Centers and Institutes

Institute of Catholics Bioethics

Master Degree Program





The Master of Arts in Health Care Ethics is designed to prepare individuals for the complex and growing field of biomedical ethics.  It will enable students to reflect systematically on contemporary issues in bioethics and health care through the prism of philosophical and theological traditions and to promote an awareness of social justice in the delivery of healthcare.
Healthcare professionals are confronted almost daily with complex ethical dilemmas they may not be well prepared to handle. It is imperative that they, and those preparing to work in the field of healthcare, have an solid understanding of moral theory and its application to decision-making in clinical practice.
The Master’s program is multidisciplinary and encourages learning and thinking from an interdisciplinary perspective. It fosters the critical analysis of bioethical topics through the interplay between moral theory and medical practice. It also prepares those students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Bioethics to enter into doctoral programs at other Jesuit Universities. 
The program is one of the few in the country that combine theoretical and clinical elements with an emphasis on the clinical dimension. This is made possible by the fact that faculty members serve as ethics consultants to several hospitals in the city and surrounding area. Also, two faculty members are physicians.

Target Groups

The Master’s program is intended for those who wish to work or are working in the health care field, especially physicians, nurses, allied health care professionals, and medical students. In the near future members of Hospital Ethics Committees and Institutional Review Boards will be required to have academic certification in health care ethics. The Master’s program would prepare them well to handle the difficult ethical problems they face at each meeting. And it would give them the required credential. All professionals in the health care field who wish to pursue a credentialed career or enhance their expertise in bioethics would benefit from the program.
The Master of Arts in Health Care Ethics program is also intended for recent college graduates who plan to embark on professional medical studies. It prepares them well to deal with the difficult ethical problems they will face in their clinical years. The master's degree would add a valuable credential to improve their resume as they apply for professional school.
Executives in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries would also profit from the Master of Arts in Health Care Ethics program. Clinical research and marketing pose moral questions for pharmaceutical executives. Moreover, health care management and allocation decisions pose moral questions for insurance executives. The Master of Arts in Health Care Ethics would help these executives navigate stormy ethical waters.
Curriculum  (See Appendix for course descriptions)

I. Common Core:  Five Courses (15 credits)

HAD 554         Healthcare Law
HAD 600         Ethics of Healthcare
HAD 559         Health Policy
HCE 550         Topics in Bioethics
HCE 551         Methodological Issues in Bioethics

II.  Required General Ethics:   Two Courses (6 credits)

HCE 552         Theological Issues in Bioethics
HCE 553         Philosophical Ethical Theories in Bioethics

III. Electives:   Four Courses (12 credits)

                     Clinical Concentration            Select (0-4)

HED 577         Health Education and HIV/AIDS
HED 552         Epidemiology and Community Health
HCE 570         Clinical Bioethics and Religious Traditions
HCE 571         Health Care Disparities
HCE 600         Fieldwork in Clinical Bioethics

                     Ethical Concentration             Select (0-4)

HAD 570         Psychosocial Aspects of Chronic Disease and Disability
HCE 572         Social Justice and Bioethics
HCE 573         Death and Dying: End of Life Decision Making
HCE 601         Ethical, Medical and Legal Issues in Neonatology and Pediatrics
HCE 574         Spirituality and Health Care
HED 560         Bio-psychosocial Characteristics of the Aging American
                     (Alternative electives can be taken at the director’s discretion)

IV.   Integrative Capstone Course:  One Course (3 credits)

HCE 700         Integrative Capstone in Bioethics

Admission and Application Requirements

  • A completed Saint Joseph’s University Graduate Application online at
  • Official sealed transcript(s) of undergraduate/graduate coursework (mail to Graduate Admissions). If you are a SJU graduate the Office of Graduate Operations will obtain your SJU transcripts for you.      
  • A current resume.
  • Personal statement – 500 word letter of intention outlining the candidate's professional and educational goals.
  • Two letters of recommendation.
  • $35 application fee (waived if attended an Open House or are a SJU graduate.)

For admission information contact:
Kate McConnell

For program information contact:
Mark C. Aita, S.J., M.D.
Director, Graduate Programs in Health Care Ethics

Graduate Assistantship:

Competitively-based graduate assistantships, which include tuition benefits for 9 credit hours in the fall and spring semesters as well as an annual stipend of $6000, are awarded to first year master's students on the basis of merit. Students who are awarded assistantships are required to work 20 hours per week. Applications for assistantships can be acquired from the Institute of Catholic Bioethics, Program Administrator: Theresa O'Doherty who can be reached by email or by phone at (610) 660-3425.

Answers to commonly asked questions

  • Acceptances on rolling-basis throughout the year and students may choose to begin studies in fall, spring or summer semesters.
  • Most students complete the program in two years, yet the exceptional full-time student may be able to finish in one year, including both summers. And many students who are working full-time may shoose to spread the program over 2-4 years. In short, students may progress at their own pace.
  • The MA Degree requires 12 courses (each of 3 credits) for a total of 36 credits.
  • Tuition 2011-2012:  $752/credit
  • Students, for whom the employer will pay part or all of the tuition, are encouraged to complete the Employer Deferral Program  Application (attached), then fax it to the number indicated at the bottom of form.  If you have any difficulty with this, contact Student Services (610) 660-2000 or