Degree type(s): Master's
Degree field(s): Healthcare; Theology; Catholic Studies
Location(s): Online; Bismarck, ND
Program offerings by location and modality are subject to change.

Master of Science (MS) Degree in Bioethics Program

The University of Mary is now accepting applications for its next cohort in a world-class graduate degree program in bioethics, offered in partnership with the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC). The priority application deadline is July 10.

This cutting-edge bioethics program will explore many of today’s most pressing issues in health care ethics, and it is ideal for undergraduates pursuing careers in health care; graduate students in fields including medicine, law, business, and public affairs; as well as health care professionals concerned with bioethical medicine.

To learn more, you may request additional information about Mary's Bioethics program or complete the graduate application for admission.

Program Structure and Outline

Students will complete a blend of flexible coursework, which may be completed online by students across the country, along with three conveniently planned in-person seminars on the university's main campus in Bismarck. The MS in Bioethics is completed in two separate sections:

  1. NCBC Certification Program

    Students first must complete the NCBC Certification program—including a two-day seminar held in either Phoenix, Bismarck or Philadelphia. Upon completion, students receive graduate credit for that coursework.

    Two-day NCBC Certification Seminar options: 

    • Phoenix, AZ Certification Seminar (April 28-29, 2017)
    • Bismarck, ND Certification Seminar (August 11-12, 2017)
    • Philadelphia, PA Certification Seminar (September 8-9, 2017)


  2. Master's degree coursework

    From June 2017 through April 2018, students then begin the University of Mary master’s degree coursework. The Bioethics Capstone Presentations and Graduation will occur in April 2018.

    Coursework timeline:

    June 2017-April 2018: Completion of University of Mary Coursework
    • April 2018: Capstone Presentations and Graduation

For more information or any questions, please email Dr. Karen Rohr, program director, at [email protected]

About the NCBC Certification Program

The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) certification program is designed to aid dioceses, hospitals, and ethics committees in applying the Catholic moral tradition to challenging contemporary issues in health care. The University of Mary will offer 12 graduate credits to students who complete the NCBC certification modules. To receive graduate credits, you must also attend a weekend Bioethics Intensive session in one of three locations, including an option here on our campus in Bismarck, North Dakota.

We will host our two-day Weekend Bioethics Intensive session August 11-12, 2017, giving an overview of bioethics in the Catholic tradition, presented by speakers from the NCBC.

NCBC Certification Program in Health Care Ethics

With this groundbreaking program, the University of Mary has partnered with NCBC to offer the instruction. Students will begin their NCBC certification in February or September 2017, unless they have already completed the certification program.

The first component of this flexible, blended certification program is an on-campus seminar, hosted at the University of Mary campus in Bismarck, August 11-12. The same seminar is also being offered at the Diocese of Phoenix on April 28-29, and the NCBC Headquarters in Philadelphia on September 8-9. Students will complete most of the remaining coursework online at a distance.

Program Outcomes

After completing the required curriculum in the bioethics program, graduates will be able to integrate the philosophical underpinnings of faith and reason into a framework for ethical decision-making and apply the ethical decision making framework to a complex ethical situation in the areas of clinical practice, education and research. Potential topics include:

  • informed consent in research and treatment
  • confidentiality and the doctor-patient relationship
  • cultural and religious diversity among patients and practitioners
  • suffering, death and dying

Career Outlook

The Master of Science in Bioethics Degree at the University of Mary provides advanced training in bioethics for students and professionals who will encounter bioethical issues in the course of their primary careers. Health care workers, attorneys, those in life sciences, church leaders, chaplains, ethics committee members (policy analysis & development), educators, researchers, compliance officers (risk managers or institutional review board positions), grant writers, and public policy makers are likely to enroll in this program.

The interdisciplinary Master of Science in Bioethics Degree offered in partnership with the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) has a total of 32 credits and can be completed in two years.

In the first year, the student enrolls in the National Catholic Certification Program in Health Care Ethics. Upon successful completion, the student may transcript up to 12 graduate credits through the University of Mary.

The second year, completed within three semesters, begins directly after completion of the National Catholic Certification Program in Health Care Ethics in June and will include bioethics courses in faith and reason, law, health care, biomedical industries, medicine, and health policy. The degree program includes a practicum and capstone project.

Bioethics is a new field of study developed in the last third of the twentieth century in response to technological advances made in the areas of science, medicine and health care. It is the field of inquiry that addresses the ethical problems posed by advances made in several specific disciplines such as the life sciences, psychology, biomedical engineering and genetics. Advances such as organ transplants, stem cells, genetic engineering, and life-support machines increase our ability to influence the length and quality of life. Bioethics is broadly interdisciplinary and encourages collaboration of various stakeholders in the discourse that helps people make morally sound decisions about responsible use of biomedical advances.

Program Mission

To prepare our students to provide leadership in the making of morally good and sound bioethical decisions through the integration of faith, reason, and science.

Program Vision

Informed by the Christian, Catholic and Benedictine tradition, the program in Bioethics prepares graduates to meet bioethical healthcare challenges with confidence, courage and clarity. Housed in the School of Health Sciences, the program seeks to advance the bioethical discourse in all areas of healthcare: education, clinical practice, and research. Our graduates are recognized leaders who serve the common good and every individual with mindfulness and compassion.

Program of Study

Undergraduate students have the opportunity to complete the Bachelors to Master’s degree in five years by enrolling in the National Catholic Certification Program in Health Care Ethics during their senior year.

Year 1 Bioethics Courses

HCB510 Course I:
The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services
This course will study the content of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, to help acquire an overview of critical topics in Catholic medical ethics. The formulations of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services will serve as a reference point for the content covered in subsequent courses and sections of the Catholic Certification Program in Health Care Ethics. 2 semester credits

HCB520 Course II:Key Principles of Medical Ethics
This course will familiarize students with several of the most fundamental principles utilized in medical ethics and bioethical thinking. 2 semester credits

HCB530 Course III:Catholic Bioethics, the Dignity of the Person, and the Gift of Human Life
This course will examine the major areas of modern bioethics and the key ethical concerns raised by these issues, studying a natural law and reasoned approach to discerning critical lines of ethical obligation. Students will examine areas where ethical ambiguity may still exist from the vantage point of Catholic teaching, such as embryo adoption, or Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer, and be able to articulate a reasoned position and coherent approach to dealing with such questions in the practical sphere. 5 semester credits

HCB540 Course IV:Case Studies and Applied Topics
This course will review and critically analyze case studies and applied topics in bioethics. 3 semester credits

Year 2 Bioethics Courses

HCB620 Bioethics:Faith and Reason
This course covers the philosophical and theological underpinnings of bioethics and applies these principles to the topics of moral courage and moral relativism. Other theories such as situational ethics, consequentialism, and Kantian Fundamentalism will be addressed with regard to how they relate to Natural Law.
3 semester credits

HCB630 Law and Bioethics
This course examines the philosophical, theological, historical and present day concepts of bioethics and their relationship to law within present-day reality. Students will discuss relevant legal issues from a federal and state viewpoint and relate them to the ways that courts, legislators, policy makers, and scholars approach bioethical issues.
3 semester credits

HCB650 Health Care and Biomedical Industry Ethics
This course explores the ethical dilemmas within the health care and biomedical industries. The principles of organizational ethics, professional ethics, and theories of justice as they relate to ethical decision making in the realm of health care and biomedical industries will be addressed. This course will further prepare students to address ethical issues in their place of employment as they deal with ethics compliance and risk management.
3 semester credits

HCB660 Medicine and Bioethics
This course explores the philosophical, theological, and human physiological concepts of bioethics as they relate to clinical decision-making in medicine. Students will distinguish how microcosmic and macrocosmic ethical issues affect every-day practice in the realm of medicine.
3 semester credits

HCB670 Bioethics Seminar II
This seminar course is designed to give students the opportunity to hear from experts in the fields of health care business and medicine in bioethics, to discuss current issues in these areas, and draw connections between business, medicine and bioethics.
1 semester credit

HCB720 Health Policy and Bioethics
This course is an exploration of health policy and its development, emphasizing social justice and human rights, thus providing the moral and ethical basis of existing and potential policies. Concepts of distributive justice, competing goals, political, and ethical foundations will be analyzed in how they contribute and compete with each other in policy development.
3 semester credits

HCB790: Bioethics Practicum and Capstone Project
This course allows students the opportunity to participate in a practical experience in ethical clinical decision making and to develop and disseminate an original scholarly paper utilizing compassion and moral courage. The practicum is an integration and synthesis of content from all previous foundational course work – Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, ethics, law, business, biomedicine, health care, and health policy; applying scholarly methods of bioethical inquiry and composition in a theme related to their practicum experience. In this course, students will disseminate an original work that integrates skills of critical reasoning and analysis.
4 semester credits

Applications are accepted online beginning in mid May until early January for each June start. However, students submitting applications prior to July 1 will receive priority consideration.

  • Currently enrolled or successful completion of the National Catholic Certification Program in Health Care Ethics
  • Must have a bachelor’s degree or have completed at least 90 credits toward a bachelor’s degree and have graduated with the Bachelor’s Degree by the end of the Health Care Ethics Certification Program
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.0 in the National Catholic Certification Program in Health Care Ethics
  • Letter grade no lower than a “C” on any individual National Catholic Certification Program in Health Care Ethics course

Recognizing the need for an interdisciplinary approach to bioethics education, our faculty includes experts in philosophy, theology, science, bioethics, business, law, health policy, and medicine. Adjunct faculty include nationally recognized scholars and teachers of bioethics from other institutions.