Can I go from biomedical engineering into another engineering field?

Hi there,

I'm a senior in high school currently applying to colleges. At first, I found the biomedical engineering path to med school to be very interesting, but I think I might change my mind in the more distant future.

Suppose that once I've done my undergrad, I decide that I neither want to be a doctor nor do I want to be a biomedical engineer, and I decide to go to grad school for some other type of engineering. Is it possible for me to go from being a BME undergrad to, say, an aerospace grad? What are the odds of it working out? I'd appreciate any advice!
posted by anonymous on November 8, 2013

Answer 1 by Claire Elliott

Hi! That's a great question! Choosing a particular field of engineering can be a really difficult choice. Many colleges admit undergrads into "general engineering" when they first start college. You'll probably take many of your general ed courses during your freshman/sophomore years. Then, you'll be asked to "matriculate", or choose a field of engineering, somewhere around your junior year. The type of engineering you choose at matriculation will determine which courses you take for the rest of your undergraduate program of study. Some fields are very closely related, so the coursework will be similar. Switching fields may simply require taking a few extra courses to cover the requirements for the other field. 

I'm not sure about graduate school requirements, but once you begin interviewing for jobs, employers look at your transcript as well as your willingness to learn new things. I received my BS in Mechanical Engineering, but took a job right out of college as a project engineer, doing lots of Electrical Engineering tasks. I told my employer that I was smart and eager to learn new things, so he hired me! As a result, I learned a lot of electrical engineering skills on the job that I never learned in school.

My advice: choose a field that interests you, then see where it leads! Good luck!

Answer 2 by Zahra Khan

Hi there!

It seems like you're undecided about which type of engineering interests you most. 
The good news is that its pretty easy to switch fields as there are a lot of common courses that all engineering students take and many colleges have a common freshman year for engineering students. 

If you already know that you're interested in both biomedical and aerospace engineering, one thing you could think about would be to apply to a college that offers both those disciplines so you can explore and decide on your major later. 

As for doing biomedical engineering and then going to aerospace engineering, that is certainly a possibility. Biomedical engineering programs can have significant mechanical engineering and electrical engineering courses which are also relevant to aerospace. Some of it depends on your specialization but you have time in graduate school to take classes relevant to your research. But you might think about taking some elective classes from the aerospace curriculum that you find interesting. 

There are also some specializations in aerospace where a biomedical background would be very handy such as in aerospace medicine and related disciplines including designing life support systems for space exploration and designing space suits. Check out the real cool work done by the Man Vehicle Lab at MIT, for example: mvl.mit.edu

So the short answer to your question is:
Yes, you can switch from being a BME undergrad to aerospace grad and chances are good that it'll work out :-)