Issues concerning the ethical, legal, and social implications of advances in biotechnology and biomedicine are increasingly arising both in the United States and abroad. From stem cell research to healthcare reform, these topics involve critical dilemmas at the intersections of law, society, culture, public policy, philosophy, religion, economics, and history.

Scientists, healthcare providers, and policy-makers confront how to approach these complex questions, yet scientific and technological advances have far outpaced our ability to understand or make key decisions about these issues.

The Master of Science in Bioethics, part of Columbia University’s Programs in Bioethics, which also include an Online Certification of Professional Achievement and Online Noncredit Courses, grounds students in historical, philosophical, legal, and social-scientific approaches and models to address bioethical challenges. The program prepares students to work in various capacities within this new and ever-growing field and includes a concentration in global bioethics – the first of its kind in the United States.

Students can study with faculty from across the University and draw on the extraordinary resources of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the schools of Law, Journalism, Nursing and International and Public Affairs, and the Arts and Sciences.


  • 36 points for degree completion
  • On-campus instruction; some courses available online
  • Part-time* or Full-time program
  • Fall intake only
  • 3-6 terms to complete**
  • Master’s Thesis
  • Enrollment in the part-time option of this program does not meet the full-time requirements for an F1 student visa.

** Three years maximum.

The 36-point program is composed of six core courses, five electives chosen from the University course offerings, and a master’s thesis. Students are assigned to a primary faculty advisor, with whom they work closely to design an individualized program that best meets their needs. Students may then focus, if they choose, on one of a variety of areas, including clinical ethics, research ethics, neuroethics, reproductive ethics, environmental ethics, or other realms.

It is recommended that students take the core courses in a specific order - the Philosophy of Bioethics and the History of Bioethics should be taken before the other cores (or concurrently with Clinical Bioethics). Global Bioethics should be taken after the Philosophy of Bioethics, the History of Bioethics and Clinical Bioethics. Additional coursework includes five electives chosen from the University course offerings (one in law or policy, one in ethics, and one in social science methods). Students are also strongly encouraged to take one in genetics and, depending on their interest, one in environmental science. These electives may be taken at any time.

Students are required to complete a thesis, working closely with one of the program's core and/or affiliated faculty members, due in the student's final semester. Thesis assignments are based, as much as possible, on the student's main areas of interest within bioethics and are intended to be a serious independent work of scholarship. Topics are chosen in close consultation with the student’s core faculty advisor, or with members of the Advisory Board and faculty affiliates.

The M.S. in Bioethics is offered on both a full and part-time basis, but either option demands a serious commitment of time and energy. Students are expected to devote significant time to completing reading and class assignments, and papers outside of class. Students may hold a full-time job simultaneously but should bear in mind the significant demands of the program.

Depending on the individual course of study, students may complete the program in one academic year or in a maximum of three years, if the program is done on a part-time basis.

Of the six core courses, three are offered each fall and three are offered each spring. The core courses are not offered during the summer, but students may take electives during that time. During the academic year, core courses meet once a week on weekdays from 4:10 to 6 p.m. or evenings from 6:10 to 8 p.m. Elective courses vary depending on the semester.

Students should expect to spend an average of eight hours per week on readings, or attendance at outside meetings (e.g. hospital ethics committee meetings) for each core class. The number of hours that the master’s thesis will require varies widely, depending on the student, and the specific project. Some projects may entail collection of data, while others may rely on scholarly sources, and the time estimates of each of these may vary depending in part on the difficulty of locating appropriate sources.

In order to receive the master's degree in Bioethics, students must complete all requirements for the degree with an overall grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better.

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This course is Campus based
Start Date
Sep 2019
3 - 6 semesters
1,830 USD
per point.
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