Online Ethics Degrees by Program Level

Learn about online degree programs with ethics courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

Essential Information

Degrees in ethics are usually offered at the master's level, and two of the most common offerings online are in business ethics and healthcare ethics. Students in most of these programs can complete the requirements entirely online, viewing lectures and reviewing course materials as their schedules permit, within set guidelines. Hybrid programs are available as well as some healthcare ethics programs require an on-campus component. Students generally must hold a bachelor's degree in a field related to the master's program.

Students in an online master's program in business ethics can complete the program in about two years of full-time study. With courses in business fundamentals such as human resources management, accounting, risk management and law, students explore ethical issues, such as how to create a welcoming and diverse corporate culture. There is flexibility in most programs that allows students to choose courses related to their own career goals and interests.

Most students in a healthcare ethics master's degree program are healthcare professionals. Although technical knowledge is assumed, the courses are grounded in the humanities. Students look at the history of healthcare ethics and explore contemporary issues, such as healthcare policy and end-of-life. Students may need to complete a research project or a thesis. The program can usually be completed in one to two years.

Master of Business Ethics

In an online business ethics master's program, students learn to develop strategies for managing organizations and corporations according to principles of law, integrity and social responsibility. Courses are grounded in finance, accounting, business administration and law. Applicants to online master's programs in business ethics are typically required to hold a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as business administration, though some programs consider applicants with undergraduate degrees in any field. Some familiarity with business principles and terminology, as well as common business software, is assumed.

Program Information and Requirements

Online master's programs in business ethics are fairly structured, usually requiring that students complete coursework within the framework of an academic calendar. Most programs can be completed within two years. Many degree programs are offered fully online, with no requirements for in-person components.

In most online business ethics master's programs, all lectures and readings are available online as documents or audiovisual files. Some programs also require that students purchase textbooks.

Course Topics

Classes in business ethics draw on law, economics, accounting and management principles. Most programs include a core set of coursework and room for electives in a student's area of interest.

Forensic Accounting

A class in forensic accounting lays out techniques and strategies for detecting and managing illegal and unethical accounting tactics, such as money laundering and fraud. United States laws and statutes relevant to economic crimes are also discussed, along with strategies for prosecuting the perpetrators of economic fraud.

Enterprise Risk Management

A risk management course teaches business administrators how to identify risks to their companies and balance them with economic and social concerns. Contemporary financial regulations are discussed.

Human Resources

Classes in human resources cover the effective hiring and management of personnel. Many courses place a particular emphasis on techniques for fostering a corporate culture that is welcoming and diverse.

Master of Healthcare Ethics

An online master's program in healthcare ethics explores issues in the availability, practices, and regulation of medicine. Most coursework is based in the humanities, rather than being technical in nature, though some familiarity with scientific principles is assumed. Students are generally professionals in the healthcare field. A degree in healthcare ethics may be useful to aspiring administrative leaders or policymakers in the medical field.

Program Information and Requirements

Some healthcare ethics programs include an optional or mandatory on-campus portion, while others take place entirely online. Time required to complete an online master's degree program in healthcare ethics varies depending on a student's schedule; most take between 1-2 years to complete with consistent coursework. Some programs require that students write a master's thesis or major research paper in order to graduate.

Most online healthcare ethics programs distribute course materials, such as lectures and assigned readings, through an online course management system (CMS). Students may need access to software that can play audiovisual files, as lectures are often distributed in video format.

Course Topics

Classes on healthcare ethics look at history, law, and philosophy across cultures to examine the moral dimension of medical practices. Evidence from a variety of times and places is brought to bear on contemporary medical concerns, such as access to healthcare, laws regulating medical procedures, and end-of-life care.

History of Medical Ethics

A historically focused class on medical ethics looks at major developments in the history of medical practice, from ancient times to the present, and examines the moral theories underlying them. Texts and assigned readings cover theories of physiology and medicine and the lives of major theorists.

Healthcare Communications

A typical healthcare communications course examines the terminology and communications techniques of medical professionals. Considerations include the technologies and practices used for communication among medical professionals, and the terminology and bedside manner of doctors and nurses interacting with patients.

Comparative Healthcare Systems

Courses on comparative healthcare systems examine the medical practices of various countries and communities. Funding, resource allocation, government subsidy, and access to care are analyzed.

Career Information

Although there are a few doctoral programs in applied ethics, the master's in business ethics is generally the highest degree held by professionals in the field. A master's in business ethics may be useful for executives in public policy or the financial sector. Jobs in business and finance tend to be lucrative and rewarding, but are notoriously high in stress and competition.

Students who earn a master's degree in healthcare ethics may go on to work as administrators or policymakers in the medical industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupation of medical and health service managers is expected to grow at a rate of about 17% between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the national average. The median annual salary for a medical administrator was about $94,500 as of 2015 (

Master's degree programs in ethics are available fully online and in hybrid format. These programs are available in business ethics and healthcare ethics.

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