Skip navigation Jump to main navigation

Health Advisory Regarding Coronavirus COVID-19

Online Classes: Columbia will remain open, but all classes for the remainder of the semester will be conducted online. Visit the link below for important information about the virus’s symptoms and current recommendations. Learn More
Close alert

Full-Time Curriculum & Courses


  • 36 points for degree completion
  • On-campus or online
  • Fall intake only
  • Three terms to complete (full-time)
  • Master's Thesis

International students are responsible for ensuring they have read and understand the University’s student visa application eligibility and requirements. Please note that it is not permissible to enroll while in B-1/B-2 status. In addition, if studying on a student visa, you must enroll full-time (12 credits per term) and study on campus.

The 36-point program is composed of five core courses, six 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 Philosophy of Bioethics before the Introduction to Clinical Ethics and Global Ethics. Additional course work includes six electives chosen from the University course offerings. Students must take three total electives in law/policy and ethics (with at least one in law/policy and one in ethics), one elective in social science methods, and are 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 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.

Students may complete this full-time program in one academic year.

Of the five core courses, two or three are offered each fall and two or three are offered each spring, and each core course is offered at least once each academic year. 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 per week in person or online. Most courses are offered in the evening, between 4:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. EST. 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.

Class Schedule

Intensive Study Dates

Fall 2020 (San Francisco)

Wednesday, August 26 and Thursday, August 27

Bioethics Core Courses

Bioethics Elective Courses

Approved electives from other Columbia programs, departments, and schools

Bioethics Master’s Thesis

The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.