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Bioethics Career Options and Education Requirements

Bioethics is an interdisciplinary field that addresses ethical problems in biological research and medicine. Continue reading for an overview of the majors and educational requirements, as well as career and salary info related to some career options for graduates.

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Bioethicists explore the complex, controversial issues that are present in the medical field. With an educational background in the medical field, bioethicists examine new and emerging technologies and procedures to address the ethical issues that may result from their use.

Essential Information

Today's bioethicists come from diverse disciplines and weigh concerns related to controversial issues such as stem-cell research and medical technology. Individuals who want to develop careers in bioethics could choose undergraduate degree programs with a bioethics emphasis or minor, along with graduate degree programs in bioethics. Some occupations in this field require additionally completing a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree program.

Career Titles Post-Secondary Teachers Physicians & Surgeons Medical Scientists
Education Requirements Master's or doctoral degree in bioethics Science-intensive undergraduate degree and an M.D. degree Science-focused undergraduate degree and ideally, a Ph.D. and a M.D. degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 13% 14% 8%
Mean Annual Salary (2015)* $71,060 $197,700 $93,730

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Professionals who would like to build careers in bioethics might pursue opportunities in the academic, clinical or research fields. For example, they might become bioethics post-secondary teachers, physicians or medical scientists.

Post-Secondary Teachers

The field of bioethics is expanding rapidly, and universities and medical schools need professors who can educate the innovators of tomorrow. Many branches of medical and liberal arts are concerned with bioethics, but an educator typically specializes in one discipline, such as philosophy. An academic bioethicist also can perform research or educate the public through outreach. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that positions for college professors (post-secondary teachers) would increase by 13% between 2014 and 2024, about as fast as the national average.

Physicians & Surgeons

Currently, the staff of medical clinics handles ethical dilemmas. As the bioethics field grows, specialists are being called on to handle these tasks. To work in this capacity, students typically choose a discipline in the health care field and then focus on bioethics along with their regular studies.

Existing medical professionals such as physicians can also undertake bioethics training. The BLS reported that the occupational group of all other physicians and surgeons earned mean salaries of $197,700 as of May 2015. Employment of these specialists was expected to expand by 14% between 2014 and 2024.

Medical Scientists

New developments in medical and biological sciences often have ethical ramifications. Research bioethicists work to make sense of these ramifications. Some researchers work for academic institutions, while others work for consulting companies.

Medical scientists conduct research with the purpose of improving the health of human beings. In 2015, the BLS reported that medical scientists earned average annual salaries of $93,730. An employment increase of 8% was predicted for the decade spanning 2014 through 2024.

Bioethics Education Requirements

Undergraduate

At the undergraduate level, bioethics typically is explored in addition to another discipline. For example, a student might choose an undergraduate program in medical sciences or liberal arts and then tailor his or her classes to include a bioethical focus. This can prepare the student to work in a bioethical capacity in his or her chosen career. Some institutions offer a minor in bioethics.

Graduate

At the graduate level, students often can choose to focus solely on bioethics. Institutions offer master's study, as well as doctorate programs. The latter programs are intended for students who wish to move on to research or academic careers.

Continuing Education

For health care professionals who want to remain current in their fields, certificate programs are available that can prepare them to deal with ethical dilemmas. Students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs may also complete certificate programs, which could add a bioethical focus to their chosen career path.

Physicians, medical scientists, and college professors are all involved in the field of bioethics. With the ongoing development of new technologies and techniques, bioethicists will become increasingly important as the ethical dilemmas of the medical field are explored and addressed.

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