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Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why study biomedical engineering at degree level?

Want to be at the forefront of life-changing devices? Bioengineering lets you do just that. Read on to find out more about this exciting discipline.

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Biomedical engineering, also known as bioengineering, biomed or BME, refers to the field of study that merges biology and engineering. This unique, interdisciplinary field allows you to cover a wider range of subjects, where you use the in-depth understanding that you have of engineering to solving medical and biological problems.


With technology advancing at such a rapid pace, it is no wonder that the developments in science and engineering are being integrated into the medical sector. Any new knowledge of living systems gained through analytical techniques based on engineering sciences contribute to the progress of medicine. This integration has given rise to the interdisciplinary field of biomedical engineering and as a result, created biomedical engineering jobs.


Prominent breakthroughs in the biomedical engineering field include life-saving and life-changing technology such as artificial organs, prosthetics, surgical devices, pacemakers, EEGs, regenerative tissue growth, pharmaceutical drugs, kidney dialysis, to name a few.  Some of the earlier inventions that you know about today include crutches, dentures, platform shoes and the electron microscope.


Biomedical engineering explained

In short, it is the application of engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology. Biomedical engineering bridges the gap between engineering and medicine, seamlessly combining the design and problem-solving skills of engineering with medical and biological sciences in order to improve healthcare diagnosis, monitoring and therapy.


What are the kinds of sub-disciplines within biomedical engineering?

There are many sub-disciplines within this field, these include:

  • Biomedical electronics
  • Biomechatronics
  • Biophysics
  • Bioinstrumentation
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomechanics
  • Bionics
  • Computational biology
  • Cellular, tissue and genetic engineering
  • Clinical engineering
  • Medical imaging
  • Orthopaedic bioengineering
  • Rehabilitation engineering
  • System physiology
  • Bionanotechnology
  • Neural engineering


Types of skills needed

Below are some of the skills needed when pursuing a degree in bioengineering:

  • Analytical skills- Biomedical engineers are expected to analyse and understand the needs of patients and customers to design appropriate solutions
  • Creativity- Occasionally, thinking outside of the box or beyond normal convention is required so that you can come up with novel and integrative advances in healthcare equipment and devices
  • Communication skills- You will sometimes work with patients and more often than not in interdisciplinary teams, you will need to be able to express thoughts clearly. Look at the ideas from others and incorporate those into the problem-solving process
  • Math skills- Biomedical engineers need to utilise principles of calculus and other advanced mathematics techniques (this includes statistics) for analysis, design and troubleshooting your work
  • Problem-solving skills- You will typically deal and solve problems in complex biological systems, so what might work for one issue might lead to a side-effect that will cause problems for the patient


What kind of qualifications are required?



Image copyright: American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering


Biomedical engineers typically have a Master’s (M.S., M.S.E., or M.Eng.) or a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in BME (biomedical engineering). Many universities offer undergraduate (B.S., B.Eng or B.S.E.) programmes in biomedical engineering to help students realize their dream of becoming a bioengineer. Employers also look for good communication skills in candidates as bioengineers provide a link among professionals with medical, technical and other backgrounds.


Is bioengineering the right major for you?

Are you interested in making a difference and helping improve the lives of millions of people? As a bioengineer, you are given the incredible opportunity to create life-changing and even life-saving devices.


Internship opportunities

Quite a lot of universities today provide plenty of internship opportunities for their biomed students. For example, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne encourages their students to take up research projects either during their holidays or during the course. You can even opt to do a semester abroad to develop a broader understanding of the subject and how it is applied and taught in other parts of the world.


Students can speak to the student affairs office and the university will help pair them up with suitable researchers. Meanwhile, the University of Pittsburgh collaborates with Human Engineering Research Laboratories to provide placements for their students so that they can gain valuable industry experience. Alternatively, you could also opt to seek independent internships on your own. Medical companies and government agencies such as the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering in the US are constantly on the lookout for interns.


To find out more information regarding the kinds of internship programmes that universities or colleges have, we suggest that you contact them directly. We advise students to complete at least one internship or placement during the course of your study to better your chances at being hired when you enter the highly competitive job market. Internships and placements provide you with the perfect platform to network with industry experts and see how bioengineering is applied in a real-world setting. Who knows, your internship might turn into a full-time job once you graduate!


Career paths

As you can probably guess, something this important is highly sought-after, biomedical engineers are employed in top pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, research facilities, government agencies, universities and many more.  In a broad sense, biomedical engineering jobs can include performance testing of new or proposed products, teaching and research, become technical advisors or invent a new machine for medical purposes and so on. This field is still evolving, and you never know what sort of doors will be open once you graduate!


Here are some of the industries/places that need your expertise:

  • Manufacturing
  • Universities
  • Hospitals
  • Private or government funded research facilities (you are normally required to have a PhD for positions here)
  • Education and medical institutions


Some of the interesting things that you can do:

  • Design equipment, devices and machines
  • Install, adjust, maintain and repair biomedical equipment
  • Evaluate the quality, safety, efficiency and effectiveness of biomedical equipment
  • Train clinicians and other hospital staff the proper use of complex biomedical equipment
  • Work with chemists, life and medical scientists to research engineering aspects of human and animal biological systems.
  • Formulate procedures, write technical reports, publish research papers and make recommendations based on your research results
  • Present these results to both the scientific and non-scientific communities


Some of the senior posts in the private industry include:

  • Management marketing
  • Product manager
  • Quality assurance consultant
  • Technical advisor


Your options aren’t just limited to the bioengineering field. You can choose to obtain a graduate degree to lead a research team or take a law degree to become patent attorney. Alternatively, you could opt to pursue a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) and move into more lucrative managerial positions.


Bioengineers are in demand

With the world’s population ageing and a low birth rate in developed countries, bioengineers are best equipped to meet these rising demands. Bioengineers are needed to drive rapid innovations in medical technologies, such as 3-D printing and micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS). Many countries are seeing an increase in the demand for bioengineers.


In Australia for instance, several biomedical giants have set up shop in the country, such as Cochlear (a company that develops cochlear implants), Resmed (a company that creates devices to treat sleep apnea) and Ventracor (as the name suggests, develops artificial hearts). Meanwhile in the UK, numerous state-of-the-art research facilities have been created, including institutes of biomedical engineering at both Imperial College London and the University of Oxford.


Specialisations in biomedical engineering

Bioinstrumentation- this area uses electronics and computer science to create devices that are used to diagnose and treat diseases

Biomaterials- you will look at natural or laboratory-designed materials that are used in medical devices or as implantation materials such as stitches that dissolve on their own etc

Biomechanics- this is the study of mechanics, for instance, thermodynamics and its application/impact on solving biological and/or medical problems

Clinical Engineering- as the name states, you will apply medical technology to improve and optimize healthcare delivery

Rehabilitation engineering- similarly, with this specialisation, you will study engineering and computer science with the sole purpose of inventing devices that can help individuals with physical and cognitive impairments

Systems physiology- here, you will be taught how to use engineering tools to understand how systems within living organisms (for example- bacteria, animals and humans) function and respond to changes in their environment


Average pay for biomedical engineers

According to the U.S Bureau of Labour Statistics report in 2018, the median income for bioengineers is USD 88,550. To give you a more accurate picture, the top 10% earners draw a little over USD 144,350.


Want more information on biomedical engineering degree programmes at undergraduate level?


For postgraduate biomedical engineering options click here


Or download a university’s prospectus now

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