Biomedical Engineer

As the name suggests, biomedical engineering is a branch of engineering that combines biology, medicine, and engineering to help improve human health. Tasked with developing biomedical equipment, biomedical engineers also responsible for installation, maintenance, and technical support of equipment. They might also develop computer software, systems, and devices used in healthcare.

There are various subfields in which biomedical engineers might work. Some of them are involved in improving and developing new machinery, such as robotic surgery equipment, while others create more reliable replacement limbs. These engineers often work as part of a team and are sometimes seen in a supporting or supervisory role.

Although the expertise of biomedical engineers primarily lies in biology and engineering, they also design computer software for running instruments, such as a three-dimensional x-ray machine.

Additionally, a number of biomedical engineers use their knowledge of biology and chemistry for developing new drug therapies. Their work may also involve using statistics and math to build models to understand different body systems, such as the transmission of signals by the brain. Some biomedical engineers may also be involved in sales.

Biomedical engineers generally work full time in hospitals, manufacturing, universities, and research facilities of companies and medical and educational institutions.

Specializations & Degree Types in Biomedical Engineering

The following are examples of specialty areas within the field of biomedical engineering:

  • Bioinstrumentation – This specialization uses computer science, electronics, and measurement principles for developing instruments used in the treatment and diagnosis of medical problems.
  • Biomaterials – This involves the designing and developing of materials fit to be used within the human body.
  • Biomechanics – This includes mechanics, such as thermodynamics, for solving medical or biological problems.
  • Clinical engineering – Professionals in this specialization work alongside nurses, physicians, and other medical experts in the operation and implementation of technology in healthcare. They are responsible for taking care of the medical products in healthcare facilities.
  • Rehabilitation engineering – This involves the study of computer science and engineering to develop devices that assist individuals in recovering from cognitive and physical impairments.
  • Systems physiology – This uses engineering tools for understanding how systems within living organisms function and respond to changes in their environment.

Generally, the minimum requirement for becoming a biomedical engineer is a bachelor’s degree. Some positions in leadership and research may require a master’s degree or PhD.

Admission Requirements to Biomedical Engineering Programs

To enter the field of biomedical engineering, most students start with a bachelor’s degree. These programs require candidates to have a high school diploma or GED, in addition to the SAT or ACT scores.

For a master of science (MS) in biomedical engineering, students must have a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering (or a related field) from an accredited college or university, a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, a completed application form, transcripts from all universities attended, GRE exam scores (for some colleges), letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, a current resume, and TOEFL scores for international students.

Applicants to biomedical engineering programs must be adept at designing, have an analytical bent of mind, be comfortable with measuring instruments, pay attention to detail, be able to empathize with patients, and finally, be effective communicators and team players.

Program Accreditation in Biomedical Engineering

Accreditation is proof that a program has met essential standards for producing graduates who are ready to enter the critical fields of STEM education. It is important because it helps program aspirants determine whether a program meets certain minimum standards of quality. It also helps employers vet candidates, as applicants from accredited universities are bound to be more qualified and well-trained.

Many programs in biomedical engineering are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET). Students graduating from an ABET-accredited program are capable of leadership and have a strong foundation in their educational field. ABET is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

On-Campus Degree Programs in Biomedical Engineering

Boston University

Boston University offers a bachelor of science (BS) in biomedical engineering. The program provides students with rigorous training in mathematics, engineering, and basic science. The program is taught by renowned and experienced faculty members.

Admission requirements for the program include a completed admission application, high school transcripts, senior year grades, a counselor recommendation and school report form, a teacher evaluation, standardized tests, and English proficiency testing results for international students.

​Made up of 133​ credits, the program is designed to make students well-equipped in solving problems related to environmental, economic, ethical, social, and legal issues. The curriculum includes courses such as ​general chemistry, an introduction to programming for engineers, an introduction to engineering, computational linear algebra, engineering mechanics, an introduction to engineering design, and statistics and data sciences for engineering.

Through the program, students learn how to solve complex engineering problems, communicate clearly with different audiences, conduct appropriate experimentation, and make informed decisions. At the end of the program, graduates are prepared to take up careers in the areas of engineering, science, healthcare, and business.

  • Location: Boston, Massachusetts
  • Accreditation: ABET
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 to 60 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $58,560 per year

Florida International University

Florida International University offers a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering. In addition to a general track, the school offers concentrations in biomechanics and biomaterials, biosignals and systems, and tissue engineering and pre-med.

Major admission requirements for the program include submitting an application, proof of an associate in arts (AA) degree or its equivalent, and a minimum score of 500 on the paper-based TOEFL for international students whose native language is not English. Continuing FIU students and transfer students must complete all pre-core courses such as general biology and general chemistry and achieved a minimum of “C” and an average grade point average of at least 2.5 in all common prerequisite courses taken.

The 128-credit program includes courses such as an introduction to biomedical engineering, an introduction to biomedical engineering computing, an evaluation of engineering data, applied mechanics, and biomaterials science.

Students learn to use engineering design solutions to biomedical engineering problems, work efficiently in a team, conduct experiments, interpret data, and communicate effectively.

On successful completion of the program, graduates can take up roles as quality engineers, manufacturing engineers, and software engineers.

  • Location: Miami, Florida
  • Accreditation: ABET
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 to 60 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $618.87 per credit

Duke University – Pratt School of Engineering

The Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs in biomedical engineering. The undergraduate program combines hands-on learning with data science, research, computing, and entrepreneurship classes to help students become creative engineers who can think critically about the problems they face. There are several double major options for biomedical undergrad students, including civil engineering, computer science, and mechanical engineering.

In addition to core course requirements, students can complete an elective course sequence in biomedical imaging and instrumentation, biomechanics, electrobiology, or biomolecular and tissue engineering. Graduates of this program go on to work in the industry, work in consulting, attend grad school, or enroll in medical school. For ambitious students, there is a five-year program that results in a master’s in biomedical engineering.

  • Location: Durham, North Carolina
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 to 60 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $57,934 per year for undergraduate

Massachusetts Institute of Technology – School of Engineering

With both undergraduate and graduate degree programs, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Engineering has something to offer biomedical engineering students at all stages of their careers. This department primarily focuses on biomaterials, molecular therapeutics, and synthetic biology.

Undergraduate students don’t need to complete an additional application to enter this program. All they need to do is declare their major as biomedical engineering. Students are required to start an in-depth research project during their junior year, which culminates in a thesis. The top thesis project each year wins the prestigious Znaty and Merck Undergraduate Thesis Prize.

  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: $55,510 per year for undergraduate

Georgia Institute of Technology & Emory University – School of Medicine

The Georgia Institute of Technology, in partnership with Emory University School of Medicine, offers a master’s of biomedical engineering. This degree can be completed as a stand-alone degree or as a stepping stone to a PhD or MD. Students in this program are immersed in the cutting-edge research happening at both Georgia Tech and Emory through intensive laboratory courses. There is a thesis option for students who are pursuing further education and a non-thesis option for students who want to enter the workforce.

To complete this program, students must complete 30 credits of coursework with or without a thesis. Classes include bioscience, engineering, data science, and approved electives. Prerequisite coursework required for admission includes two semesters of calculus-based physics, organic chemistry, and calculus through and including differential equations. Applicants must also have a bachelor’s of science in engineering, science, or math.

  • Location: Atlanta, Georgia
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 to 60 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,088 per credit

Online or Hybrid Degree Programs in Biomedical Engineering

Columbia University

Columbia University offers an online master of science (MS) in biomedical engineering program.

Applicants to the program must have an undergraduate degree in science, engineering, computer science, mathematics, or a related field from an accredited institution, a minimum grade point average of 3.0, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, transcripts, a current resume, and TOEFL test scores for international students.

The program comprises 30 credits. Courses include the computational modeling of physiological systems, solid biomechanics, artificial organs, cardiac mechanics, computational genomics, solid biomechanics, and ultrasound in diagnostic imaging.

The master’s program prepares students to become innovative, socially responsible leaders in science, medicine, and engineering. They are also trained to conduct research. The program prepares them for research activities at the highest level. Graduates of the program can take up leadership roles in medicine, engineering, development, and clinical practice.

  • Location: New York, New York
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 to 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $2,104 per credit

Colorado State University

Colorado State University offers an online master’s in biomedical engineering program. This program is offered in a flexible online format and is convenient for working professionals. The program is taught by expert faculty members who have a wealth of research and industry knowledge in topics like biomaterial tissue engineering, nanotechnology, and bone biology and mechanics.

The program’s admission requirements include a bachelor of science degree in engineering, life sciences, or natural sciences from a regionally accredited institution; a grade point average of 3.0 or higher; prerequisite courses (calculus 1, 2, and 3, ordinary differential equations, physics 1 and 2, one semester of life science), three letters of recommendation, a current resume, statement of purpose, a completed online graduate application, one official transcript of all collegiate work completed from every institution attended, and English language proficiency for international students.

Consisting of 30​ credits, courses in the program include bioengineering, quantitative systems physiology, biological physics, materials engineering, cardiovascular biomechanics, digital signal processing, and regression models and applications.

Students get a chance to explore the function of biomaterials, data analysis, and material issues in mechanical design. They learn how to solve complex problems and improve healthcare technology in every sphere, right from diagnostics to treatment.

At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities in a wide range of industries such as pharmaceutical preparation manufacturing, analytical lab instruments manufacturing, biological product manufacturing, engineering services, surgical and medical instrument manufacturing, and electromedical and electrotherapeutic apparatus manufacturing. Some of the roles they can take up include biomedical engineer, biomedical electronics technician, biomedical engineering director, biomedical equipment technician, quality engineer, and software engineer.

  • Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 to 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $964 per credit

Case Western Reserve University – Case School of Engineering

The master’s in biomedical engineering program at Case Western Reserve University Case School of Engineering was one of the first biomedical engineering programs in the country. Now, this program is offered entirely online, allowing students to complete their studies at their own pace without having to relocate. With over 20 research center affiliations, students will have the opportunity to be involved in cutting-edge research across the country. Currently, the university’s research affiliates have more than $41 million in grants for ongoing projects.

Faculty in this program are experts in imaging, neural engineering, biomaterials, prosthetics, and tissue engineering. Not only do they provide outstanding didactic courses but they are also deeply involved in ongoing research. Often, faculty work in conjunction with clinicians to actively work on treating many diseases.

  • Location: Cleveland, Ohio
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: One to two years
  • Estimated Tuition: $39,000 per year

University of Southern California – Viterbi School of Engineering

In addition to an online master’s in biomedical engineering, the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering also offers medical imaging and imaging informatics and medical device and diagnostic engineering master’s degrees. The professors for the online master’s degree are the same ones that teach in the prestigious on-campus program.

Full-time students can complete this program in as little as a year and a half, while part-time students complete it in three years. There are a total of 28 required credits students must complete. Students have the option of completing a thesis or not, depending on their career aspirations. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree in an engineering-related major, GRE test scores, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and an updated resume or CV.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: One and a half to three years
  • Estimated Tuition: $2,148 per credit

Johns Hopkins University – Whiting School of Engineering

The Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering offers both a postgraduate certificate and a master’s of science in applied biomedical engineering. For the master’s degree, students must choose a focus. The areas offered include biomechanics, imaging, medical devices, neuroengineering, and translational tissue engineering. Students gain hands-on experience through a two-week in-person residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The certificate requires students to complete five courses, whereas students must complete 10 for the master’s degree. In addition to prerequisite coursework in math, science, and engineering, applicants for admission must also have a bachelor’s degree in an engineering-related major.

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: One to five years
  • Estimated Tuition: $5,872 per class

How Long Does it Take to Become a Biomedical Engineer?

The most basic requirement for becoming a biomedical engineer is earning a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering. Generally, it takes four to five years to complete a bachelor’s degree.

On completion of this degree, students can take up an entry-level job in the field. Students who wish to deepen their understanding of the field can also opt for a two-year graduate degree in biomedical engineering.

How To Become a Biomedical Engineer – Step-by-Step Guide

Biomedical engineers improve medical care and affect patients’ lives through engineering and technology. An education in biomedical engineering blends studies in medicine, biology, and technology. The minimum educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, while some biomedical engineers have graduate degrees.

The following is a step-by-step guide to become a biomedical engineer:

Step 1: Graduate From High School (Four Years)

First, those who wish to work as biomedical engineers should earn a high school diploma or a GED. This is a requirement at almost all universities or colleges. Students will be required to take courses focusing on biochemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, and any other related subjects during their high school diploma.

Step 2: Earn an Undergraduate Degree in Biomedical Engineering or a Related Discipline (Four Years)

The second step involves enrolling in a four-year biomedical engineering degree. Students can also opt for a bachelor’s degree in any other field of engineering if they are planning to take on a graduate degree in biomedical engineering later on. While it is not a requirement to undertake an ABET-accredited program (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.), it is a necessity if one wishes to obtain a professional engineering license.

Following graduation, students interested in earning their PE license should take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, the first step toward becoming an Engineer in Training (EIT) and earning the PE credential.

Step 3: Get Work Experience (At Least Four Years to Qualify for PE License)

The third step involves gaining employment or work experience in the field after completing a bachelor’s degree. While this is not a requirement, it always helps to gain practical, hands-on experience and those who wish to earn their Professional Engineer (PE) license must have at least four years of experience.

Step 4: Earn a Graduate Degree in Biomedical Engineering (Optional, One Year or More)

The fourth step is earning a graduate degree in biomedical engineering. This will make students eligible for more lucrative opportunities. While a graduate degree is not necessary for entering the field, it will help students get a better understanding of the subject. A master’s degree can be completed in one or two years, while a doctoral degree takes three or more years of full-time study.

Step 5: Get One’s PE License (Optional, Timeline Varies)

The last step is earning a Professional Engineering (PE) license from one’s state board, which helps engineers advance their careers. As mentioned, biomedical engineers must have at least four years of working experience before they become eligible to obtain a PE license. Please note that while there is no biomedical engineering specialization available, there are related exams in biological, chemical, and mechanical engineering.

What Do Biomedical Engineers Do?

Biomedical engineers combine biological and medical sciences with engineering for designing and creating equipment, computer systems, devices, and software used in healthcare.

Their typical responsibilities include the following:

  • Designing biomedical equipment and devices such as machines for diagnosing medical problems
  • Installing, adjusting, maintaining, repairing, or providing technical support for biomedical equipment
  • Evaluating the safety, effectiveness, and efficiency of biomedical equipment
  • Training clinicians and other personnel for using biomedical equipment correctly
  • Exploring how engineering is related to human as well as animal biological systems
  • Writing technical reports, preparing procedures, publishing research papers, and making recommendations based on research findings
  • Presenting research findings to engineers, clinicians, scientists, hospital management, and the public

Biomedical Engineer Certifications & Licensure

All students who want to work as biomedical engineers should consider taking professional licensure to maximize their chances of getting a valuable job and validating their abilities. According to the Biomedical Engineering Society, biomedical engineers do not have state licensing, although some of them may be licensed as professional engineers (PEs).

According to the National Society of Professional Engineers, the following steps are required for earning a professional engineer license:

  • Earning a four-year degree in engineering from an accredited engineering program
  • Passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Completing four years of engineering experience under a professional engineer
  • Passing the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam

According to the American Society for Health Care Engineering (an association for professionals who build and maintain hospitals and other healthcare organizations), there are two types of voluntary certifications available for biomedical engineers working in hospitals.

The first certification is clinical engineer certification (CCE), which is jointly awarded by the U.S. Board of Examiners for Certification in Clinical Engineering and Healthcare Technology Certification Commission. The second one is the biomedical equipment technician certification (CBET), which is administered by the International Certification Commission for Clinical Engineering and Biomedical Technology.

How Much Do Biomedical Engineers Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2020), the median annual wage for biomedical engineers is $98,340. The number of biomedical engineering jobs in 2020 was 18,660 across the country. The percentiles for wages were:

  • 10th percentile: $56,590
  • 25th percentile: $71,830
  • 50th percentile (median): $92,620
  • 75th percentile:$118,930
  • 90th percentile: $149,440

Biomedical Engineer Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as a biomedical engineer.

Become a Diagnostic Molecular Scientist

Diagnostic molecular scientists perform laboratory tests on DNA and RNA to help physicians diagnose illnesses or diseases. They can detect hereditary conditions, cancer, bacteria, and viruses. Often, diagnostic molecular scientists can be involved in medical research, although most work in medical laboratories.

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and the American Medical Technologists (AMT)

Become a Bioinformatics Scientist

Professionals who gather and analyze data related to biological organisms are called bioinformatics scientists. Professionals in this field typically have a background in computer science and biology. Typically they perform research in pharmaceuticals, medical technology, computational biology, proteomics, computer information science, and biology.

  • Typical Education: Master’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: N/A

Become a Biomedical Equipment Technician

Biomedical equipment technicians keep medical equipment up and running. Also known as medical equipment repairers, they work for medical equipment manufacturing companies or large healthcare organizations. They are responsible for the repairs, installation, upkeep, and servicing of all kinds of medical equipment.

  • Typical Education: Associate’s degree or higher
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI)
Farheen Gani

Farheen Gani

Writer

Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).