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Biomedical Ethics Education and Training Program Overviews

Biomedical ethics is the study of ethical issues that arise from advances in medicine, biotechnology, and medical law. Students may enroll in a bioethics certificate, a Master of Science in Bioethics, or a Doctor of Philosophy in Bioethics.

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Essential Information

Certificate programs in biomedical ethics are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels and are designed for students who are seeking careers in a medical profession, such as nursing, or in healthcare administration. Courses in these brief programs cover topics such as public policy, health economics, and current issues in healthcare ethics. Master's degree programs in bioethics are often aimed at working professionals who want to advance their careers. These programs are focused on research and case studies, and students often can choose courses to help them meet their career goals. At the doctoral level, bioethics students design projects and conduct research in their field of interest. Research may be in areas including regenerative medicine, clinical ethics, and genetics. There are likely some online course options for each program.

Bioethics is an interdisciplinary field, and students are often expected to study theories of philosophy, ethics, science, law, and politics simultaneously. In order to enroll in a certificate program, students will need to have completed college-level health science courses for the undergraduate level and be bachelor's degree holders with healthcare experience for graduate level. Master's degrees stipulate that students have completed a bachelor's degree, as well, and doctoral programs will need a master's degree and, typically, work experience in a related field. Master's and doctorate degrees will generally include a thesis or research project.


Certificate in Biomedical Ethics

Undergraduate and graduate certificates are both available within the field of biomedical ethics. They are designed to be supplementary educational sources for individuals pursuing medical or administrative professions. Undergraduate certificate programs are designed for students who are preparing to study medicine, education, health sciences, or nursing. Graduate certificate programs are for students who hold baccalaureate degrees and are interested in pursuing the same professional fields. Certificate programs in biomedical ethics focus on how medical ethics affect research, legislation, and clinical care practices in the healthcare field.

The courses focus on how bioethics can affect clinical decisions, hospital policy administration, healthcare regulations, healthcare legislation, health economics, and more. Examples of course topics include:

  • Bioethics and clinical care
  • Bioethics and law
  • Health economics
  • Drug health policy
  • Current issues in bioethics
  • Stem cell research

Master of Science in Bioethics

Students enrolled in a master's degree program in bioethics study the social, ethical, and legal ramifications of biomedicine and emerging biotechnologies. They gain a solid understanding of the history of bioethics and the necessity of bioethics in medicine by exploring past case studies. They are taught to examine current controversial healthcare issues, such as healthcare policy reform or stem cell research, from both a scientific and an ethical point of view.

Undergraduate degrees in biology, sociology, psychology, philosophy or public health are appropriate precursors to the field. Many graduate programs in biomedical ethics also accept students who are mid-career professionals working in health care or medicine.

The courses included in a master's degree program in bioethics are heavy in case studies and research. Graduate students are encouraged to team with faculty advisers to pick the electives that might best suit their professional goals. Common core courses might include:

  • History of bioethics
  • Bioethics philosophy
  • Research ethics
  • Clinical bioethics
  • Bioethics and law
  • Public health and policy

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Bioethics

Doctoral programs in bioethics are aimed towards students who wish to pursue the subject through advanced scholarship and research. Students may be drawn from various academic and professional backgrounds, including medicine, social work, psychology, public health, and public policy.

Ph.D. programs in bioethics are interdisciplinary and should provide doctoral candidates with the skills necessary to create, design, and implement research into specific bioethical issues and problems. Particular concentrations include the biomedical issues in genetics, stem cell research, regenerative medicine, clinical ethics, and public health ethics.

The courses found within a Ph.D. program in bioethics often vary greatly depending upon a particular student's chosen specialization. Core courses might include the following:

  • Theoretical ethics
  • Research methods
  • Statistics
  • Critical readings in bioethics
  • Clinical ethics rotation
  • Grant writing

Popular Career Options

Graduates of a master's degree or certificate program in biomedical ethics are eligible for positions in the fields of public health, medicine, law, and academia. Specific available positions might include:

  • Director of healthcare ethics
  • Bioethics research associate
  • Clinical ethicist
  • Senior law associate, bioethics specialty
  • Associate professor of bioethics

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Earning a Ph.D. in Bioethics can significantly increase the career opportunities and salary earning potential for individuals in the professions of medicine, public health, research and academia. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary teachers and academic professors teaching a health specialty subject earned a median annual salary of $90,840 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). The number of employed postsecondary teachers is predicted to rise by 13% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the predicted rate for all occupations.

Certification Options

There are no certification options for professionals working in the field of bioethics. However, such individuals can take advantage of resources and new academic advances by earning membership in a professional organization related to the field of bioethics. One example of such an organization is the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH).

Master's degrees, doctorate degrees, and graduate and undergraduate certificates in bioethics fields prepare students for work in numerous healthcare and ethics-related fields. Completing these programs qualifies students to become part of professional bioethics organizations, allowing them to stay up to date on new information and training.

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