Professional biomedical engineers work with ideas and technologies in the medical field, driving innovation and product development for the benefit of human health. Medical devices and tools that can provide both cost-effectiveness and therapeutic benefit are in high demand. Today, there are well-paying jobs for engineers who can supply smart solutions to problems in areas such as informatics, point-of-care technologies, prosthetics, neurosensing and biomolecular medicine.
A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biomedical Engineering (BME) is a bottom-line qualification for most entry-level positions. Many advanced positions will require a Master of Science (M.S.), in mechanical or biomedical engineering. Skilled graduates often enjoy above-average salaries even as entry-level employees. Continuing education, however, is crucial for maintaining professional standing.
Like most other programs in science, credible engineering and technology, biomedical engineering programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, or ABET. The following five schools are recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the best biomedical engineering schools in the country out of nearly 330 accredited institutions.
1. Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University (JHU) was at the forefront of establishing the earliest biomedical engineering programs in the United States in the 1950s. The Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering has pioneered numerous cutting-edge medical technologies over the decades. From cardiac defibrillators to pacemakers, many of the great bioengineering achievements of the 20th century emerged from this school.
The Whiting School has also played a pivotal role in building biomedical engineering’s presence in academia. As a result, its program is considered the gold standard by which successful BME programs are measured. JHU offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in bioengineering. It is rigorous, comprehensive and unusually effective at preparing students for real-world employment.
The Department of Biomedical Engineering focuses on seven fundamental research areas: cell and tissue engineering, cardiovascular disease, imaging technology, neuroscience, molecular engineering, bioinformatics, and computational modeling in genetic and biochemical studies. A unique project now open to students is FastForward, a new ‘business accelerator’ facility near the Homewood campus dedicated to supporting up to 16 entrepreneurial student start-ups at a time.
2. Georgia Institute of Technology
The Georgia Institute of Technology, a public university in Atlanta, Georgia, is often referred to simply as ‘Georgia Tech.’ The school’s Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering administers the ‘BioE’ program. It is the most affordable and least selective school on this list, especially for in-state students.
Georgia Tech’s BioE graduate program is unique in that it is not a standalone department but spans eight different academic units across the Colleges of Engineering and Computing. BioE students may pursue joint research with faculty from a wide variety of departments. This structure is designed to promote flexibility in coursework and individualized goals, preparing students for the diverse and often fragmented foci of the BME job sector.
Georgia Tech is an excellent choice for prospective bioengineering students who don’t want to be limited to a particular discipline. The curriculum can be constructed to meet the demands of one’s post-graduation vision of employment.
Qualifying undergraduates can participate in a dual Bachelor/Master degree program with two possible tracks, one offering a bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and the other a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Both tracks lead to a Master in Bioengineering.
3. Duke University
Compared to Georgia Tech, for instance, Duke University has a stronger liberal arts focus and a more prestigious reputation in general, despite ranking just below GT in terms of engineering. It is also the most selective school on this list, accepting just under nine percent of applicants.
At Duke University, the Pratt School of Engineering offers both undergraduate and graduate BME degrees based out of the engineering complex on the west campus. Major areas of research include biomechanics, biomolecular and tissue engineering, electrobiology, neural engineering and imaging technologies. Notable subspecialties include biophotonics and cardiovascular engineering.
The Pratt School works closely with the Duke Medical Center in research areas like nanotechnology and photonics. Famous for its world-class faculty, Duke has employed and graduated dozens of international thought leaders, from Nobel Laureates to Rhodes Scholars and MacArthur Fellows.
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has maintained a strong emphasis on applied technology since its inception during the rising Industrial Revolution of the late nineteeth century. Interestingly, the combined revenue from companies started by MIT graduates would comprise the world’s eleventh largest economy, according to the Kauffman Foundation.
The smallest school on this list with just over 20,000 students across both its undergraduate and graduate programs, MIT is located in mid-size Cambridge, Massachusetts, close to Boston. A Bachelor of Science in Biological Engineering (B.S.B.E.) is available to undergraduates, while graduate students can earn a Master of Engineering (M.Eng).
MIT doesn’t focus on biomedical engineering per se, but on biological engineering, which seeks insight into the molecular basics underlying biomedical phenomena at a deeper level of analysis. The still-young Department of Biological Engineering, founded in 1998, boasts close ties with industry and a cutting-edge orientation with regard to the latest technologies, from surgical robots to artificial hearts.
5. University of California — San Diego
One of the top biomedical engineering schools in the U.S., the University of California in San Diego (UCSD) draws students who want to take advantage of a reasonably priced yet high-quality BME program. UCSD’s attractive campus and students’ ready access to the beach are among the advantages; a slow social scene is a commonly-cited disadvantage.
The San Diego campus of the University of California accommodates both undergraduate and graduate degrees through the Jacobs School of Engineering. The Jacobs School provides a B.S. to undergraduates and dispenses M.S., M.Eng and Ph.D. degrees in biomedical engineering to advanced students. Students may also pursue a dual M.D./M.Eng degree in collaboration with the UCSD School of Medicine.
For undergraduates, BME majors include Bioengineering, Biotechnology, Bioinformatics and Biosystems. Graduate students may specialize in Multiscale Bioengineering, Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering, or Systems Biology and Medicine.