preamble," summarizes the social work profession's mission and core values. 
  • The second section, "Purpose of the NASW Code of Ethics," provides an overview of the Code's main functions and a brief guide for dealing with ethical issues or dilemmas in social work practice. 
  • The third section, "Ethical Principles," presents broad ethical principles, based on social work's core values, that inform social work practice. 
  • The final section, "Ethical Standards," includes specific ethical standards to guide social workers' conduct and to provide a basis for adjudication.

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Code of Ethics Purpose


1. The Code identifies core values on which social work’s mission is based.

2. The Code summarizes broad ethical principles that reflect the profession’s core values and establishes a set of specific ethical standards that should be used to guide social work practice.

3. The Code is designed to help social workers identify relevant considerations when professional obligations conflict or ethical uncertainties arise.

4. The Code provides ethical standards to which the general public can hold the social work profession accountable.

5. The Code socializes practitioners new to the field to social work’s mission, values, ethical principles, and ethical standards.

6. The Code articulates standards that the social work profession itself can use to assess whether social workers have engaged in unethical conduct. NASW has formal procedures to adjudicate ethics complaints filed against its members.* In subscribing to this Code, social workers are required to cooperate in its implementation, participate in NASW adjudication proceedings, and abide by any NASW disciplinary rulings or sanctions based on it.

History of the NASW Code of Ethics


NASW’s Delegate Assembly approved the first edition of the NASW Code of Ethics on October 13, 1960. Since then, the Code has emerged as the standard bearer for defining the values and principles that guide social workers’ conduct in all practice areas.

The Code of Ethics after 55 years remains the principal tool in making a difference in a client’s life. It empowers us with the strength to advocate for the oppressed and emboldens us with the courage to speak for the voiceless. Sherry Saturno, LCSW, DCSW
The Code of Ethics has been that guide and reinforcement for me that if I follow it then, yes I am doing what I am called to do as a social worker and doing it in a manner that it was intended. Tricia Cubitt, LCSW
Each day I strive to be a better person because of the Code of Ethics. I continuously am doing community service because I believe it makes the world a better place one step at a time. Baliegh Jene Cannistraci, BSW