Biomedical engineering has been getting a bad reputation recently. The truth is biomedical engineering is not a bad major, but there’s a good chance it’s not the right choice for you. In this article, we’ll discuss the top 5 reasons why biomedical engineering is a bad major and why it might not be the best choice for you depending on your career goals.
- It’s marketed incorrectly
- It lacks critical design classes
- It’s harder to get internships as a biomedical engineering student
- It’s harder to get full-time employment as a biomedical engineering student
- It lacks flexibility
1. It’s marketed incorrectly
The biggest problem with biomedical engineering is that it’s marketed incorrectly to students. Students who are interested in using their engineering skills to design medical devices (such as prosthetics, heart valves, and wearable sensors) think that biomedical engineering is the best major to do this. It’s marketed as a traditional engineering degree that focuses on biomedical applications, which is not true.
Biomedical engineering is a much broader major than traditional engineering majors. For example, many prospective medical students major in biomedical engineering. This is because most schools design their biomedical engineering classes to contain all of the necessary pre-med classes for medical school. But if you’re majoring in biomedical engineering to become an engineer, then for every pre-med class you’re taking, you’re missing out on an engineering class.
Generally speaking, if you want to major in biomedical engineering to go to medical school or want to go to grad school to focus on more advanced biomedical concepts (think gene therapy, drug design, tissue engineering, bio-printing organs, ect) then biomedical engineering is a great choice. If you want to use your engineering degree to design medical devices (robotics, prosthetics, sensors, ect) then biomedical engineering is a poor choice. In this case, a more traditional engineering degree would be a better option.
Choose BME if
- You want to go to medical school or some other graduate school
- You want to work in more advanced biomedical engineering fields such as gene therapy, drug design, tissue engineering, and bio printing organs (this option will likely require grad school as well)
Don’t choose BME if
- You want to get a job directly after undergrad and don’t want to go to grad school (at least right away)
- You want to use your engineering degree to design medical devices such as surgical robots, prosthetics, heart valves, and wearable sensors
Read Should you Major in Biomedical Engineering? for more information on deciding if biomedical engineering is the right choice for you.
2. It lacks critical design classes
With biomedical engineering, you get a broader range of classes but at the expense of depth of knowledge. Biomedical engineering curriculums have to cut out traditional engineering classes to make space for biomedical ones. Often these classes are CAD, design and manufacturing courses, and advanced versions of courses (such as advanced thermo and fluids courses).
Yes, classes like anatomy and physiology would be helpful in your biomedical engineering career, but the engineering classes would be more helpful. The anatomy of a specific location you’re working on as an engineer can be learned quickly. Learning how to use Solidworks and design for manufacturability cannot be learned easily or quickly on the job.
Employers value these traditional engineering classes more because, as an engineer, those are the skills they are looking for. They have the time and resources to give a crash course on anatomy, but not on engineering.
3. It’s harder to get internships as a biomedical engineering student
Let’s compare biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering. There are significantly more companies that can use a mechanical engineer than can use a biomedical engineer. This makes the companies that hire biomedical engineers more competitive to get into. In college, every biomedical engineer is going for the same few companies that hire biomedical engineering students.
Furthermore, every mechanical and electrical engineering student who wants to apply their degrees to the medical device field will also apply for those positions.
The benefit of majoring in a more traditional engineering major is that you qualify for more internships. Biomedical engineering internships are almost always open to every engineering major. If you struggle to find a biomedical engineering internship, especially as a younger student, you can get an internship in another industry and then apply again next year. Any internship experience is valuable to employers no matter what industry it’s in.
Read 8 Ways to get an Internship with no Experience for tips on finding your first internship.
4. It’s harder to get full-time employment as a biomedical engineering student
The same logic for internships applies to full-time jobs. There are fewer jobs open to biomedical engineers and the ones that are open are being applied to by several types of engineers.
Employers want to see the hard skills you have as an engineer. This is especially true for R&D positions. A common misconception among engineering students is that all engineers are design engineers. There are many engineers that go into quality or manufacturing engineering that never design products. If you want to be a design engineer, it’s important to have technical engineering knowledge.
Employers realize that not every engineer will be familiar with the anatomy that corresponds to the device they’re designing. They are willing to teach engineers the necessary anatomy they need. However, if an applicant doesn’t have a technical skill specifically required for the type of work they would be doing, then that is a problem.
5. Lack of flexibility
The last reason biomedical engineering might be a bad major is the lack of flexibility. With a traditional engineering degree, you can work in any industry. It’s harder to do that with a degree in biomedical engineering.
With both a biomedical engineering degree and a traditional engineering degree it’s possible to have a lifetime career in the medical device industry. However, if you ever wanted or needed to switch out of the industry, it would be a lot easier with a traditional engineering degree.