Program Overview

Designed for military personnel on educational assignment and college graduates seeking an intensive, one-year master’s program, this interdisciplinary program gives students a foundation in moral and political philosophy and international relations. Students can earn a master’s degree in military ethics in 12 to 24 months, gaining perspective from faculty in the humanities and law. 

Applications received by January 15 are given priority review. Learn more about applying to graduate programs at Case Western Reserve University and how to apply for the master of arts in military ethics program.

The Program

The program has been thoughtfully designed to educate students on and guide their research into vital global issues in military ethics. These issues include (but are not limited to) modern applications of classical just war theory and traditional warrior’s codes, the principle of noncombatant immunity, human rights, international humanitarian law, humanitarian intervention, the ethical use of emerging military technologies, civil-military relations and society’s obligations to troops and veterans, transitional justice, and the moral foundations of sustainable peace.

The study of military ethics supports long term humanitarian goals, such as preventing unjust wars, decreasing incidents of war crimes, genocide, human rights abuses, and other atrocities produced by the dehumanizing effects of armed conflict, supporting the mental health and successful transitions of military service members and combat veterans, and fostering a lasting peace founded in justice.

The Field 

Military ethics is a broadly interdisciplinary study, incorporating concerns about the conduct of war, decisions on how and when to engage in military operations, and issues relating to the moral psychology and care of those who serve and of veterans of military service. Traditional just war theory also plays a key role in international relations (political and moral philosophy governing when the use of military force is justified for the resolution of international conflicts) and international law (including Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and international humanitarian law).

Military ethics focuses on the core values and moral principles that collectively govern the men and women serving in the military forces of nations around the world, as members of what is sometimes termed the “military profession” or “the profession of arms.” The ethical foundations that define the profession of arms have developed over millennia from the shared values and experiences, unique role responsibilities, and reflections of members of the profession on their own practices – eventually coming to serve as the basis for various warrior codes and the LOAC.


CWRU MA/JD Dual Degree – Military Ethics

Program Structure

For most students, both degrees can be completed within three years or over four years. Dual degree students will generally begin study in the law school and defer enrollment in the MA program until their second year. Students interested in completing the dual degree should consult both programs early in the process to avoid difficulties. After the first year of law school, students may enroll in law courses or military ethics courses.

The alumna who completed an individual JD/MA plan started the MA program after year one of the three-year law degree and completed the MA program during years two and three of the law curriculum. For course details, please see an example course list and plan of study for a three-year and four-year program of study.

Year 1: First year law school curriculum. (29-30 hours)
Year 2, 3 (and sometimes 4): Mixture of courses between the two units, including completing the upper-class writing requirement and Professional Responsibility in the School of Law and 21 hours in the Military Ethics program.

Credit Hour Requirements:
Total Hours in the School of Law: 76
Total Hours in the Military Ethics Program: 21
Total Hours in the Dual Degree Program: 97

Juris Doctor Requirements:
Case Western Reserve University grants a Juris Doctor degree to students who have completed at least 88 credit hours in at least 6 semesters as a full-time student and graduate with at least a 2.325. During that time, the student must have completed a substantial research paper to satisfy the writing requirement.

During the first 2 semesters (1L year), the student is given their schedule and completes a minimum 29 credit hours in the following classes: LLEAP 1 and 2, Contracts, Torts, Criminal Law, Property, Legislation and Regulation, Civil Procedure, and spring-semester 1-credit elective. When the student begins their next two semesters (2L year), they must take Constitutional Law 1, Professional Responsibility, and LLEAP 3. During the Fall term, Constitutional Law 1 is required. Professional Responsibility and LLEAP 3 are offered both semesters and must be completed by the end of 2L year.

At the same time, the student is expected to complete general education requirements by picking 4 courses from the following list: Business Associations, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law II, Criminal Procedure I, Evidence, Family Law, Sales, Secured Transactions, and Wills/Trusts/Future Interests. During a student’s last 2 semesters (3L year), they need to have completed 12 credits of experiential education including a minimum 6-credit Capstone Experience during 3L year. The capstone can be completed off-site or at an in house legal clinic.

Master of Arts in Military Ethics Requirements:

Case Western Reserve University grants a Master of Arts on students who have completed at least 30 credit hours between 10-24 months of study. The months of study culminate in an original capstone project (six hours of credit, registered as PHIL 501). Twelve (12) of the credits are in the four (4) core classes:

PHIL 405: Ethics (usually a Fall offering)
PHIL 417: War and Morality (usually a Fall offering)
PHIL 419: Philosophy of State Violence (usually a Spring offering)
PHIL 436: Military Ethics, the Military Profession, and International Law (usually a Spring offering)

The student will then take a minimum of four (4) graduate/professional elective classes in a range of diverse, but related, departments on a variety of subjects that interest them, subject to the approval of their program advisor.

Dual Degree:
The Military Ethics program and School of Law agree to count up to 9 LAWS credit hours toward the MA degree and 12 MA credits toward the JD degree. This reduces the J.D. requirement of 88 credits to 76 separate credits. Additionally, the MA in Military Ethics credit requirements may be reduced by 9 credits.

 Sample Course of Study. /artsci/militaryethics/media/356