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What is Bioengineering?
Bioengineering or biomedical engineering (BME) or medical engineering (ME) is the utilization of fundamental engineering principles applied to biology, healthcare, and counseling disciplines. Bioengineers work closely with a variety of medical practitioners including doctors, nurses, physical therapists, counselors, and research specialists to solve a variety of chronic or acute diagnostic and therapeutic issues. The clinical problems can be a collaborative process to develop an improved system, new or modified medical equipment, or user-specific devices.
Individuals in this field design technologies that utilize, work with, or replace biologic functions in order to ensure the longevity and survivability of a given patient. The field is extensive, and spans beyond its traditional definitions to work in the development of technologies related to but not specific to biomedicine.
What Do Bioengineers Do?
A bioengineer can be employed by hospitals, research organizations, state government agencies, medical centers, federal government agencies, manufacturers, pharmaceutical firms, and electronic component fabricators. Work settings for a biomedical engineer is most often in an office, clinic, or laboratory setting while a small number work in the field collecting information or testing prototypes.
More specifically, bioengineers have been directly responsible for a variety of medical advancements over the years. We have collected a few examples of technology and devices bioengineers have been directly responsible for helping to create and bring to the market. Examples of advancements made possible by bioengineers include:
- Wearable technology
- Artificial limbs & artificial organs
- Physical therapy machinery
- Exercise equipment
- Mechanical ventilator
- X-rays machines
- Kidney dialysis machinery
- Cochlear implant devices
- Particle beams used in radiation therapy
- MRI machinery
- Insulin pumps
How to Become a Bioengineer?
To become a biomedical engineer, you will need to follow a series of steps to advance your education in preparation of the challenges involved with solving complex, far-reaching problems and advancing the field through engineering prowess. The steps to become a bioengineer include:
1 – Research Programs
First, you must take the time to research top accredited colleges and universities that fit your personal priority list and professional objectives. To establish a priority list to guide your decision making for college, read The Complete Guide to the College Admissions Process and How to Reduce the Cost of College. Next, take advantage of the colleges and degree information found on this bioengineering resource page and leverage our proprietary matching portal to get matched to a variety of schools. By matching your priorities to school offerings, you can simply request information from schools that make sense for you and narrow down the list of schools to a working list of top colleges in bioengineering.
2 – Apply to Schools
The second step in the process is to formally apply to the best colleges for you in biomedical engineering. During this phase, details of each program are essential to understand and compare. Variables you need to understand include program requirements, curricular approach, student expectations, curriculum requirements, financial aid packages, online learning options, and student services.
3 – Attend College
After being granted admission to the university or college of your choice, you will need to complete the school’s orientation and register for classes in bioengineering. Bachelor degrees in biomedical engineering take full-time students four years to complete while master’s degrees are an additional 2-3 years of work and PhD programs an additional five to six years including a board-approved dissertation. While in school, focus on building relevant, transferable skills and invest as much time as possible being involved in valuable research projects in the field via internships, externships, or volunteer work.
4 – Graduation, Work, Grow
Completing all degree requirements set forth by your college or university will lead to a degree being conferred in biomedical engineering and you will be eligible to apply for jobs in your field. Utilize your work experience, student placement services, and alumni network to connect with professionals in the field. Through informational interviews and similar research, you will find work that aligns with your passion and skills. Last, adopt a growth mindset and be a lifelong learner. Attend classes, workshops, conventions, and relevant continuing education courses to grow and expand your expertise in biomedical engineering perpetually.
Top Degrees in Bioengineering
There are a number of degree options available to students in the biomedical engineering field across many accredited colleges and universities. We have detailed out an overview of the degree programs you will encounter to help you understand the breadth and depth of each program. The degree options in bioengineering include:
Bachelor’s Degree in Bioengineering
A bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering is a 4-year program designed to integrate life sciences with engineering to benefit from the biological revolution and help to advance the field of bioengineering. Students will take general education courses in programs such as English, psychology, communications, and sociology plus core curricula in biomedical engineering. Core classes will be a combination of the following courses: math, engineering, biomechanics, chemistry, physics, systems physiology, biology, and social sciences through a problem-based learning lens.
Master’s Degree in Bioengineering
The master’s degree track in biomedical engineering is an additional two to three year commitment over the bachelor’s degree program. Students will often have the opportunity to pick an area of specialty in bioengineering such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer modeling, medical engineering, system analysis, manufacturing, data analysis, biomechanics, or similar tracks. Specialization offers students the depth of knowledge in a defined area of interest and opportunity to master theoretical principles to be applied across a variety of medical problems.
Doctorate Degree in Bioengineering
The doctorate degree track in biomedical engineering is conferred at a PhD. The bioengineering program is an interdisciplinary field of study blending upper-level courses in life sciences, bioengineering, and engineering specialties with leading-edge research. Modified or new mathematical concepts or physical concepts are brought to the biological and medical fields to fundamentally improve each field. Students graduating with a PhD in biomedical engineering will find themselves equipped to launch a career in research and development within a number of public corporations, private entities, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.
Educational Requirements for Biomedical Engineers
Individuals wishing to enter this field must at minimum pursue a bachelor's degree through an accredited program. Such programs will prepare students with a cross section of science education mixed with engineering design and application, as well as an education in computing hardware and software. The increasing complexity of biomedical and medical engineering products means that more education in wider variety of fields is necessary in order to be able to work.
A curriculum may include:
- Computer Programming
Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
Employment Opportunities in Bioengineering
Individuals in this field will seek employment through hospitals, manufacturers, research agencies, or through private research. The type of employment is based on the abilities and credentials of the individual, as some people in this field will choose to act as liaison to medical professionals, educating them in the use of current, new or developing technologies. Others will work in labs or research facilities to develop the technologies or refine existing ones. Others still may work in research rather than development, working alongside other researchers to see what may or may not be possible in the advancement of the field.
Biomedical Engineering Career Growth and Income
Job growth is expected to greatly exceed the national average over the next decade as breakthroughs in the field combined with an aging population is going to increase the demand for individuals in this field. It is important to note that given the relatively small size of the field, the increased job growth, though substantial, is still limited in terms of overall job creation. The average salary for a biomedical or medical engineer is approximately $82,000 per year, increasing based on experience and success.
Individuals interested in biomedical and medical engineering may also be interested in engineering, pharmacology, healthcare administration, or biology. National associations in Bioengineering such as BMES and AAMI provide students and working professionals in biomedical engineering insights, resources, and career tools not found elsewhere.