*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Biomedical Engineers, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm (visited March 24, 2022).
A standard bachelor’s degree takes about four years to complete. You should know that, while you may be able to complete some courses online, you will need to complete several courses in person. Lab sections are a big part of the process, as are internships and practical experience.
For those working full-time or juggling family responsibilities, a biomedical engineering degree may take a bit more time. Because programs require in-person courses and lab work, you may need to rearrange your schedule to make this work for you.
A degree in biomedical engineering ranges considerably depending on where you decide to go to school. Private colleges, for example, tend to cost more than public universities. Students attending a school in their home state pay less than those attending school out-of-state. And, location also comes into play. On average, aspiring biomedical engineering students can expect to pay between $25k and $100k earning their degree.
Before you start applying to schools, do some research on the programs they offer. Some schools provide general engineering programs, which will allow you to pursue a career in biomedical engineering, but you may need to complete an additional certification to get up to speed.
An engineering degree is a good option for students unsure of what they want to do after graduating. However, those set on the biomedical specification may be better off in a program focused on developing the skills needed to succeed in the medical space.
Finally, a school with a biomedical engineering major—rather than traditional engineering only—will provide more resources like state-of-the-art lab facilities or the opportunity to learn from experts in the field.
Graduation rates are considered a good indicator of whether a school provides a quality education or not. A school with a low graduation rate could be a sign that students don’t have access to the resources needed to help them succeed. Or, perhaps required coursework isn’t offered regularly and students can’t complete their degree on time.
Whether students graduate within four years isn’t the only thing you want to consider. A school that graduates every student on time may have an easy curriculum—thus not providing the best education.
In any case, graduation rates, along with faculty experience, campus resources, and the program itself, all come together to paint a full picture of what your education might look like.
Biomedical degree programs receive accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). This organization ensures that programs include classes in calculus, engineering, chemistry, and physiology and that students spend adequate time learning in a hands-on environment.
Colleges that offer job placement assistance may provide more bang for their buck than you’d get if the university sends you into the real world unprepared. Take some time researching schools, specifically asking about how they can help you find work in your area of interest.
Additionally, biomedical engineering students can expect some internship or capstone requirement that sends them into a real-world setting. Looking at this aspect of the curriculum, too, can reveal whether or not a program will prepare you for the work you’d like to do after you complete your studies.
We should also mention that biomedical engineering is a field that depends heavily on networking with other scientists and engineers. With that in mind, prospective students should seek out programs that have distinguished faculty and opportunities to work with professors and fellow students in a hands-on setting.
In most cases, you can expect to find work if you’ve completed your studies in an ABET-accredited program and have developed the competencies needed to work in the field. National rankings can give you a boost if you’ve attended a top school, but state schools and smaller colleges can also offer an excellent education.
As far as reputation is concerned, your best bet is to look more at the program than the university. You’ll want to find a school that offers the best possible education for your budget and has a strong biomedical engineering program. Look at the faculty and their accomplishments, see if you can tour the laboratories, and look closely at the curriculum. In all, your degree should provide a well-rounded education; a bachelor’s degree is a stepping stone to your next phase in education or that first job. As such, don’t take this lightly.
In general, your best bet is to find an ABET-accredited program with a curriculum that combines engineering skills with the biomedical sciences. Some students choose to focus on a specialization like biomechanics or bioelectricity, while others opt for a biomedical engineering degree, or even a standard engineering degree.