Biomedical engineering students can obtain a two-year master's degree or a six-year PhD in the field. These programs combine classroom instruction with hands-on lab and research projects. Applicants will need at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject such as engineering or life science in addition to completing the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Testing may also be required that assesses level of knowledge concerning medical science and engineering.
Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering
This graduate degree program focuses on fusing science with biomedical technology in order to improve the means of diagnosing and treating health-related issues. Master's students must have a strong background in chemistry, calculus and biology. Many schools require that the applicant submit a letter of recommendation and meet the minimum GPA requirements as well.
In master's level classes, students use computers and other equipment to study subjects like tissue engineering and wireless communication in cells. In addition, enrollees typically participate in an internship with professional biomedical engineers. Some programs will also necessitate the completion a research thesis on a biomedical engineering topic of interest.
The multidisciplinary curriculum incorporates research and studies from different departments, including medicine, chemistry, math, dentistry and engineering. Here are some common master's-level courses:
- Advanced molecular biology
- Biomedical materials
- Biomedical instrument development
Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering
This degree program prepares graduate students for careers in industry research and development, government and education. The majority of credit hours spent in a Ph.D.-level program involve completing a dissertation on a chosen subject, such as biomechanics, biomedical signal processing and instrumentation or neural engineering. Oftentimes, the coursework and dissertation are completed on an individual basis, with scheduling determined by the students and faculty.
Doctoral students are also required to complete basic core classes, including the following:
- Biomedical engineering in clinical medicine
- Biomedical mathematics
- Organ transport systems
- Cell and tissue engineering
Career Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), as of 2014 there were 22,100 biomedical engineering positions in the country, a number that is expected to increase 23% between 2014 and 2024. The same source states that the median annual wage for all types of biomedical engineers was $86,220 in 2015.
A graduate degree is typically required for biomedical engineer positions in research labs, and those who hold a Ph.D. are well-prepared for research careers. According to the BLS, in 2015 biomedical engineers working in scientific research and development made a mean annual wage of $104,490. As of 2015, there were 3,930 research and development biomedical engineers nationwide.
Continuing Education Information
Licensure for biomedical engineers is currently optional. Candidates who choose to become licensed must hold a degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), meet work experience requirements and pass a 2-part state exam. Along with a license, successful candidates earn the professional engineer (PE) designation. In some states, biomedical engineers need to complete continuing education credits to maintain their licensure.
Biomedical engineering students can work toward two potential academic tracks, a master's degree or a doctoral degree. A doctoral program requires a larger time commitment and more intensive completion requirements, but all biomedical engineering graduate programs offer a well-rounded curriculum that will prepare students for a career in biomedical engineering.