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Bioethics Schools and Courses

Bioethics courses explore how morals and ethics influence policy and technology in science and medicine. Find out about undergraduate and graduate degree programs in this field, including what courses are required and options for online study.

What You Need to Know

While bioethics programs are not typically offered at the undergraduate level, you can find schools that offer master's and doctoral degrees in this subject. Your courses will cover past and present ethical concerns in the healthcare industry. Some programs may be offered online if you want to complete your degree through distance learning.

Schools Some schools have bioethics departments; you may want to consider these when applying. Online programs are offered at some colleges.
Degrees Master's and doctoral programs in bioethics are available. You may be able to find bioethics classes at the undergraduate level.
Courses Religious ethics and healthcare, genetics and embryology, history of medicine, transplantation ethics, ethical research, global health, multicultural medical care and moral philosophy

What Is Bioethics?

Bioethics is the study of the moral, philosophical and legal implications of medical and scientific practice and research. As a student of bioethics, you can study the history of ethical problems surrounding innovative technology and medical practices while considering current issues like stem-cell research, life support and genetic engineering. Training in bioethics can lead to careers in healthcare policy and administration, genetic counseling, education and scholarship. Degree programs in bioethics often supplement established careers in healthcare or law.

What Kind of Courses Will I Take?

Because the field of bioethics is very broad, courses may cover a variety of topics related to healthcare, anthropology and religion. In most bioethics-related courses, you will learn about and discuss how important decisions are made in light of different moral, legal and philosophical positions. Here are sample topics you may study in a bioethics degree program:

  • Law
  • Scientific research
  • Philosophy
  • Environmental science
  • Religious ethics and healthcare
  • Genetics and embryology
  • History of medicine
  • Transplantation ethics
  • Ethical research
  • Global health
  • Multicultural medical care
  • Moral philosophy

How Can I Choose a School?

It's important to choose a school that offers a bioethics program at the level you want to study. You may prefer schools that place a strong emphasis on bioethics, including schools with large bioethics centers or departments, as well as those with faculty members involved in ongoing bioethics research.

If you're interested in distance education, there are a small number of schools offering graduate certificate, master's degree and doctorate programs in bioethics online. Some programs suggest having an established career or education in a bioethics-related field like healthcare or law before pursuing a degree online. You may also take individual courses in bioethics through continuing and online education departments at several colleges and universities. Online classes typically require a computer with Internet access. These schools offer courses in bioethics:

  • University of North Carolina (Multiple locations)
  • Columbia University (New York, NY)
  • Emory University (Atlanta, GA)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)
  • Loyola University (New Orleans, LA)

What Degree Programs Are Available?

While there are a few schools that offer undergraduate majors in bioethics, most bioethics courses at the undergraduate level are available as electives or concentrations within biology, philosophy or pre-law programs. Many colleges and universities have bioethics institutions that make classes, guest lectures and other programming available to undergraduates. Some schools offer unique, interdisciplinary degrees that can lead to careers in bioethics.

What Graduate Programs Are Available?

Undergraduate coursework in bioethics may lead to master's and doctoral degree programs, which may offer a wider variety of courses in bioethics, more in-depth study and significant research projects. Master's and doctoral programs in bioethics may include supervised internships designed to help you gain practical experience in different settings, such as state legislatures, hospital ethics committees and institutional review boards. Your degree program may culminate in a final project or paper on an issue in bioethics which can help launch your professional career.