Is a PhD in Biomedical Engineering Worth It?

May 31, 2020

Students in a PhD in Biomedical Engineering program can gain a better understanding of biological and chemical compounds and be able to use this new knowledge, along with their training in engineering, to create new and innovative products and services in the biomedical field. While the time to earn a PhD in this field can be lengthy, graduates can find numerous career options in hospitals and private industries that may make the time and effort spent in the classroom and performing research worthwhile.

What Can You Do With a PhD in Biomedical Engineering?

Those who choose to pursue a PhD in Biomedical Engineering can prepare themselves for a variety of careers in the engineering industry and open the door for continued education within a medical school of their choosing. Recent graduates will be able to come up with solutions to biomedical problems using computational and theoretical methods associated with engineering. They will have a deep understanding of mathematics and data analysis, and through coursework in subjects such as biomedical product development and biomaterial science, they will have the knowledge necessary to create new products and equipment within the field of medicine. Through research seminars during their PhD program, recent graduates will have a good understanding of how to conduct independent research and have the tools required to create solutions quickly.

Aspiring biomedical engineering PhD students concerned about salary potential for careers in this field can take a look at the five careers below along with their associated salary levels and job growth projections.

Job Title Median Salary (2019)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Biomedical Engineers $91,410 4%
Biological Technicians $45,860 7%
Software Developers $105,590 21%
Research Scientists $79,627 (2020)** 8% for medical scientists
Biomedical Engineering Director $104,953 (2020)** NA

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics', **

PhD in Biomedical Engineering Careers

Biomedical Engineers

Biomedical engineers apply principles of engineering and design concepts to biology and medicine for use in healthcare. Individuals who obtain a PhD will use their knowledge of engineering and medical biological sciences to make improvements in healthcare therapy, diagnosis, and monitoring. These individuals maintain current medical equipment and make recommendations on equipment changes. Additionally, they will evaluate efficiency, safety, and effectiveness of current biomedical equipment.

Biological Technicians

Biological technicians collect blood, food, and bacteria samples for laboratory analysis. They work in a team with other scientist and take direction from fellow scientist to ensure that testing and analysis is done correctly. These same individuals may work within private industry and assist employers with conducting research related to mining and industrial production. They will aid in the collection and analyzing of data and interpret the results and publish or present their findings to fellow scientists and employers.

Software Developers

Software developers with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering assist in the creation of new algorithms and software that will then aid clinicians in various areas related to patient care. Additionally, they may go about developing artificial intelligence systems which can then be used by hospitals to help with patient diagnosis and treatment. They use their knowledge of medical systems and equipment to create better security measures that will ensure the protection of sensitive information such as medical records.

Research Scientist

Research scientists plan and conduct experiments and record and analyze the data that they have collected. They then write reports on their findings and present these findings to senior personnel and fellow research staff. Individuals within this job field also aid in the training and supervision of new staff and monitor research being conducted to ensure that quality control standards are being followed. Much like during their PhD program, recent graduates will find themselves continuing to research in order to stay up to date on new developments within their field of study.

Biomedical Engineering Director

Biomedical engineering directors help to manage teams who are tasked with creating and testing of new biomedical equipment, technologies, and instrumentation. They develop new procedures as they relate to repair and maintenance of new and current biomedical equipment and establish safety protocols. These same individuals establish departmental budgets and training programs and aid in the decision making process related to dictating the functions and responsibilities of their given department. They make sure that departments are coordinating with one another and actively work to resolve issues between them.

PhD in Biomedical Engineering Program Information

Most PhD programs require that students have an undergraduate degree in engineering, physical science or life science with a 3.0 GPA. Applicants must also have three to five letters of recommendation and have completed a GRE exam with a score of 300 or above in order to be admitted. The amount of time required for a degree depends upon the graduate program, but students should expect to spend five to six years on average earning their PhD.

During this time students will engage in coursework related to experimental design and measurement, biomaterial science, soft nanomaterials, bio-solids mechanics, applied statistics in biomedical science, and biomedical product development. Students will be required to attend weekly seminars sponsored by their respective graduate programs and may also be required to teach courses within their field of study for at least two semesters. While it isn't the case with every graduate program, there are some that require students to publish at least one article within an academic journal on their way to achieving their PhD.

In addition to the large amount of time spent on such a degree, PhD programs in biomedical engineering can also be expensive. However, students will find that many schools reward this commitment by covering or partially covering tuition costs and living expenses through the use of grants, fellowships, stipends, and teaching and research assistantships.

Having a PhD in Biomedical Engineering gives students the ability to go into the field of medicine if they so choose, but also affords them the opportunity to turn their career focus toward engineering. They are able to obtain positions in the field of engineering and software development, as well as conduct medical research and have the knowledge to create and develop new tools and equipment for the healthcare industry.

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