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Deciding whether a patient is mentally competent to manage his own care or determining whether a patient should receive a controversial treatment that could either cure him or bring irreparable harm are issues that medical personnel turn to bioethicists for assistance. Bioethicists teach people how to apply ethics to various medical situations to make ethical decisions. They can help hospitals analyze new procedures before recommending their use. They are not doctors, but they provide doctors with a different view of healthcare. They may also be found teaching in colleges and universities or advising lawyers on health law.
No single average salary is available for a bioethicist because it is not an independent field. Bioethicists will also be doctors, lawyers, nurses and college professor who specialize in bioethics. As such, their salaries will align with their peers in those fields. This means a bioethicist may earn less than $50,000 a year on average or more than $150,000.
Health Care Bioethics
Bioethicists working in the health care field not only need to have a degree in bioethics or medical ethics, they need an advanced degree, such as nursing, medical social work or a medical degree. Their salaries are then commensurate with whatever degree they hold. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, registered nurses earned an average of $67,720 a year in 2010 and family and general practitioners earned an average of $173,860 a year. Medical social workers earned an average of $49,200 a year in 2010.
Bioethicists who pursue academia tend to teach the subject as part of a broader study such as religion or philosophy. University and college instructors are expected hold at least master’s degree in their field of study. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a philosophy or religion college teacher in 2010 was $69,150 a year.
Attorneys may earn certificates or degrees in bioethics instead of health law in addition to their law degrees. These lawyers work on medical malpractice suits, elder law and other types of health-related lawsuits. They may also work medical practices or hospitals. As lawyers, legal bioethicists earned an average of $129,440 a year in 2010.
- Education Portal: Career Information for a Degree or Certification in Medical Ethics and Bioethics
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2010, Lawyers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2010, Family and General Practitioners
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2010, Philosophy and Religion Teachers, Postsecondary
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2010, Registered Nurses
James Rada, Jr. was a newspaper reporter for eight years and earned 23 awards from the Maryland Delaware D.C. Press Association, Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists, Maryland State Teachers’ Association and CNHI. He also worked for 12 years as a marketing communications writer, earning a Print Copywriter of the Year Award from the Utah Ad Federation. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications.