Learning About Biomedical Engineering

Hi. I am looking into a career in biomedical engineering. After doing some research to find out more about the field, I have come across many negative comments about the field. Many biomedical engineers advised to get a degree in either chemical, mechanical, or electrical engineer, and then, pursue a graduate degree in biomedical engineering. Can anybody please share some thoughts or ideas? I need to decide what path to follow soon since I am transferring this fall. Thank you for all the help anybody can provide. Maria.
posted by Maria, Student on May 30, 2014

Answer by Lisette Manrique Miller

Hello Maria,

As with any engineering degree, the value of the degree itself is based highly upon the university's unique program/curriculum, and the faculty & staff which support that department.  I would recommend that you check out the programs in which you are interested and confirm that they are ABET accredited (http://main.abet.org/aps/Accreditedprogramsearch.aspx).  This is a good way to screen them from a distance.  Be aware that programs are accredited individually, so if the college you choose has an accredited mechanical engineering program, this does not guarantee that the other programs are accredited as well.

With regards to choosing between undergraduate majors, it is more important to love the major that you choose rather than worrying about choosing the right one.  If you are confident that your primary interests, and career goals, are founded on science & medicine then biomedical engineering should be a good fit.  To give you a sense of flexibility when choosing BME as an undergrad major, the BMEs that I work with now are:  research & development engineers, design assurance engineers, human factors experts, user experience researchers, project leaders, department managers and even medical physicists.  

Most BME programs allow you to focus in a specific area such as:  chemical, mechanical, electrical or tissue engineering, biomechanics, bioinstrumentation etc.  You can also take courses specific to other degrees as your electives (i.e. Computer Aided Design, or Organic Chemistry) to help prepare you for a specific career path of interest.  Of course it is very common now to obtain a Masters degree in your academic area of interest so you can certainly add to your training in that way.

I'm not sure what negative comments you've heard about the biomedical field, but I know from personal experience that the difference between a Biomedical degree with a biomechanics focus and a Mechanical degree with biomedical focus is only 3 or 4 classes.  My friends who decided to pursue a mechanical track instead of biomed have had equivalent career opportunities to my own.  The attributes that will distinguish you from your peers when transitioning to industry will be your work ethic, relevant experience, your attitude & fit with the company culture.  Any well-respected engineering degree will prove your ability to problem solve and learn new concepts.  

I, myself, transferred from one university's Biomedical program to another and found that my alma mater (WPI) had a far superior BME program.  Sometimes it's just about finding the right school, rather than changing majors.
 
Good luck to you!

Best,
Lisette