A profession is a vocation that requires specialized education and training. Professional communities reinforce best practices among their participants and often create codes of ethics to codify certain behaviors as either required or forbidden. These codes of ethics act as a general guideline for how professionals should act.
In many cases, the codes are expanded into rules that specify required behaviors in certain circumstances. Such standards of professional conduct clarify the code of ethics, and identify the minimally acceptable behavior required of practitioners. By joining the professional community, members agree to follow the community’s code of ethics and standards of practice. In most cases, members must commit to follow the code and standards on a regular basis, usually annually.
Violations of a professional community’s ethics and professional standards can be damaging to the entire profession. For example, an investment practitioner who puts his or her own interests ahead of those of clients could reduce the trust clients have in the profession as a whole. To protect the reputation of its members, the community investigates potential violations. Corrective actions for violations can include sanctions against the violator, or, in extreme cases, expulsion from the profession.