United States Masters Degrees in Bioethics
While earning a masters in bioethics, you’ll examine different components of healthcare, medicine, public policy, law, and other fields to apply ethics to the healthcare field.
This interdisciplinary program usually incorporates research, coursework, clinical practicum, and a thesis project to teach a complete understanding of how new technologies, medicines, and techniques will be used ethically to care for patients.
What Is Bioethics?
First coined in 1971, bioethics is the application of ethics, or the philosophical notions of right and wrong, to the fields of medicine and healthcare.
As a multidisciplinary field that combines elements of philosophy, theology, history, law, nursing, health policy, and the medical humanities, bioethics asks questions as old as humankind and applies them to healthcare, such as:
- What is the right thing to do and the good way to be?
- What are our obligations to one another?
- Who is responsible, to whom and for what?
- What is the fitting response to this moral dilemma given the context?
These questions, and others, as well as the field in general, signify the combination of biology, bioscience, and healthcare with our humanistic knowledge feelings and intuition about right and wrong.
Because bioethics deals with such important questions and from so many different fields, while earning a master’s degree your curriculum usually covers a wide variety of subjects.
Current Issues in Bioethics
Some of the current issues that bioethics addresses are:
- Difficult private decisions made in clinical settings
- Stem cell research
- Implications of reproductive technologies
- International human subject research
- Public policy in healthcare
- Allocation of scarce resources
These issues only cover current topics, but as with everything, new ones will arise as we develop new technologies and techniques of providing healthcare. As our science
continues to advance, these issues will continually determine what it means to be human, the rights of patients, and the overall health of our society.
Did You Know?
The Center for Practical Bioethics, based in Missouri, organizes the issues of bioethics into four domains: Aging and End of Life, Clinical and Organizational Ethics, Life Sciences, and Disparities of Health and Healthcare.
How to Earn a Masters in Bioethics
Earning a master’s in bioethics means understanding all of the social and ethical challenges facing medicine, the life sciences, and the impact of various external forces, such as:
- Rapid scientific discovery
- Development of technological medicine
These, and many other influences, have raised more questions about how we provide healthcare to our growing populations and how we develop new biomedical technologies.
As a result, earning your master’s in bioethics means examining research in a variety of fields, offering you an interdisciplinary approach to learning that incorporates ethical issues, new technologies, and techniques in fields such as:
- Social Work
- Public Policy
Understanding each of these disciplines and their overall goals, teaches how to apply research and theories in each one. Plus, as new approaches and technologies are developed, you’ll have a solid foundation of how to apply ethics to the new concerns raised.
Some of the common admissions requirements for a master’s in bioethics are:
- Completed application
- Official transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Standardized test results (usually one of GRE, MAT, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT)
- Statement of goals
- Resume or CV
It’s important to remember that each school has a different set of admissions requirements, which means some or all of those listed above may be different. For example, some schools require an interview with a faculty member either in person or on the telephone, while other universities don’t have that requirement.
Therefore, before applying, be sure to check with each school for their specific requirements to make sure that you’re a good fit for their program.
The majority of master’s in bioethics programs take two years to complete for full-time students. However, many schools offer students the option to take courses on a part-time basis, which usually means it will take longer to earn your degree.
Some of the common requirements to earn your degree include:
- Complete required courses (usually combination of core courses and electives)
- Thesis project
Most programs require that you perform a hands-on practicum that usually includes working at a healthcare facility or organization that includes studying and reporting ethical issues that are addressed.
This may give you experience dealing with issues in the field that can show how the research and theories you study in class are applied in the field.
What Do Bioethicists Study?
Some of the key topics you may study while pursuing your master’s degree include:
- Essential theories and methods focused on the ethics of public health, clinical care, science, and research
- Ethics issues and questions that arise with new technologies and techniques
- Articulate and criticize current policy and methods
- Various approaches to advisory functions in practice settings
Being that bioethics incorporates and deals with issues in such a wide variety of disciplines and fields, many programs make sure to take an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to the curriculum and courses.
This approach helps programs teach students the many challenges of bioethics and how we can continue to strive to help people live longer, healthier lives, while also making a clear distinction between right and wrong.
Common Courses in Bioethics Masters Programs
Some of the common courses you may take include:
- Methods in Bioethics
- Ethics and Decision-Making in Clinical Practice
- Bioethics and the Law
- Philosophy of Bioethics
- Neuroscience and Ethics
- Topics in Bioethics: End of Life
- Health Policy
Keep in mind that every school offers a unique curriculum and the specific courses you take may vary from the list above. In addition, if you choose any of the concentrations listed below your curriculum may vary as well.
Some schools offer a number of concentrations for your master’s in bioethics, which may help tailor your course of study to specifically meet your goals and to develop an individualized program.
Some of the concentrations you may be able to choose from include:
- Clinical Ethics
- Research Ethics
- Reproductive Ethics
- Environmental Ethics
- Research Ethics
- Medicine, Society, and Culture Ethics
Keep in mind that while most programs cover each of these topics, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every school offers these, or other, concentrations.
Therefore, if there is a specific course of study or concentration you’d like to pursue for your master’s in bioethics be sure to find a program that offers it before applying.
Types of Master’s Degrees in Bioethics
Earning a master’s in bioethics means finding the line between right and wrong in new techniques, medicines, and technologies in healthcare, but choosing which bioethics master’s degree to pursue can be just as challenging.
For instance, there are three common degree types, which are:
- Master of Arts (MA)
- Master of Science (MS)
- Master of Bioethics (MBE)
All of these are academically equivalent, but may have slight variations in the courses, focus of the overall program, and the positions they strive to prepare you for.
For example, while an MA is usually considered more research based and an MS is considered to be more practice based, many programs combine the two give you a more complete understanding of the key topics and current research in the field.
What Is an MBE Degree?
The third option for your master’s in bioethics is an MBE (Master of Bioethics), which usually combines the resources between a medical school or social work school and the school of public health.
This combination allows students to understand the elements and impact of their research, while also studying the why and how of their research.
Choose Your Learning Format
Many master’s of bioethics programs give you the option on how you want to earn your degree, either as a part-time student or as a full-time student.
The majority of universities also allow you to choose between pursuing your master’s degree in bioethics online or through an on-campus bioethics master’s. Online programs may provide more flexibility and allow you to attend programs around the country, while on-campus programs may offer more camaraderie.
Be sure to understand your learning style and your goals before applying in order to find the perfect program for you.
Difference Between Bioethics and Public Health
As a result, bioethics is a part of public health because of the emphasis on making sure that people have options and are treated fairly throughout their lives and throughout their healthcare experience.
In fact, the two fields work hand in hand, as bioethics can bring expertise to defining and illuminating ethical problems in public health and public health can broaden the concerns of bioethics.
This is one of the many reasons why many bioethics programs fall under the school or department of public health at many universities. However, as bioethics continues to grow as a field and in popularity, many colleges are adding a separate school or department of bioethics.
Did You Know?
CRISPR/Cas9 is a medical technique that allows scientists to target specific DNA strands and modify the DNA as needed. While this brings many positives, such as the possibility of eliminating some hereditary diseases, some fear that this will lead to genetic engineering.
Common Careers in Bioethics
While there are many careers that you may pursue upon earning your master’s degree in bioethics, including epidemiologists. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary in 2016 for epidemiologists was $70,820.i
Keep in mind that another option is to continue to earn you PhD in Bioethics to pursue careers such as a medical scientist or postsecondary teacher. Though a doctorate may not be necessary to enter the field, many programs offer dual degrees in medicine, nursing, or law combined with bioethics, which may provide you with even more career options.
Apply to the Perfect Bioethics Master’s Program for You Today!
Interested in joining the medical field, but are more interested in philosophical questions rather than performing surgery and helping others heal? Then, a master’s in bioethics may be for you.
Click on any of the sponsored listings on this page to learn more about each of these programs, when the next starting date is, and how to apply to find the perfect program for you!
Albany Medical College
The Alden March Bioethics Institute’s Online Graduate Programs provide mid-career professionals, joint degree students, and highly motivated post-baccalaureate students with an opportunity to supplement current education or career training with cutting-...
- Durham, NCDurham, NC
The Duke Master of Arts in Bioethics & Science Policy is distinct in its focus on bioethics and science policy, rather than bioethics or medical ethics alone.
- Chicago, ILChicago, IL
The Certificate of Graduate Study in Health Care Ethics is offered via the internet and consists of three courses that link clinical and organizational issues with both theory and practice. The first course, Introduction to Health Care Ethics, focuse...
- Chicago, IL
- Pittsburgh, PAPittsburgh, PA
University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh Center for Bioethics and Health Law offers an interdisciplinary MA in Bioethics, as well as joint programs with the schoo...
- Atlanta, GAAtlanta, GA
For professionals and students interested in the social and ethical challenges facing medicine and the life sciences.
- New York City, NYNew York City, NY
M.S. in Bioethics...
- New York City, NYNew York City, NY
New York University
The Program in Bioethics is part of NYU's Center for Bioethics, based in the Faculty of Arts and Science with close ties with faculty members in clinical and environmental medicine, public and international health, environmental studies and law.
- Glendale, AZGlendale, AZ
Midwestern offers a 30 quarter-hour Certificate and a 42 quarter-hour MA degree. Students in the MA program opt for either a research or a didactic track. The program is structured to accommodate the working professional or other-degree seeking student,...
- Kansas City, MOKansas City, MO
Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences
Loyola University Chicago
The Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine is a pluralistic bioethics institute that draws upon the commitment to social justice of the Jesuit and Roman Catholic heritage of the Strit...
- New York City, NYNew York City, NY
City University Of New York, The Graduate Center
Bioethics, Science, and Society is offered as a track within the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program (MALS).
- Charlottesville, VACharlottesville, VA
University of Virginia
- Cleveland, OHCleveland, OH
Case Western Reserve University
The Department of Bioethics offers a Master of Arts Degree Program that emphasizes the interdisciplinary and interprofessional nature of the field.
University of Maryland University College
UMUC's Master of Science in Biotechnology seeks to provide a thorough grounding in management and policy issues unique to the...
- Stony Brook, NYStony Brook, NY
Stony Brook University (S.U.N.Y.)
Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics track in Biological Sciences MA...
Union Graduate College
The Bioethics Program provides competency- and skills-based education in clinical ethics, research ethics and bioethics policy.
- East Lansing, MIEast Lansing, MI
Michigan State University
The program address three core problems: applying ethics to medical decision-making, understanding the human context of medicine, and assessing social...
- Bronx, NYBronx, NY
Albert Einstein College Of Medicine
Our primary focus is in improving practice, scholarship and teaching with humane treatment and research in mind.
- Sioux Falls, SDSioux Falls, SD
- Deerfield, ILDeerfield, IL
Trinity International University (IL)
The MA in Bioethics is designed to give students the ethical tools they need to address pressing contemporary issues of life...
- Winston-Salem, NCWinston-Salem, NC
Wake Forest University
The Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences jointly offer a dual, five-year degree program, Bioethics (MD/MA). The program’s objective is to facilitate an...
- Winston-Salem, NC
- Pittsburgh, PAPittsburgh, PA
University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh Campus