MA in Applied Ethics for Professionals


Program Description

This programme is a rigorous and intellectually challenging introduction to philosophical ethics, and, in particular, applied or “practical” ethics, based in the Department of Philosophy. It is designed for professionals in the Gauteng region with some management and leadership experience and presupposes no background in philosophy. It is not a programme in “professional ethics”—e.g. business ethics, biomedical ethics, technology and ethics, etc.—though some such material is sometimes covered in one or more of the electives. Rather, its emphasis is on learning methods and techniques for thinking about ethical issues of any sort. It includes exposure to the principal ethical theories and critical examination of some well-known work in various sub-fields of applied ethics. It is not a distance-education programme; regular attendance at seminars is required. To accommodate the professional lives of our participants, seminars, exams, and other programme activities are held on Saturday mornings, about 19 in the first year and 10 in the second.


The programme is a two-year part-time programme consisting of three semesters of coursework and a research report of 15,000 – 20,000 words, under the supervision of a member of the Wits University Philosophy Department.

Benefits of the programme

The programme specialises in the development of skills such as defending a point of view through clear and careful argumentation, offering "cooperative criticism," and receiving and responding to such criticism. Participants can also expect to see improvements in their argumentative writing, through careful attention to it and extensive feedback on it, from the programme lecturers. Successful participants will also be able to think, discuss, and write much more clearly, fully, and deeply about any ethical issues they encounter as a result of their approach such issues in both the theoretical and practical manner emphasized in this programme.

Enrolment criteria/Admission requirements

  • An Honours degree or a professional qualification at least equivalent to an Honours degree (e.g., MBA, BSc(Eng), CA, LLB (second degree), MBBCh);
  • At least one year's experience in a professional, managerial or leadership position;
  • Excellent English comprehension and writing skills;
  • Ready and convenient access to email, the Internet and up-to-date computer software;
  • The ability to attend Saturday seminars on the Wits University campus.

Career Options/Opportunities

The vast majority of our participants are well-established in their careers. While some graduates have found benefits in their professional lives from their participation, the majority participate in personal enrichment. Typically, they are fulfilling a desire to return to proper academic study after some years in the world of work. While not designed to prepare participants for higher degrees, such as the PhD, a few of our graduates have gone on to further study and have felt well-prepared in light of their participation in the programme.

Curriculum Outline/Modules taught

FIRST YEAR OF STUDY Term 1 (February to May): Required core course: Methods of Applied Ethics Term 2 (July to October): Two electives from a set of three to be offered (see below) Summer (November to February) Individual supervised work on research proposal SECOND YEAR OF STUDY Term 1 (February to May): Two further electives from a further set of three to be offered (see below). Term 2 (July to October): Individually supervised work on research reports. Research report work will typically carry on through the summer, with the research report to be submitted by 15 February of the following year. Electives: Cultural Pluralism and Ethics; Ethical Theory; Ethics and the Environment; Ethics and International Affairs; Information and Privacy; Issues in Biomedical Ethics; Morality and the Law; Morality and the Marketplace; Social Justice; The Value of Life Six of these will be offered during any two-year cycle, and the offerings are usually guided by the preferences of programme participants.

Closing dates

International Applicants: 30 August 2018 SA and Permanent Residents: 15 November 2018

Last updated Jun 2019

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About the School

Wits is strategically located in Johannesburg, a world class city, with countless opportunities for students and staff to engage with and present solutions that will contribute to our country's knowle ... Read More

Wits is strategically located in Johannesburg, a world class city, with countless opportunities for students and staff to engage with and present solutions that will contribute to our country's knowledge-base and build our future. With its more than 130 000 graduates in its 91-year history, Wits has made and will continue to make its mark nationally and internationally. Read less