Bioethics Program FAQs

Our current students have helped us assemble a list of frequently-asked questions about the Bioethics Program. Still have questions? Email
Get a guide to what every prospective student needs to know about Bioethics.

Bioethics Program Basics

How old is the Bioethics Program?

The Bioethics Program began when Union College/Union Graduate College (now Clarkson University's Capital Region Campus) began offering an online Masters in Bioethics in 2001. Learn more about our history.

How many students have graduated from the Bioethics Programs?

As of January 2018, the Bioethics Program has conferred 165 Master of Science in Bioethics degrees and  180 certificates in Bioethics. They have conferred several honorary doctorate of letters to distinguished bioethicists including Robert M Veatch, Arthur L Caplan, and Ezekiel J Emanuel.

How do graduates use their Bioethics degree?

One research scientist became the managing editor of a bioethics journal, while a doctor joined the Cleveland Clinic as a bioethics fellow. A Certified Public Accountant became a hospital clinical ethicist, and another graduate enrolled in the Harvard School of Public Health Doctoral Program in Public Health Ethics.

A bioethics degree provides students with the knowledge and skills to address the ethical issues that arise in biomedical research, clinical medicine and health policy. The degree opens doors, and our graduates use their education in various ways – the certification often allows those in health fields to change activities, titles and positions, or make bioethics-related activities part of their official job description. Those previously employed in other fields find that the degree gives them the expertise and confidence to create opportunities within their own profession or branch out into new areas.

For more information on job opportunities in bioethics, visit the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities job site.

What are the demographics of the student body?

Geographically, our students come from around the world and range in age from 20 to 75 years old. Whatever their differences in age, background, training or nationality, our students are united by a deep interest in bioethics and in discovering practical ways to make medicine and research more humane.

On average, 40% of our students work in clinical fields as nurses, physicians, social workers or in other allied health professions. About 40% of our students are involved in health administration, research, health policy and law. The remaining 20% are students who have recently graduated with bachelor’s degrees, and who are enrolled in, or intend to enroll in, graduate or professional school (in medicine, law, philosophy, public health or social work). A number of students have had no direct experience in any healthcare field, but have a personal interest in bioethics.

Why does the Bioethics Program grant a Master of Science degree rather than a Master of Arts degree?

In many states and in many fields, the Master of Science degree is well-recognized in health professions. Our Master of Science in Bioethics is aligned with other degrees in the health field. The Master of Science means that you are taught the Skills needed but then have to demonstrate putting these skills to work in a real setting.

Getting Started in the Bioethics Program

Can the masters in bioethics be completed in less than three years?

Yes. If a student takes one course per term, the program will be completed in three years. By taking more courses per term, students may complete the Bioethics Program in 1-2 years.

What would the curriculum be like if I completed the program in one or two years?

A two-year schedule typically involves taking two courses per term during the first year, and one course per term in the second year. To complete the masters in bioethics in one year, a student would need to take three courses per term. This is a full-time course load, as each class requires a minimum time commitment of 12-15 hours per week. The one-year option also requires taking the Practicum and the Capstone successively over a two-week period in the spring.

How much time would I need to spend on-site?

A total of three weeks over the course of the program will be spent on-site. In the summer of your first year, you will spend one week at the Proseminar, where you will be introduced to the field of bioethics, your fellow students and to the faculty and staff. This is held at Clarkson University's Capital Region Campus in Schenectady, NY. A one-week, on-site practicum on the campus of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City is typically taken in the spring of the second year of a three-year, part-time program. Finally, a one-week Capstone course is taken on-site at Icahn & Clarkson CRC, typically in the spring of your third year.

Do I need special computer equipment or software?

A computer with a newer operating system is all that is required to participate in online courses, although high-speed Internet is recommended. You will receive instruction on how to access your courses and how to navigate using the online educational software while you are on-site at Clarkson CRC attending the introductory Proseminar.

What sort of library access will I have from my home or office?

As a student, you will be given access to the Clarkson Library of databases and journals (see Center for Bioethics). Additional journals and citations are also publicly accessible through the National Library of Medicine and other sources.

What is the total cost for the degree?

Under the 2017-2018 tuition rate, Each 3 credit course is $2901. The total program cost for the Master of Science in Bioethics degree is $34,812 plus the cost of books. The total program cost for certificates is $11,604 plus the cost of books.

Click here for more frequently-asked questions about the admissions process.

In the Classroom & Beyond

How many hours of work is generally required for each course?

The amount of work varies by course. Professors typically assign a minimum of 12 - 15 hours per week of course work. Some students report that they need more time for each course.

Do students and professors communicate during the online courses? Do they have discussions?

The Bioethics Program’s courses, both on-site and online, are designed to facilitate and encourage discussion between faculty and students. Interaction and discussions are a constant and invaluable part of your education in the Bioethics Program.

Incoming students can be paired with a graduate of the Bioethics Program with a similar background and interests for mentorship throughout the program.

Will I get the opportunity to meet my professors in person?

Yes. Most of the faculty members are present at the Proseminar and they typically participate in all on-site courses.

What do students do for a master’s project and how much guidance do they get?

Projects are designed to fit the experience and ambitions of each student. The variety of projects has ranged from traditional theses, to institutional initiatives, to empirical research, to drafts of proposed legislation.

Master’s projects typically involve three terms of working one-on-one with your project supervisor and a second reader, who comment on your project at various stages. In addition, you are enrolled in a special, three-term course with other students working on master’s projects, where you discuss your projects and progress.

Do alumni have reunions?

Alumni and present students are invited to attend breakfast or dinner reunions at the annual conferences of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities and Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research.

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