What Is Biomedical Engineering?
As the name suggests, biomedical engineering sits at the crossroads of engineering, biology, and medicine. But what does this mean, practically speaking? Think of medical devices such as pacemakers or 3-D printed hip replacement implants. These breakthrough technologies were designed by biomedical engineers to provide treatments for common ailments. Approximately 18,000 biomedical engineers currently work in the U.S., and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects this number will grow by 10% over the next nine years.
Keep reading to learn what it takes to become a biomedical engineer, what to expect as a student, and where to find the best biomedical engineering schools in the nation.
Best Biomedical Engineering Schools in U.S.
To find the top biomedical engineering schools in the U.S., we looked at hundreds of colleges and universities to create a ranking based on Universities.com standards and criteria. The right school varies from person to person, but these 10 should give learners an idea of what to look for when selecting a program.
MIT's Department of Biological Engineering offers both a bachelor's degree and a PhD in biomedical engineering. The department maintains active research areas in topics such as biophysics, macromolecular biochemistry, nanoscale engineering, and synthetic biology, among others. The department also regularly hosts events and seminars, including the annual Neurotech Symposium.
The Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell offers degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. As one of the top biomedical engineering schools in the nation, Cornell provides concentrations for specialty studies in the following areas:
- Molecular, cellular, and systems engineering
- Biomaterials and drug delivery
- Biomedical imaging and instrumentation
- Biomechanics and mechanobiology
Students enrolled at Stanford University's School of Biomedical Engineering can complete a bachelor's and master's degree in biomedical engineering simultaneously as part of a special coterminal program. They can also choose from standalone degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Learners can also participate in the Graduate Training Program, an option for pre-doctoral students looking to lead innovators in global biotechnology.
Duke University's biomedical engineering department provides degrees at every level, making it easy for students to find a program that works for them. Interested students can take part in several virtual events held across the academic year. Enrolled students benefit from several research centers, including those devoted to these specializations:
- Biomedical and health data sciences
- Biosensors and bioinstrumentation
- Computational modeling of biological systems
Undergraduate and graduate biomedical engineering programs can be found at Dartmouth College, with each learner getting to create a plan of study that highlights their interests and research focuses. Leading faculty possess specialty knowledge in areas such as imaging and physics, biomechanics, devices and diagnostics, and molecular engineering. The school also plays home to the Biomedical Engineering Center for Orthopaedics, a leading laboratory.
In addition to a popular undergraduate program, Berkeley's Bioengineering department provides Master's Degrees in Biomedical Engineering and translational medicine as well as a doctorate program. Research interests include bioinstrumentation, biomaterials and nanotechnology, cell and tissue engineering, computational biology, and systems and synthetic biology. The department regularly hosts in-person and virtual events for interested students.
The McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern provides undergraduate and graduate degree options, including a combined bachelor's and master's program. With a focus on interdisciplinary studies, the school actively collaborates with 31 other departments within the university and maintains 10 interdisciplinary research centers. An excellent choice for students interested in biomedical research, the department received $37 million in research funding last year, alone.
Rice University's Department of Engineering provides bachelor's and master's programs alongside a PhD. Currently, the department is waiving all graduate application fees. Graduates include a MacArthur Foundation Fellow and nine American Institute for Medical & Biological Engineering Fellows. The department focuses on 10 research areas, including tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, immunoengineering and cancer, global health technologies, and genome and epigenome engineering, among others.
Bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in biomedical engineering can be obtained at Johns Hopkins University. The faculty focus on several research areas, including immunoengineering, computational medicine, biomedical data science, and genomics and systems biology. Students interested in learning more can attend one of several virtual meetings offered each semester.
Penn Bioengineering provides undergraduate, master's, and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering, with research focus areas including orthopaedic bioengineering, injury biomechanics, biomaterials, systems and synthetic bioengineering, and bioengineered therapeutics, among others. In addition to standard education programs, the department also offers several global opportunities.
What to Expect as a Biomedical Engineering Major
As a biomedical engineering major, students can expect to engage in rigorous, scientific coursework that introduces them to major tenets of the discipline and instills the skills hiring managers look for in graduates.
Types of Biomedical Engineering Classes
Each school sets its own unique curriculum, which means classes can vary from program to program. That said, students can typically anticipate taking some standard coursework. Some of the topics commonly covered include:
- Biotransport and Kinetics
- Biomedical Signals and Images
- Intro to Biomechanics
- Physiological Systems
- Biomedical Computation
Skills Learned in a Biomedical Engineering Major
As biomedical engineering students build important skills throughout their time in school. These skills in turn help students secure jobs after graduating or prepare for advanced degrees. Some of the skills most sought after in this field include:
- Ability to design and test new medical devices, products, and equipment.
- Ability to design and test new approaches to medical procedures, including surgical robotics.
- Excellent communication, especially in writing reports and documenting findings.
- Professionalism when working with researchers, physicians, and scientific peers.
- Commitment to continued research and education
How Long Does it Take to Get a Biomedical Engineering Degree?
Time spent earning a Bachelor's in Biomedical Engineering can vary based on multiple factors. First-time learners enrolled on a full-time basis typically spend four years completing their degree, while those who already possess a related associate degree can graduate in about two years. Part-time learners typically need six years to graduate, while learners enrolled in accelerated programs can graduate in as few as three years.
Biomedical Engineering Degree Specializations
As with other facets of a degree, specializations offered vary across schools and programs. Students should carefully review several options to find a college that caters to their interests. Common specializations include:
- Medical Imaging
- Biotechnology and Nanomedicine
- Biomedical Technology & Entrepreneurship
- Global Health
- Biomedical Cell & Tissue Microdevices
What Can I Do with A Biomedical Engineering Degree?
Biomedical engineering graduates can take their careers in many different directions after graduating, ranging from roles in medical device development and manufacturing to clinical patient evaluation and hospital equipment selection. We drill down into a few popular careers in the next sections.
Biomedical Engineering Salary and Career Information
Entering the field of biomedical engineering makes great sense from a professional standpoint, with graduates commonly earning close to six figures annually. As of 2021, biomedical engineers earned a median salary of $97,410. As the world of healthcare looks to incorporate more robotics into surgical procedures and leans more heavily on medical devices, jobs for these professionals are also projected to grow in the coming years. The BLS reports an anticipated growth of 10% by 2031, although projections do not guarantee growth.
Biomedical Engineering Career Paths
Biomedical engineering graduates can choose from several careers, including those listed below.
- Median Salary: $97,410
- Career Outlook: +10% (2020-2030)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
These professionals design devices, software, systems, and procedures for use in the medical field.
- Median Salary: $98,300
- Career Outlook: +6% (2020-2030)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Materials engineers focused on biomedics design and produce the materials used in medical devices and apparati.
- Median Salary: $95,310
- Career Outlook: +17% (2020-2030)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Medical scientists oversee research studies and clinical trials aimed at improving human health.
How to Get Into The Top Biomedical Engineering Colleges
Admissions procedures vary from school to school, but many of the steps look similar. These commonly include:
- Earn a GED/High School Diploma
- Take any required entrance examinations (e.g., SAT, ACT, GRE)
- Create a list of prospective schools
- Meet GPA requirements
- If applying to a graduate program, meet work or research experience requirements
Admissions Requirements for Biomedical Engineering Degree Programs
Admission requirements for the top biomedical engineering programs vary from school to school, making it important that learners carefully review the steps for each. Some common components include:
- Standardized test scores - Many schools set minimum score requirements
- Official transcripts - These should be provided from any institutions previously attended
- Letters of recommendation - These typically come from current/former professors, supervisors, mentors, or guidance counselors
- Personal statement - These provide the opportunity for students to discuss why they want to study biomedical engineering, how they plan to use the degree, and why a particular program stands out to them
- Application fee - These typically range from $25-$100 per school
Biomedical Engineering Schools FAQ
Is a biomedical engineering degree worth it?
- Earning a biomedical engineering degree provides the qualifications and credentials needed to qualify for a variety of jobs, depending on the degree level. The medical device market is currently worth $550 billion and is anticipated to grow to $850 billion by the end of the decade. Medical devices represent only one facet of biomedical engineering, demonstrating the strength of this field.
What jobs are available in biomedical engineering after graduating?
- Biomedical engineering graduates can choose from several jobs in different industries. Those interested in development may focus on jobs in research, testing, and evaluation, while individuals who enjoy working with patients may focus on clinical evaluations and device fitting. Plenty of roles also exist in sales for medical devices, software and hardware, and robotics.
Are biomedical engineering graduates in demand?
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for bioengineers and biomedical engineers are projected to grow by 10% between 2021 and 2031, leading to the creation of 1,700 new roles. The BLS also projects about 1,200 annual openings due to professionals moving into different roles or retiring.
What's the highest-paying job in biomedical engineering?
- Biomedical engineers are the highest-paid biomedical engineering career path, earning a median annual salary of $97,410 in 2021, more than twice the median average for all occupations. Professionals in the top 10% of earners received more than $154,750 during the same year.
Can I earn my biomedical engineering degree online?
- Many colleges and universities offer online biomedical engineering programs, making it easier for busy students to balance professional, personal, and academic requirements. These programs can typically be found at every academic level, although some programs may mandate a few in-person meetings over the course of the degree.