The utility of a bioethics doctorate: results of a survey of graduates and students having completed All-but-Dissertation Requirements (ABD) from US bioethics doctoral programs

International Journal of Ethics Education 7 (1):21-34 (2021)
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Abstract

In the United States, the field of bioethics has expanded over the last two decades. Several institutions offer graduate-level training at both the masters and doctoral level. However, a lack of published literature on the outcomes of doctoral training in bioethics from the perspective of graduates exists. Researchers conducted an online survey of doctoral students who had finished all doctoral requirements but their dissertation, as well as doctoral graduates, of four US-based institutions to ascertain their perspectives on a number of items regarding their doctoral training and their perception of how that training prepared them for their current role in the workforce. Responses from 34 participants were assessed. Respondents had positive overall views on the utility of a bioethics doctorate and the educational training they received in their respective programs. A number of areas for improvement were identified, including better structured clinical ethics training, greater opportunities for research and publishing, and having the ability to teach during their doctoral program, as well as formal pedagogy training. Greater exposure to clinical ethics consultation during the doctoral program was associated with feeling fully prepared as a clinical ethics consultant. This is the first study to assess the perspectives of bioethics doctoral graduates and ABD students regarding the utility of a bioethics doctorate. Per the perspectives of graduates and ABD students, bioethics doctorates are important and effective to train professional bioethicists. We recommend that a few key changes to these programs’ curricula can further bolster their effectiveness.

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