Master of Arts in Bioethics & Science Policy

JD/MA Program

Many of the most important challenges confronting the legal profession lie at the intersection of science, technology, law, and policy. Emerging science and technologies, such as AI, big data, social media, genomics, and neuroscience, demand an interdisciplinary approach and visionary leadership.

Students in the JD/MA in Bioethics and Science Policy program spend their three years at Duke focusing on these intersectional problems and preparing themselves for a seat at the table in these discussions for decades to come and earn an additional degree while doing so.

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The Deadline for Applications is October 2, 2023

Duke Law School 1Ls have the opportunity to join the 2023 cohort.

For more information on requirements and how to apply before the October 2nd deadline, please contact us.

About the Duke JD/MA program.

The JD/MA program enables students to obtain both a JD through Duke Law School and an MA in Bioethics & Science Policy in three years and one summer. Under the umbrella of the MA in Bioethics & Science Policy, Science & Society offers two specialized curriculum opportunities: Biosciences, Bioethics & Science Policy and Tech Ethics & Policy.

Duke JD/MA Program - In the Classroom

Students apply to the joint degree program during the first semester of their 1L year. Current application deadline is October 2. (Applications may no longer be submitted along with the Law School application. Summer start is no longer available.) The curriculum requirements for the MA are undertaken along with the JD requirements and students will most commonly graduate with both degrees in the spring of their third year.

During the summer after their 1L year, students undertake their capstone projects. Past students have done their capstones in general counsels’ offices, law firms, university legal offices, research institutes, corporations, and non-profits.

Curriculum Requirements

A JD/MA student in Bioethics & Science Policy must complete 75 JD credits and 30 MA credits to receive both degrees. Dean Lacoff will meet with you after your enrollment to discuss how to integrate your JD requirements with your MA requirements and has created a spreadsheet for each of you to use in tracking your progress toward completing both degrees. Please remember that if you do not complete your MA, you cannot receive your JD.

MA Core Courses (Complete a Total of 15 Credits Toward the MA Degree):

  • BIOETHIC 602: Law Research & Bioethics (3 credits) (offered in spring)
  • BIOETHIC 603: Clinical Bioethics & Policy (offered in spring) OR SCISOC 585: Digital Intelligence (3 credits) (offered fall and spring)
  • BIOETHIC 605: Contemporary Issues, Science Communication (1.5 credits) (offered in spring)
  • BIOETHIC 700-01: Scholarly Writing on Science Policy (Fall 3L year) (1.5 credits)
  • BIOETHC 704: Science Law & Policy (3 credits) (offered in fall) [this course is cross-listed with the Law School; please be sure to register under the Graduate School/BIOETHIC number]
  • 3 additional core credits TBD

We encourage you to take at least one of the 3 credit core requirements in your 2L fall semester.


Capstone Course (9 Credits):

In addition, you will complete a capstone project totaling 9 credits which will be taken the summer following your 1L year.

Register for 4.5 credits for both Summer 1 and Summer 2 following your 1L year. Your summer job constitutes your practicum.

You will present the work you conducted for your Capstone with an MA Final during the second semester of your 3L year, when you are preparing to graduate.


Elective Credits (12 credits, with 6 of those credits counting toward the MA Degree:

You will also take a minimum of 12 credits from a designated list of Law School courses, selected by Science & Society in coordination with the Law School. These are listed on the Science & Society website. If there are other Law School courses which you believe should be included on this list, please contact us.

With the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, 3 of these elective credits may be taken in another school within the university.

These elective credits may count either toward the MA or JD credit requirements (but not both) and at least 6 credits MUST be counted toward the MA degree. JD/MA students register for these courses using their law school priority status and must designate them as MA electives no later than the end of add/drop by contacting Dean Lacoff.


Research Credits (6 credits)

You must register for 6 research credits under Research 1-01. These research credits are a bookkeeping requirement of the Graduate School, do not require you to perform any additional work and do not count towards an overload. We recommend that you register for 3 of these credits during 2L fall and 3L fall.


Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

In order to satisfy the requirements set by the Duke Graduate School, JD/MA students must register for the following RCR forums:

  • The Law Research and Bioethics (BIOETHIC 602) counts as one of your RCR requirements.
  • TGS714
  • TGS715

GS714 and GS715 are given during fall MA orientation and we strongly recommend that you attend these programs. If, however, you are unable to attend due to law school conflicts, you may make up for these two RCR credits by taking two RCR forums offered by the Graduate School at any point before graduation.


All JD/MA students should consult with their academic advisors at the Law School to assure that their coursework complies with all of the Law School requirements to obtain a JD, as part of a joint degree.

Duke JD/MA Program - students

How to apply to the JD/MA program:

  • Apply by 10/2/2023
  • Contact Duke Law School Admissions and request that your law school application be forwarded to the Graduate School.
  • Complete the application for the MA in Bioethics & Science Policy through the graduate school, including the application form, the essays, and supplemental questions.
  • You will need to obtain three references (the law school does not retain copies of reference letters and the ones you submitted for the law school application will not be included in the materials forwarded to us).
  • Transcripts will be included in the law school dossier.
  • The Graduate School will waive the GRE requirement and accept LSAT scores.