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Bioethics Degree

Biomedical ethics is considered a relatively new field, as it started taking the shape of a profession only fifty years ago. Bioethicists are concerned with clinical practices, research in the medical field, effects of medicine on society, and policies related to healthcare. Bioethicists study and give advice on areas such as:

  • Confidentiality of information and the doctor-patient relationship
  • Knowledge and consent of people in research or those going through a medical treatment
  • Diversity among patients and doctors due to differences in religion and culture
  • Medical support needed in old age, suffering , or fatal diseases
  • Advancements and experimentation taking place in science and healthcare
  • Access to medical facilities and the distribution of medical resources
  • Healthcare management and regulatory policies
  • Issues related to intellectual property such as patents and copyrights


Although, issues related to biomedical ethics are growing in importance, biomedical ethics is not considered a distinct category in administration, healthcare, policy work, or law. Generally, degree programs do not specifically focus on bioethics. Instead, the curriculum combines bioethics with other disciplines and professional work. Many liberal arts disciplines are also a part of bioethics degrees. Students may study courses such as anthropology, sociology, philosophy, history, and psychology.

As the medical field is becoming more advanced, new ethical dilemmas and challenges are arising for professionals. Many organizations need bioethics professionals to help them resolve ethical dilemmas that have emerged from new technology and procedures. Bioethics is a dynamic and challenging field, as new issues are always present and professionals face unique situations every now and then. Individuals who find bioethics interesting can work in policy making, teaching, or research.  Students need to acquire formal training to work in the field and the training is normally offered at graduate level.


Bioethics focuses on studying human values and moral aspects of biological research. The degree trains students to make use of ethics in different situations arising in the medical field. Undergraduate programs in bioethics are quite rare. However, a large number of online and campus-based schools offer graduate programs in bioethics. Common degrees in the field include masters and PhD programs.


Master's Degree in Bioethics

With a master’s degree in bioethics, students can gain knowledge of various disciplines and skills to deal with a number of complex ethical issues. They also gain insight into policy making and implementation. The degree may also cover current issues related to the medical field such as cloning, stem cell research, and pharmaceutical therapies. It also enables students to raise questions on ethical issues that may arise when there is an interaction of medicine, theology, biotechnology, law, and life sciences.


Students need to meet certain prerequisites in order to begin a master’s degree in bioethics. Although, the requirements for the program may vary from one institute to another, there are certain general prerequisites as well.  Students enrolling for a master’s degree need to have a bachelor’s degree in social science, philosophy or a related field. Like the admission requirements, the coursework may also differ, but some general courses offered in the master’s degree program include:

  • History of medical ethics
  • Philosophy of medicine
  • Literature and medicine
  • Theory of applied ethics
  • Genetics and society

Doctorate in Bioethics

A doctorate degree in bioethics enables students to have a strong conceptual understanding of ethics in healthcare. Students also learn high level analytical techniques related to medicine. They combine their knowledge and skills to come up with advanced level analysis of ethical issues in medicine. Individuals in the PhD program also get the opportunity to lead and conduct research programs. The coursework  trains students in designing and researching bioethical questions. It also familiarizes students with clinical research, social sciences, and health policy. Some course topics that are normally a part of bioethics PhD program include:

  • Normative methods in bioethics
  • Concentration in regenerative medicine
  • Public health and research ethics
  • Ethical issues in stem cell research

Online Degrees

Working students and professionals who wish to enhance their credentials or acquire a bioethics graduate degree can also select an online program. Although, there is little difference in the curriculum of accredited online programs and the on-campus ones, the ease and flexibility of online programs can be quite attractive for students. Students can access video lectures and slides at any time and they can also study from any location, as long as they have a computer and an internet connection. Students either take online exams or they are given an assignment to complete instead of the exams. Besides, online programs are cost effective for students, as they do not need to travel or bear boarding costs for their education. In order to select an online bioethics degree, students need to keep in mind the accreditation of the program, as it can affect the quality of education, as well as the career prospects of students. Students need to check if the school is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. Moreover, students may ask for feedback from the alumni and current students of the school, to assess the quality of education.

Career Options

The career opportunities for bioethics professionals are likely to grow with the advancement in medical technology. Individuals having a degree in bioethics have a number of career options. Bioethics professionals can pursue a career in academia, research, healthcare, or health law. Bioethicists who work in a medical field are usually a part of medical committees and have to make ethical decisions related to patient care. Professionals working in the academic field are involved in both teaching and research. Individuals working in health law can work as consultants in a research group or they may specialize in a field such as malpractice suits. Some job titles of individuals working in bioethics are:

  • Professor
  • Genetic Counselor
  • Healthcare Administrator
  • Consultant
  • Hospital Chaplain


If you have it in you to think out of the box and you are interested in pursuing a career in the fields of medicine and law, then think about becoming a bioethicist.


Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:Can you tell me what students will learn in bioethics graduate programs?

A:A graduate program in bioethics will provide students with a thorough understanding of bioethical issues and environmental issues. Students will learn about the global disparities in health, human rights, ethical issues related to research, ethics of new technologies, animal ethics, and more. The program will help sharpen analytical skills and critical thinking skills among students.

Q:What is biomedical ethics?

A:Biomedical ethics can be described as the application of values and morals to human activities. This field a category of applied ethics, focusing upon the application of principles used when decision making in biology/medicine. It is important to find defensible solutions to bio-related problems that do not cross any ethical or moral boundary.

Q:Can you tell me about some of the courses covered in a bioethics or medical ethics degree program?

A:A bioethics or medical ethics program will provide students with knowledge about ethical dilemmas faced in medical situations, and how to devise strategies that do not conflict with ethics. Some of the courses covered in the program may include: medical research ethics, clinical medical ethics, death and dying approaches, medical ethics with regard to reproduction and genetics, and more.

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