Focus on Majors - Biomedical Engineering

What makes a major “valuable”? Most would agree that competitive average starting pay, median mid-career pay, growth in salary, and wealth of job opportunities all contribute to value. Biomedical Engineering is one of the majors that is considered most worth your tuition, time and effort. But what is Biomedical Engineering?

The terms bioengineering and biomedical engineering are often used interchangeably. Sometimes, however, bioengineering refers to issues involving animal health and/or plants and agriculture, whereas biomedical engineering refers to a focus on human health.

There are four fields within biomedical engineering: clinical engineering, medical devices, medical imaging and tissue engineering.

  • Clinical engineering involves operating and supervising the use of equipment within hospitals and medical facilities.
  • Medical device engineering is concerned with the invention and operation of diagnostic devices; either devices that help cure diseases or devices that help the body operate normally such as pacemakers, diabetic pumps or dental implants.
  • Medical imaging is concerned with the invention and use of equipment that takes images of the body to help diagnose and create treatment options for patients, including X-Ray machines and ultrasound equipment.
  • Tissue engineering focuses on developing and implementing artificial organs. In some cases, this also includes inventing technologies to regrow organs or create entirely new ones. Other specialties within biomedical engineering are biomaterials, biomechanics, rehabilitation engineering, and orthopedic engineering.

Bioengineering programs provide students with the scientific knowledge and engineering tools necessary for graduate study in the engineering or scientific disciplines, continued education in health professional schools, or employment in industry. Top notch programs provide students with a rigorous education in engineering and fundamental sciences, offer experience in state-of-the-art research in bioengineering, and teach the problem-solving and team-building skills necessary to succeed in a bioengineering career.

All students begin with foundation courses in biology, physics, chemistry, and math. They then take courses in basic engineering principles, computer science, statistics, and applied math. The last two years of most undergraduate programs include courses in materials, fluid mechanics, signals and systems, biomedical imaging, and ethics, among others. Students often have the opportunity to choose electives tailored to their individual interests.

Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering often work in collaboration with health care professionals. Effective communication skills, the ability to work in multidisciplinary teams, and an appreciation of the ethical and regulatory constraints governing the development, manufacture, and distribution of health care products, are all required.

Demand for biomedical engineers will be strong because an aging population is likely to need more medical care and because of increased public awareness of biomedical engineering advances and their benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 10% growth of job opportunities within this field, twice that for most engineering positions.

Engineering programs should be ABET accredited, meaning they meet the standards established by the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology. Look for this accreditation when researching college programs.

Career Paths for Biomedical Engineering Majors:

• Software and hardware engineering
• Medical device industry
• Innovative design and development
• Research and development
• Manufacturing
• Equipment testing and field servicing
• Clinical patient evaluation
• Technical documentation
• Sales
• Hospital equipment selection and support
• Teaching
• Management
• Undergraduate preparation for medicine, dentistry or law

For more information, check out http://www.abet.org/ Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology. Includes information for students about the importance of accreditation, career options, and student perspectives.

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