Am I setting myself for failure if I choose biomedical engineering?

I am not sure about what career path to follow. I would like to pursue a career in biomedical engineering, but I biomedical engineering students say it is safer to get a degree in a traditional engineering field such as mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineering. Honestly, I do not see myself as mechanical, chemical, or electrical engineering. I want to study biomedical engineering, but I do not wish to go to medical school. I am afraid that if I a choose biomedical engineering as a major when I graduate I will not be able to find a job as I heard from biomedical engineerings that companies hire mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineers instead. I just need some help because I do not know what to do. I heard that a degree in biomedical engineer is not as solid as a mechanical, chemical, or electrical engineering degree because in biomedical engineering you learn a bit of mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineering, but not enough to perform a job as such. While a mechanical, chemical, or electrical engineer can work as a biomedical engineer. Am I setting myself for failure if I choose biomedical engineering instead of a traditional engineering field? Would I be able to find a job as a biomedical engineer?
Thanks for all your help.
Cathia
posted by Cathia, Community College on July 1, 2014

Answer by Santiana Jean-Baptiste

Hello Cathia.  Thank you for your question.  First, to answer your question: No, you are not setting yourself up for failure if you choose Biomedical Eingineering.  However I would caution you to think about how effective you want to be in this field.  Setting yourself up to be more versatile would benefit you greatly and will give you a stronger platform in your career endeavors.  

For example, I too wanted to pursue a Biomedical Engineering undergraduate degree.  I was given similar advice to yours, since the school that I attended did not offer Biomedical Engineering as an undergraduate degree.  At the time, the degrees offered for Biomedical Engineering was on the Masters and/or PhD level.

I decided to Major in Chemical Engineering and Minor in Biomedical Engineering instead.  Now that it is going on 7 years since I've graduated and have been working in the Biomedical/Biotechnical Engineering Industries (which encompasses Medical Devices, Pharmaceuticals and most recently Diagnostic Assays) I have realized that my choice was the best for me. 

My recommendation to you is to make the best out of your first two years in college, finding the right balance between studying to keep those grades up and doing extracurricular activities is key.

If you have some time to spare, participate and/or join different Engineering organizations.  Connect with people that are doing what you are planning to accomplish.  This will help lead you to decide on a definite major and/or minor if you choose to do so.

Also, get involved with internship and/or co-op opportunities.  I did this mostly during the summers where I would actually work part time/full time for a medical device/pharmaceutical company.  You will be surprised on how much you can learn and accomplish even if you can only dedicate 10-20 hours a week.  Additionally, this will do wonders to boost your resume as well. 

Once I started school, I realized that the 1st two years were all about taking the core competency courses such as Engineering Calculus, Differential Equations, Physics, Chemistry for Engineers, Organic Chemistry, and of course Biology.  

I learned early on that I really enjoyed Chemistry and realized that coupling both Chemical Engineering & Biomedical Engineering would give me a stronger platform in the Engineering Field, especially since I was interested in working in the Medical/Pharmaceutical Industries.  I realized this because I had internships and co-ops that helped support my decision.  Having worked in those industries really helped me choose; it was empowering as it also helped me excel once I graduated.

Currently, I work to improve and/or optimize the manufacturing processes for Biomedical/Pharmaceutical industries, by validating their system/processes so that they can effectively meet FDA standards on a consistent basis.  

I love what I do, and have found a niche that works well for me.  I believe you are on the RIGHT track and I commend you for reaching out through this wonderful website (such as EngineerGirl).   

You have a fantastic opportunity to be versatile while developing your expertise in one of the main Engineering disciplines (such as Mechanical, Chemical, Electrical, Industrial, and/or Civil).  I would suggest that you identify a passion from one of these main Engineering fields, and use it to couple your desire to pursue a Biomedical Engineering degree.  If you only want to focus on Biomedical Engineering, then start looking for internships and co-op opportunities so that you can gain EXPERIENCE in this field and/or find your own niche, like I did.

Remember, if you choose to be more diverse/versatile then you can always pursue a Major/Minor combination; you can decide which discipline you would like to Major/Minor in…depending on what your school offers.  

Check with your advisors and/or professors, you may have the option to do a 5-6 year program where you can obtain you Masters in Biomedical Engineering while obtaining your Bachelor of Science degree in one of the main Engineering disciplines.   

Either way, Cathia, you will be successful.   I could tell by your heartfelt candor and zeal, which emanated through your inquiry.   I sincerely hope my response is helpful to you.  Keep me posted.  Feel free to keep in touch as well.  Keep up the OUTSTANDING work!

Best Regards,

Santiana Jean-Baptiste

www.santiana.com