The University of Pittsburgh Schools of Law and Arts and Sciences offers a joint degree program in law and bioethics. Graduates receive a Juris Doctor degree and a Master of Arts in Bioethics. 

This joint degree program was established to recognize the extensive and increasing overlap between law and bioethics. Courses prepare graduates with an interdisciplinary background in law and bioethics to address issues and situations requiring knowledge of and expertise in both. Graduates will be academically prepared for professional roles as bioethicists in health care institutions, in public policy working for government or philanthropic organizations, or in law practice, for example, giving counsel to health care institutions.

Curriculum & Requirements

The curriculum is designed to allow students maximum flexibility. Students may take the entire first-year Pitt Law curriculum intact or one bioethics course—Theoretical Foundations of Applied Ethics—instead of Criminal Law. 

Students enrolled in the joint degree program accomplish this in three to four years. The degree requires 99 credits and includes 34 credits of specifically prescribed law courses, the Bioethics and Health Law Clinical Practicum (3 credits), and 18 specifically prescribed credits in bioethics. Within the remaining 45 credits, students must satisfy the requirements for their law degree, take a course from the list of Restricted Elective courses for the bioethics degree, and take at least 3 credits in a course relevant to bioethics (either in the law school or not).

Joint degree students must be coded by the University Registrar as "primary law" for at least five semesters. During these semesters, they pay tuition at the Law School rate and enroll in at least 10 credits of law school courses. A complete listing of the requirements for graduation from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law can be found on the Graduation Requirements page.

Writing Requirements

Completing the master's thesis requirement in a subject related to law and bioethics simultaneously fulfills the writing requirements for both degrees.


The Clinical Practice ensures that students will be comfortable in and knowledgeable about the clinical setting by learning how to identify the normative issues in clinical cases and to be able to give practical advice regarding complex bioethical dilemmas. Students are scheduled for 6 credits of clinically-based work, which may be reduced to 3 for students with previous healthcare training. In Clinical Practica I and II, students participate in rounds with residents, physicians, and other healthcare professionals, attend twice-weekly seminars, and observe ethics consultations and clinical ethics teaching sessions. 

In Clinical Practicum II, students participate in an intensive four-week rotation in the clinical area of their choice, allowing them to develop an in-depth knowledge of clinical medicine. Students should relate this intensive clinical experience to their thesis topic.

Center for Bioethics & Health Law Academic Programs

In addition to meeting the specifically required coursework for the JD and MA degrees, students will select electives from various courses in the two separate degree programs. For a list of courses appropriate for this joint degree program, consult the courses listed as electives for the Health Law Certificate Program.

Application Information

Students wishing to enroll in the joint degree program must first be admitted to each of the individual programs. Students must complete and submit two separate applications. However, the bioethics program will accept unofficial photocopies of transcripts so long as the official copies are on file in the School of Law.

The deadline to apply to Pitt Law is May 1, and the deadline to apply to the bioethics program is March 31.

Tuition & Financial Aid

Students must pay tuition at the law school rate for at least 5 semesters and to A&S for 2 semesters (or 18 credits). Students who complete the program in 7 or 8 semesters will be billed at the lower A&S tuition rate for two semesters. When coded as "primary A&S" and paying tuition at the A&S rate, a maximum of 15 credits are paid for by the A&S per-semester tuition rate. If a student takes more than 15 credits, the student will be billed extra for any credits over 15 at the FAS per-credit tuition rate.