If you’re interested in developing and designing innovations in biology and healthcare, majoring in bioengineering or biomedical engineering might be the perfect choice for you. Bioengineering is one of the highest-paying bachelor’s degrees , and this background is versatile enough to prepare you for a variety of high-paying and fulfilling careers. Although you could have a great career as a biomedical engineer with just a bachelor’s degree, you could also use your undergraduate bioengineering studies as a launchpad for medical school.
How Bioengineering Functions as a Premedical Major
Bioengineering , the broader discipline of engineering that includes biomedical engineering, focuses on applying the principles of engineering design to biology. Many different areas of biology fall under bioengineering, including pharmaceuticals, food and agriculture. When you focus your career in engineering systems, solutions and equipment used in the healthcare field, it falls under the subdiscipline of biomedical engineering.
In any undergraduate bioengineering or biomedical engineering program , you can expect to complete core engineering coursework that equips you with the theoretical knowledge and hands-on skills to design and develop solutions. Your specialized major coursework emphasizes the use of these principles and skills in areas of biology and biomedical applications through classes in introductory biomedical engineering design, the work of defining medical problems to solve, evaluating biomedical design solutions and programming and modeling in the biomedical engineering space. Course sequences in topics like biomedical imaging, tissue engineering, biomechanics, neuroengineering and biomedical informatics offer students the option to concentrate on an area of particular interest.
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What you don’t necessarily get from a traditional biomedical engineering program is the emphasis on laboratory sciences like biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology that medical schools expect. To meet these medical school prerequisites, you may need to carefully select your elective courses or look for a biomedical engineering premedical option . Some of the courses you may choose or be required to take in a premedical bioengineering program include organic chemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, developmental biology, biochemistry and physiology.
Choosing biomedical engineering as your premedical major offers a lot of value, especially if you have a strong interest in medical research and innovation. Often, medical school students and established physicians who come from a biomedical engineering background find themselves looking at problems differently. In addition to employing existing medical technology for diagnostic testing and treatments, practitioners with an engineering background are poised to design and develop new technologies that improve the field of healthcare as a whole.
Interest in the integration of biomedical engineering and medicine has led medical schools and universities to offer joint programs that award a master’s degree or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in biomedical engineering alongside the traditional medical degree.
Deciding If Medical School Is Right for You
Just because you can use your undergraduate bioengineering education to go to medical school doesn’t mean this path is the right choice for everyone. Generally, you should only go to medical school if you actually want to be a physician, rather than an engineer. Bioengineers who go to medical school and earn a Doctor of Medicine (D.M.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree are rare, according to The Houston Chronicle .
Medical school is competitive, grueling and expensive. The median amount of debt students take on just to go to medical school – not counting their undergraduate college costs – is $200,000, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges . What you learn in the classroom and in clinical settings during medical school emphasizes clinical practice, not technological innovation. For biomedical engineering students who want to be engineers, rather than doctors, medical school isn’t the most fitting path for continuing your education.
If you aren’t interested in being a medical doctor, graduate and doctoral studies in biomedical engineering may be a more fitting choice for you. Students can also choose to pivot their careers and research interests by pursuing advanced studies in biology, physiology, neurosciences and similar fields. Some biomedical innovators even launch their own medical device companies and choose to pursue a graduate education in business or entrepreneurship. The options for a bioengineering major are limitless and depend on your interests and your resourcefulness.
You don’t apply to medical school on a whim. By the time you add up application fees to apply to numerous schools (a necessity in this competitive field) and the cost of taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), you’ll spend $5,000 to $10,000, CNBC reported.
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