How To Become a Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineers with prosthetic arms

Do you have a passion for medical science, yet aren’t sure you want to work directly with patients? You might consider becoming a biomedical engineer. Biomedical engineers are professionals who work in the STEM field. They focus on solving current and emerging medical problems and improving healthcare solutions for patients. It’s an excellent career for people who enjoy intellectual challenges and creative problem-solving.

Are you curious about how to become a biomedical engineer? First, take a closer look at exactly what biomedical engineers do, and then begin working toward earning your biomedical engineering degree.

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What Does a Biomedical Engineer Do?

As the term suggests, the field of biomedical engineering sits at the intersection of medical science, biological science and engineering. In a nutshell, biomedical engineers design and build new devices, software and equipment for the healthcare, bioscience and biotechnology industries. The work is incredibly varied. For instance, an engineer who specializes in bionics might work on making improvements to artificial limbs and digits, whereas an engineer who specializes in medical imaging might design new CT scanners.

The specific tasks of a biomedical engineer vary widely depending on the job and specialty. In general, they may include the following:

  • Design new equipment and other products, ranging from artificial organs to pharmaceuticals and patient care equipment
  • Visit healthcare sites to install, service or troubleshoot equipment, and train clinicians on usage
  • Resolve safety and effectiveness issues with manufacturing staff
  • Write up findings in technical reports and research papers

In order to perform their job well, biomedical engineers must be highly inquisitive people who enjoy learning new things. Creativity and innovative thinking are must-haves, as are communication skills and a teamwork-oriented mindset.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Biomedical Engineer?

The minimum requirement to become a biomedical engineer is a bachelor’s degree. This generally takes four years of full-time study. You can enter the workforce with just a bachelor’s degree. You might opt to complete a master’s degree in the field later if you wish to advance to high-level positions in your organization.

The process of how to become a biomedical engineer may look a little different for people who are interested in a career transition. If you already hold a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field, you can generally expect to need a master’s degree. You might need to take a bridge program which is designed to help students transition to a new area of study.

If you do decide to earn a master’s degree, the length of time it will take to complete it will largely depend on the program you select and whether you enroll as a part-time or full-time student. As a general rule of thumb, expect it to take about two years to complete. Some biomedical engineers also hold a doctorate degree. A doctorate degree requires students to conduct original research that adds to the overall body of knowledge in the field. Students must also complete a dissertation. The timeline to complete a doctorate degree varies, but averages about four to six years.

How To Become a Biomedical Engineer: An Overview

The process of how to become a biomedical engineer can begin as early as high school. You can start by taking more STEM courses in order to build your foundational knowledge. After you graduate, you’ll move on to an undergraduate degree program. It’s best to choose a program specifically designed for biomedical engineering. It isn’t necessary to earn a graduate degree, although you may choose to do so after you graduate with a bachelor’s degree or at some point during your career.

Lastly, there are some certifications you might consider earning to further enhance your employability. These professional certifications are largely voluntary, although some government agencies may require their engineers to possess them.

What To Do in High School To Become a Biomedical Engineer

If you’re still in high school and already know that you have an interest in biomedical engineering, there are a few things you can do now to pave the way toward your goal. However, there is no need to fret if you’ve already graduated from high school or are close to that point.

For those still in high school, it’s a good idea to speak with a guidance counselor about career aspirations. Although not many high schools offer courses specifically in biomedical engineering, you can take advantage of all opportunities to take more general STEM courses, as well as courses related to health and medical sciences. Computer programming courses can also be helpful, as some biomedical engineers work with code.

Humanities courses are also helpful for aspiring engineers. You’ll need to be able to communicate effectively with your colleagues and clients. In fact, communication skills are particularly important for STEM professionals as they must often explain complex concepts to non-STEM professionals using easy-to-understand language.

Along with your coursework, extracurricular activities will prove useful to you. Sign up for related clubs, such as a robotics team, math club or coding club. In addition, consider attending a STEM summer camp or similar program to gain an immersive experience. These activities will not only expose you to fundamental skills and knowledge but will also help you gain admittance to college.

Earning Your Biomedical Engineering Degree

Prepare for an exciting learning experience in college as you work to take on modern challenges in healthcare. It’s best to look for a biomedical engineering degree program that blends classroom instruction with hands-on experience. This hybrid model will give you a framework of knowledge to draw on, while also preparing you to tackle real-world challenges.

The specific curriculum will vary from one school to the next. In general, you can expect to take plenty of coursework in mathematics, including statistics and calculus. You’ll also take science courses, such as chemistry, physics and biology. Biomedical engineering-specific courses can include medical physiology, biomechanics, biomedical instrumentation and devices and elements of biomedical design.

While you’re working toward your biomedical engineering degree, you may want to start thinking about whether you want to specialize in a particular area. There are several specialization options for this career, including the following:

  • Tissue engineering
  • Genetic engineering
  • Medical device engineering
  • Pharmaceutical engineering
  • Medical imaging
  • Bionics

If a specialty appeals to you, talk to your academic advisor. You may be able to take elective courses that will support your intended specialization. Another option is to pursue internship opportunities at a company that specializes in that particular area of biomedical engineering.

Is There a Demand for Biomedical Engineers?

The job marketplace for biomedical engineers looks favorable for the foreseeable future. A brisk rate of employment growth is attributed in part to emerging technologies. As new, advanced technologies become available, there is the potential to put them to use in the medical field. For instance, biomedical engineers can use 3D printing for biomedical applications.

In addition, the U.S. population is aging. As baby boomers grow older and need more medical care, there is a greater demand for biomedical advances that can support their lifestyles and overall wellness.

You can begin the exciting journey toward becoming a biomedical engineer by applying for admission at Grand Canyon University. The College of Science, Engineering and Technology is pleased to offer the Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering degree program to the next generation of innovative, forward-thinking individuals. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to find out how GCU can help propel you toward a rewarding career in STEM.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.