Applied Ethics for Professionals

This is an integrated master’s degree programme designed for people in professional and leadership positions who are interested in ethical issues. It is offered by the Philosophy Department.


The emphasis in this programme is on learning methods and techniques for thinking about ethical issues of any sort, not just those of immediate interest to this or that profession.

Courses will introduce participants to the principal ethical theories such as utilitarianism and deontology, and critically investigate topics in applied ethics such as, for example, social justice, the value of life, or the risks of artificial intelligence.

The development of skills such as defending a point of view through clear and careful argumentation, offering cooperative criticism, and receiving and responding to such criticism, is an essential part of the programme. Participants can also expect to see improvements in their argumentative writing, through careful attention to it, and extensive feedback on it, from the lecturers.

No background in philosophy is required, and we do not expect our graduates to be philosophers as such upon completion of the degree. But successful participants will be able to think, discuss, and write much more clearly, fully, and deeply about any ethical issues they encounter as a result of their approaching such issues in both the theoretical and practical manner emphasised in this Programme.


Course work

Course work during the first year and first term of the second year will involve eight obligatory three-hour seminars on Saturdays, with extensive preparation prescribed for these seminars (approximately 10 hours each). The norm for assessment is a combination of written assignments or essays and a final examination (also on a Saturday) during the University’s exam period. These assignments and examinations will require considerable work over and above that required for normal seminar preparation.

Possible Electives

Cultural Pluralism and Ethics, Ethical Theory, Ethics and the Environment, Ethics and International Affairs, Information and Privacy (including the Ethics of AI), Issues in Biomedical Ethics, Morality and the Law, Morality and the Marketplace , Social Justice , and The Value of Life.

At least four of these will be offered during any two-year cycle.

Structure of the Programme

First year of study

  • Term 1 (February - May): Required core course: Methods of Applied Ethics (8 Saturday morning seminars)
  • Term 2 (July - October): Two electives (4 Saturday morning seminars each, 8 in total)

Second year of study

  • Term 1 (February - May): Two electives (4 Saturday morning seminars each, 8 in total)
  • Term 2 (July - October): Research methodology seminar and individual supervised work on research reports. This may be continued into the following year, if necessary.

Research Report

The research report for the master’s degree (approximately 15 000 words) is normally written on an approved topic relevant to the candidate’s professional field. Students writing research reports will be required to attend two or three Saturday morning seminars during Term 2 of the second year, as well as meeting regularly with their supervisors by individual arrangement. Past students have written research reports on a wide range of topics, such as animal rights, the moral status of artificial intelligence, disability in the workplace, and the just distribution of health care in South Africa.

Entry Requirements

  • A bachelor’s degree with honours from Wits or another university with a 65% total mark aggregate.
  • An NQF level 8 qualification such as an Honours degree, postgraduate diploma or a professional qualification (e.g., MBA, BSc(Eng), CA, LLB (second degree), MBBCh).
  • At least one year's experience in a management or leadership position.
  • Excellent written English.
  • Ability to attend Saturday morning seminars (16 in the first year, 8 in the second) on the Wits campus.

University Application Process

  • Applications are handled centrally by the Student Enrolment Centre (SEnC). Once your application is complete in terms of requested documentation, your application will be referred to the relevant School for assessment. Click here to see an overview of the Wits applications process.
  • Please apply online. Upload your supporting documents at the time of application, or via the Self Service Portal.
  • Applicants can monitor the progress of their applications via the Self Service Portal.
  • Selections for programmes that have a limited intake but attract a large number of applications may only finalise the application at the end of the application cycle.

Please note that the Entry Requirements are a guide. Meeting these requirements does not guarantee a place. Final selection is made subject to the availability of places, academic results and other entry requirements where applicable.

International students, please check this section.

For more information, contact the Student Call Centre +27 (0)11 717 1888, or log a query at

University Fees and Funding

Click here to see the current average tuition fees. The Fees site also provides information about the payment of fees and closing dates for fees payments. Once you have applied you will be able to access the fees estimator on the student self-service portal.

For information about postgraduate funding opportunities, including the postgraduate merit award, click here. Please also check your School website for bursary opportunities. NRF bursaries: The National Research Foundation (NRF) offers a wide range of opportunities in terms of bursaries and fellowships to students pursuing postgraduate studies. External bursaries portal: The Bursaries South Africa website provides a comprehensive list of bursaries in South Africa.