Want to think more deeply about your engineering impact?

A lot of us go into engineering because we’re motivated by altruism and genuinely want to make the world a better place. It can, however, be difficult to live your values when you’re searching for a job. This tool will help you consider the ethical implications of various career paths in engineering. These ethical challenges span six areas: Equity, Labor, Corporate Citizenship, Privacy, Environment, and Safety.


Using the tool


I became an engineer because I was good at math and science in high school, and I was told that engineering would allow me to use my technical aptitude for social good. Starting engineering school, I found that many students, particularly women and other underrepresented groups, shared my aspirations of social good. However, most graduates were entering the conventional engineering job market, and their jobs were oriented towards profit rather than social impact.

It is time for an ethical reckoning in engineering education. As someone who cares deeply about stopping climate change, I am disappointed in the ways our profession has enabled carbon-intensive industries, and we must transform it. Obviously, we need systemic change – but your individual choice of career will nonetheless make a difference. With this tool, my goal is to create a dialogue about ethical careers for engineering students.

This tool does not prescribe a certain path – it doesn’t make sense for us all to work on the same societal problem – but I hope you will use it to reflect on your ethical limits, what types of work you feel are acceptable, and how you will use your power as an engineer to work towards a more just and equitable society.

Explanation of Ethical Areas

Although there are undoubtedly unlimited areas of ethical exposure, some of which we don’t even know of yet, I’ve identified six main areas to explore in this tool:

Many ethical issues span these categories – for example, the use of pesticides in agriculture is an environmental concern because these can pollute watersheds, but it also a safety concern for those who eat food. Also, not every industry will have a clear-cut ethical issue for every category, and the list of issues is not exhaustive. These categories and the discussion are presented as a starting point.

Other Resources

If you are a Cooper Union student, you can contact the Center for Career Development on Handshake to discuss career exploration, including ethical careers, and to take self-assessments. ONET is another useful tool for career exploration.

Please see the below for more ethical-career-oriented resources:


Thank you to Ricky Yurewitch for his generous technical help, and to Kit Nicholls for his invaluable help in ideating the project. Many thanks to Jolie Woodson and Toni Burrell from the Cooper Union Center for Career Development, who provided feedback on the initial version.