Master of Arts in

Bioethics & Science Policy

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What is the MA in Bioethics & Science Policy?

Our program teaches students how to identify, analyze, and propose solutions to complex problems at the intersection of science, technology, and ethics. We provide students with a foundation in the history and philosophy of science; legal, social, and theoretical approaches in bioethics; and science and health policy.

What are the degree requirements?

The MA in Bioethics & Science Policy requires a minimum of 9 courses (27 credits) and 1 capstone project (9 credits), for a total of 36 credits. The breakdown is: 4 core courses (12 credits), 15 elective credits, and 1 capstone project (9 credits). This final project may be either a research paper or a capstone project with a written report.

How long will it take to earn my degree?

Full-time students may complete the program in one full year (three semesters—including fall, spring, and summer). Students without a background in bioethics are encouraged to complete the degree in one and a half to two years so that they can take a broad selection of foundation courses and have time to participate in more advanced study.

How does this program differ from other master’s programs in bioethics?

Duke’s MA in Bioethics & Science Policy is distinct in its focus on bioethics and science policy, rather than on bioethics or medical ethics alone. The past century of rapid scientific progress has resulted in an increased demand for professionals with expertise in the ethical and policy implications of an increasingly broad range of scientific areas. We strive to balance theoretical scholarship with learning how to address real-world policy dilemmas. Duke’s expanded focus opens more opportunities to graduating students, preparing them to meet an ever-growing need in society.

What else makes Duke’s program special?

Duke is located in Durham, North Carolina’s famous Research Triangle — close to Chapel Hill and Raleigh, which are home to a wide range of biotechnology firms, pharmaceutical companies, and academic institutions. This location provides myriad opportunities for learning, capstone project options, and job placement. And our faculty have connections locally and nationally, especially in Washington, DC.

Do I need to choose a pre-planned concentration?

No. While the program provides several frameworks for concentrations, you are able to create your own. We encourage you to explore the issues most relevant to your specific interests. We invite you to take advantage of all the opportunities available through Duke University. For instance, our students have taken electives in the med school, law school, and business school as part of shaping their specific educational tract.

What’s the class like? Is it competitive like other grad school programs?

We attract students from around the country, and several from around the world. Most of them have a STEM degree, and many have studied social sciences as well, such as philosophy, public policy, etc. We do not require a science degree, but you should be able to grasp scientific concepts easily.

Our students want to help society manage science and tech advances in a positive way. They don’t compete with each other like law or med school students, because they will do this in their own unique way. Some enter law school or medical school, some start policy careers… in either government, non-profit, or corporations. Some are focused on genomics, some neuroscience, some health policy, while others are interested in environmental issues or technical innovation.

How big is the class?

We purposefully have kept the program small, hovering around 15 full-time students. While most of your core classes will be about this size, some are larger as professors encourage other Duke Grad/Law School students to take their course, enriching the classroom discussion.

How do you assign advisors?

We have a 3-tiered advising system that should provide each student with the support he/she needs:

  • Dedicated MA faculty. Our Director of Graduate Studies (Buz Waitzkin) serves as the primary point of contact with the students. He counsels students on course selection, capstone projects, program requirements, and extracurricular opportunities.
  • Faculty Affiliates. In consultation with each of our future students, we will identify a faculty member from among our internal faculty and broad group of Faculty Associates, who is a subject matter expert in each student’s area of interest and who will serve as an additional advisor.
  • Continuing MA Students. Several MA students opt to take an extra semester, beyond the required three, at no additional tuition cost to permit taking further electives or conducting research. These returning students will mentor new MA students as peer advisors to help acclimate them to the program and life at Duke.

What are the core courses?

  • Research Bioethics (T. Williams) Fall
  • Science Law and Policy (Waitzkin) Fall
  • A science writing (Angrist) and communication (Weintraub) skills course – Fall and Spring
  • Either Clinical Bioethics (M. Lemmon, Duke Ped) OR Tech Ethics/Policy (M. Perault) – Spring

Check out our Core Courses

What are the graduation requirements?

  • Designed for 12 full months of study
  • 36 credits (12 Core + 9 Capstone Project + 15 Electives)
  • Concentrations are possible, but not required. The key is to take the classes you are keenly interested in;
  • Additional semester of Electives is offered at virtually no cost (except a small fee)

View our Full Curriculum

What is the Capstone Project? Where do students do this?

Each student undertakes a 10-week science policy project that is required to complete the program. It counts as 9 credits (9/36) and is completed during the summer months (May-July). Our students write their MA final presentation at the end of July or early August based on this project.
Our students choose their capstone project based on their interests. There are several organizations that have hosted previous students, but our students often find new opportunities based on their interests.
More Info on the Capstone Project | More Info on the Thesis Option

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Editas Medicine
  • Helix
  • Intel
  • IQVia/Quintiles
  • Precision Medicine
  • United Nations Secretariat
  • US Drug Enforcement Agency
  • National Cancer Institute
  • National Human Genome Research Institute
  • National Institute for Environmental Health Services
  • New York Attorney General’s Office
  • Defense and Veterans Brian Injury Center
  • National Human Genome Research Institute
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
  • UN, Office of Disarmament Affairs

Where do students who graduate go? What careers do they pursue?

Most students find policy jobs in government, nonprofit, education, law, or corporations. About 29% of our graduates go to Law School or Medical School.

Post-graduation placements for MA Students


Tuition Cost

Tuition and Fees = $88,841 w/o insurance must show proof. w/insurance= $92,741 for 12 months (3 semesters)
If you add in living expenses for 12 months @ $29, 586, then total cost of attendance is $122,327.
More Info on Tuition

Where do I find the application?

You can access the application here.

Is there an application fee?


Admission requirements

  • GRE – target* score of 308
  • Official Transcript (apply with unofficial fine, but need official to matriculate) – target* GPA of 3.2
  • *Targets can be overridden for cause
  • letters of recommendation (usually 2 are from faculty)
  • 3 essays (statement of purpose, bioethical dilemma, career aspirations)
  • More Info on Application Requirements