A North Central College ethics student in a discussion with a professor.

9 Top Ethics Degree Jobs

Jacob Imm

Oct 05, 2022

9 Top Ethics Degree Jobs

What is ethics? Ethics is a field governed by service. Studying the subject is about exploring right and wrong for the betterment of humanity. If you dedicate yourself to the research and thoughtful discussion involved, your college experience will be extremely fulfilling as you study subjects like applied ethics, philosophy, health science, political science, anthropology, and human resources and learn skills such as leadership and critical thinking. You may be wondering, however, what happens after college is over. What jobs can you get with an ethics degree?

Careers in ethics may not immediately spring to mind the way they do in other fields, but if you are planning to study to get a bachelors degree in ethics, whether as an ethics major, a philosophy major, a bioethics major, or even a major in any of the social sciences or liberal arts with ethics minor, there is good news. Ethics are a major consideration for almost every employer, which means you can find any number of great ethics career options in a related field to your personal interests.

Read on to find our picks for the top ethics degree jobs and help guide your career search.

Jobs in Corporate and Ethics and Compliance

The corporate world is the first and foremost place you probably associate with a need for oversight when it comes to ethics. It is extremely important that corporations appoint well-trained, talented ethics and compliance professionals to look objectively at how they conduct their business and ensure moral practices that benefit every employee as well as every client or customer the company has. The majority of good jobs in business administration for those with ethics degrees fall into two categories:

1. Sustainability specialist – Sustainability is an increasing concern among corporations, which often produce a great deal of waste and pollutants as a normal cost of doing business. Sustainability specialists and those with similar job titles are charged with thinking about how to treat the planet ethically. They suggest and enforce strategies to reuse resources as much as possible or properly dispose of waste whenever it is created. They also look for ways corporations can employ renewable energy practices, such as using solar paneling and high-efficiency lighting as well as planting trees, and starting community gardens on corporate property. 

2. Compliance officer – Every corporation has rules. While, as human beings, we may have a natural aversion to following them, these rules are always written for a reason—to keep people safe, respected, productive, and ultimately happy. Compliance officers generally work in departments of human resources or finance within a corporation and are charged with enforcing those rules. This can often involve proper handling of corporate funds, personal conduct policies, assuring a company is an equal opportunity employer, accurately reporting time taken off from work, and other areas that are not necessarily the most comfortable to discuss. Ethics plays a big role in compliance, as to be successful, you have to be willing to both empathize with your fellow employees as well as display integrity not to take shortcuts. 

Jobs in Science and Technology

Jobs in the science and technology sector are extremely important as they involve vital implications for many people. As a result, jobs in this field can be personally rewarding as well as lucrative, including jobs that are specific to working with ethical dilemmas. In fact, according to Career Builder, the average national salary for available technology-related jobs in ethics is $95,926 per year as of September 2022. Here are science and tech jobs to which an ethics degree is a great first step:

3. Data scientist – Data scientists are in the business of predicting what will come next in the world of science and technology, taking existing information gathered from research, and using statistical models to logically argue future developments. According to Hugo Bowne-Anderson of the Harvard Business Review, “In tech, data science is about infrastructure, testing, machine learning for decision making, and data products.” Where does ethics come in? Well, just because we can see what is coming next and act on it doesn’t mean it’s right that we should. 

Data scientists focused on ethics can look at the implications for people of developing technology. They have the important task of better explaining how data science arrives at its conclusions and creating methods for sanctioning anyone who creates potentially harmful recommendations based on statistical models.

4. Ethics and/or integrity program manager – Not just in data science but in all areas of technological research and development, it is easy to get wrapped up in goals and productivity and forget about taking care of one another. A manager of an ethics or integrity program works within a group of scientists to create shared policies for maintaining morality in their work. They will remind colleagues of these policies regularly, including periodic training to reinforce research ethics and how to make them part of their work routine.

5. Financial investigator – One of the most challenging places to practice ethics is the intersection between business ethics and science. A financial investigator in the science and technology field may be charged with tracking the source of funding for developing new products, inventions, and other breakthroughs. A strict understanding of ethics helps investigators determine what sources of funding are appropriate as well as how money should be properly spent in the development of innovations in science and technology.

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Jobs in the Community Sector

The most common source of jobs for those with ethics degrees tends to be in service to communities working on education, public health, public service, and public policy. There are lots of ways to access this kind of work, whether it be through public administration, international leadership, teaching political science or political philosophy, and more. So while ethics is always concerned with the greater good to some extent, we think these positions likely afford the greatest opportunity to have a direct positive impact on people’s lives:

6. Professor of ethics – If you enjoy your time in your ethics degree program, it’ll probably be because you started at a school like North Central College, where the professors have a great deal of expertise and focus on treating each student with care as an individual, ensuring they have a thorough overview of ethics from every perspective and nurturing their individual view on the subject. You will also likely discover that the most direct career path to using what you’ve learned and sharing it is to teach. The good news is that means a lot more school, as you will need a master's degree and often a doctoral degree, too, depending on where you want to teach. A college or university setting is the best place continuing education on the nature of morality, religion, and philosophy, so if you love talking about ethics for the sake of it, this may be the best path for you.

7. Legal assistant – Also known as a paralegal, the legal assistant role is vital in attending to the needs of an attorney or judge. Wondering how to be a paralegal? Understanding the law is obviously in the job description, but more important is an understanding of people, as you may end up interacting with legal clients even more than lawyers do. Having a firm grasp of ethics helps in understanding both why people act the way they do but also sorting out what’s legal from what is right, and that is vital in devoting your professional life to the legal field. 

8. Clinical ethicist – This may be one of the most challenging and rewarding roles for a holder of an ethics degree, as medical ethics are often literally about life and death. According to Margot Eves, director of the Clinical Ethics Immersion Program in the Center for Bioethics at the Cleveland Clinic, “Our role is to help when there are conflicts of values among the medical team, patient or family members. We are one resource to help people think through challenging situations, reconcile some of those differences, and match the available treatment options with the patient’s values.”

9. Human rights officer - Citizens are bound to have complaints and other issues they want to raise. As a human rights officer, it’s your job to observe, monitor, investigate, and document these issues. You would also coordinate with LGUs and other involved parties to help resolve these issues.

Pursuing an Ethics Career

Everyone’s understanding of ethics is different, especially regarding health care ethics and end-of-life matters. Having a thorough understanding of the different views on physical life and death, as well as the empathy to see all those views as equally valid, is what makes experts in clinical ethics an invaluable resource in any medical setting—and that’s what an ethics degree should give you. Be prepared, however, as jobs in clinical ethics often have a law school and/or medical school as part of their preferred qualifications.

Jacob Imm is the associate director of communication in the North Central College Office of Marketing and Communications. He has 12 years of collegiate communications experience and has worked with hundreds of college students. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.