Bioethics is the interdisciplinary study of medical ethics through various humanities and social science disciplines. Bioethicists explore medical and moral questions surrounding issues like abortion, euthanasia, cloning, infertility treatments, stem cell research, and sexuality. Because bioethics is philosophical in nature, bioethicists come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including fields like philosophy, medicine, religion, law, politics, economics, and even business, but applicants to a master's degree program in this field will typically need a strong foundational knowledge in the life sciences, biotechnology, or medicine. Some of these two-year programs are offered as an M.A. in Philosophy with a concentration in bioethics, while others are offered jointly with medical degrees.
Master's Degree in Bioethics
M.A. programs in bioethics require a minimum of 30 hours of coursework. Schools may offer thesis or non-thesis programs. Students study subjects such as medicine and law, history of medicine, and public health ethics. Some common course titles include:
- Foundations of bioethics
- Clinical bioethics
- Social science and bioethics
- Genetics and bioethics
- Health policy and bioethics
- Religion and bioethics
Popular Career Options
Because bioethics is a relatively new field, career paths for graduates vary widely. Many students earn master's degrees in bioethics alongside degrees in other disciplines, such as medicine, nursing, law, religious studies, or philosophy. When combined with other credentials, graduates of bioethics programs can pursue such careers as:
- Academic researcher
- Institutional ethics committee member (typically in conjunction with other health professional work, such as nurse or doctor)
- Medical counselor
- Health care administrator
- Hospital policy writer
- Lawyer specializing in bioethical issues
Continuing Education Information
A Master of Arts in Bioethics is not considered a terminal degree. Graduates may go on to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy of medicine, philosophy with a bioethics concentration, or healthcare ethics.
In summary, with a master's degree in bioethics, students are prepared for further study or professional employment in a social science or health-related field.