This essay examines the concepts of ‘professionalism’ and ‘ethics’ as they are used in health professions education and, in particular, medical education. It proposes that, in order to make sense of the construct of ‘professional ethics,’ it would be helpful to conceive of professionalism and ethics as overlapping but not identical spheres. By allowing for areas of professionalism that are not directly pertinent to ethics, and areas of ethics that are not directly pertinent to the professional sphere, ‘professional ethics’ as a focus of medical education can come into sharper relief. The essay argues that professional ethics should be understood not only in relation to major ethical issues such as end-of-life decisions, but also in relation to everyday actions and decisions. The essay ends by raising questions about how and by whom professional ethics is best taught.