Bioethicists commonly work within legal and public health sectors, and are tasked with research and development, policy implementation and policy review. They may tackle topics ranging from cloning to health care reform. Many aspiring bioethicists already hold a professional degree.
Bioethics training programs are available at the graduate certificate, master's and doctoral degree levels. However, many colleges offer combined educational programs so that those studying medicine or law can also earn a dual degree in bioethics.
Certificate programs in bioethics typically take one year to complete and offer a foundation in bioethics without the commitment of a more comprehensive master's degree program. During this time, students take classes in morality and ethics. They also study bioethical topics involving clinical treatments, technology, legalities and regulations.
At the master's degree level, students don't just focus on bioethics. They take foundational classes in medicine, law, sociology and philosophy. Through intensive research and clinical observations, bioethics students are trained to develop critical-thinking skills. These programs take 2-3 years to complete.
Bioethics programs at the Ph.D. level focus on research and empirical data analysis. Graduate students study advanced topics in public health, health policies and related ethical implications. Furthermore, doctoral students may be able to train in a particular bioethics concentration, such as stem cell research or genetics.
Popular Career Options
Bioethics certificates or graduate degrees are often pursued by lawyers seeking to concentrate in health policy law. A background in bioethics also often proves advantageous for doctors, nurses and hospital social workers interested in supervisory or committee-led roles. Ph.D. programs, in contrast, are often sought by aspiring college professors or researchers.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
A background in bioethics may be used in many fields, mostly in health care and health policy law. As of 2015, the average yearly salary of all lawyers was $136,260. Physicians and surgeons earned an average annual salary of $197,700.
A number of colleges throughout the U.S. sponsor 1-day bioethics seminars, which can last from 2-8 hours. Industry organizations also host 2-to-4-day long conferences. These events may either address specific areas of bioethics, such as pregnancy bioethics, or offer a more general educational atmosphere.
Bioethics professionals have a number of resources available to them, including print and Web-based journals such as the Journal of the International Association of Bioethics (www.bioethics-international.org). Private industry websites commonly offer news links with information on international or domestic issues as well as the regulations concerning bioethics. Furthermore, some bioethics sites allow visitors to subscribe to weekly or monthly e-newsletters.
There are no licenses or certifications required of bioethics professionals other than those needed to practice in a given profession. Lawyers, doctors and nurses, for instance, all need to be licensed by their state in order to legally practice. Voluntary memberships, however, are available through bioethical organizations, such as the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (www.asbh.org).
Graduate programs are available for those interested in a degree in bioethics. Clinical observations, research, and courses such as health policies and medicine make up these degree programs.