In general, biomedical engineering degree programs combine the study of mathematics, biology, and medicine. At the bachelor's degree level, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of these topics through textbook- and lab-based coursework. To apply, you need a high school diploma or equivalent, and schools often prefer to see high grades and test scores in math and science.
Master's programs are designed for students who have bachelor's degrees in engineering, and applicants who majored in other fields may need to complete prerequisite coursework in math and science. Two-year master's degree programs focus on independent research, and students may tailor their programs to focus on a specialty, such as biomaterials, biomechanics, and bioimaging.
Doctoral programs in bioengineering are similarly focused on research, though they usually have more graduation requirements than master's programs and typically take five to seven years to complete. At the end of the program, students defend a thesis or dissertation. Some business-savvy students even develop plans to bring their research findings to market.
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering
Biomedical engineering bachelor's degree programs incorporate many different fields of engineering, including electrical, chemical, mechanical and materials engineering. Students apply scientific and mathematical principles to solving problems and developing equipment within the medical field. Bachelor's degree programs prepare students to conduct experiments, design mechanical systems and help identify and solve engineering problems in the medical field on the mechanical and biological levels.
A bachelor's-level degree program in biomedical engineering includes both general education and major-specific classes. Here are some typical biomedical engineering courses:
- Cell transplantation
- Engineering physiology
- Medical electronics
- Rehabilitation engineering
Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering
Master's degree programs in biomedical engineering are designed for students who wish to pursue a career in academia, medicine, or research and development. These programs combine basic engineering theories, research techniques and biomedical principles. Coursework in a master's-level program takes a closer look at specific areas within the field of biomedical engineering. Common course topics include:
- Physiological control systems
- Biomedical measurement
- Biomedical imaging
- Ultrasonic imaging
- Biomaterials compatibility
- Medical device design
Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering
This interdisciplinary program emphasizes concepts of engineering, business, and medicine. The curriculum consists mainly of required laboratory work on an independent research topic such as tissue engineering or ultra sonic imaging, culminating in a dissertation defense at the end of the program. In addition, students study business so that they can successfully market medical devices in the future.
Most Ph.D. programs require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering or related scientific topic, although some programs prefer applicants that have already finished a master's degree. Required college courses include calculus, biology, engineering physics and chemistry. These classes provide the foundation you will need in biomedical engineering-specific courses, such as:
- Medical image processing
- Cellular engineering
- Biomedical engineering problems
- Systems pathophysiology
- Injury biomechanics
Popular Career Options
There are multiple career paths that one can enter within the biomedical engineering field. The higher your level of education, the better your job prospects. A biomedical engineer may work in the following industries:
- Medical equipment supplies and manufacturing
- Scientific research and development
- Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing
- Controls and instrument manufacturing
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 22,100 biomedical engineers in the country in 2014. The number of biomedical engineers is expected to increase by 23% nationwide from 2014-2024, which is considered much faster than average growth for all occupations. The BLS reports that biomedical engineers made a median annual wage of $86,220 as of May 2015.
Overall, you can study biomedical engineering at the undergraduate or the graduate level. After you get your degree, you can choose to further your education or get a job solving engineering problems in the medical field.