A career in bioethics or medical ethics can have far-reaching implications. Working in the medical ethics field, you will be responsible for setting policy on medical procedures and processes, often stemming from new technology. This may involve the topics of death and dying, organ transplant, the use of human and animal subjects and reproduction and fertility. Is physician-assisted death for terminal patients morally acceptable? Should fertility drugs be used to support at-risk patients? These questions and more need to be answered and policies need to be created to support these decisions.
You may work in a hospital setting, a biology company or sit on an oversight board helping make decisions related to medical ethics. You may also work in an educational setting teaching new medical students the importance of ethics in their careers.
Bioethics is an interdisciplinary field with people starting in undergraduate programs in the sciences or medicine with a minor or specialization in ethics. At the graduate level, students can focus solely on bioethics and can earn a master's or doctorate degree.
Students attending a bioethics program can expect to have courses in medical sociology, policy analysis, decision theory, and spirituality. You will need to have a strong moral compass and a good understanding of the underlying medicine you will be making decisions on. If you plan on going into an educational setting, you will need to enjoy working with students and have an aptitude for teaching.
The salary for various careers in ethics will vary wildly depending on the amount and type of education you have. In order to teach ethics, you will need an undergraduate degree in a related field along with a Master of Bioethics. Some careers will require a Doctor of Medicine degree in addition to a master's degree in ethics. Careers in the education field can see salaries of $73,000 or more while research scientists in a bioethics role can see salaries above $93,000.