The exciting and fast-growing field of biomedical engineering imports the problem-solving principles of engineering to improve applications of biology and medicine. Biomedical engineering professionals work primarily to create and develop new drugs, diagnostic techniques, and treatments for illnesses and injuries. As a biomedical engineer, your work will drive medical innovations and advancements, as well as improve all levels of public health and medical care.
This page introduces the common characteristics of online biomedical engineering master's programs while exploring learning outcomes and career paths. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), biomedical engineers earn above-average salaries, and demand for biomedical engineering professionals will keep pace with overall job growth rates between 2016 and 2026.
Learning outcomes of accredited biomedical engineering online master's programs give graduates advanced, integrated command of engineering principles with respect to their biomedical applications. Students also develop a professional aptitude with modern biomedical engineering tools and technologies, as well as full command of industry-standard best practices, laboratory procedures, and research methodologies. Quality programs aim to arm graduates with valuable depth and breadth of knowledge, positioning them to update their skill sets throughout their careers.
Most programs require students to complete approximately 30-36 credit hours of coursework to qualify for graduation, though exact numbers vary from school to school and may be higher or lower than these averages. Assuming no setbacks, full-time students typically graduate in the equivalent of two academic years, while part-time learners can take up to five years to complete their degrees. Note that many on-campus programs include team-based capstone research projects in their curricula, which sometimes become published and boost participants' career prospects as they emerge into the job market. Evaluate such factors carefully when weighing the relative merits of traditional and online learning formats.
The exact courses you will take for your online master's degree in biomedical engineering may differ, depending on program specifics and the institution where you choose to study. However, accredited programs feature similar core requirements, and you can expect to encounter courses that cover such topics as:
This course covers the essential aspects of cell biology, molecular biology, and human physiology. Students explore these topics through a biomedical engineering lens, learning how these aspects of human biology work in the context of medical pathologies. Learners also cover specific techniques for applying engineering principles to their understanding of common health problems and diseases of biological organisms.
Biomedical engineers rely heavily on mathematical modeling to solve problems, and this foundational course teaches students how to use mathematical and computational principles to advance research and development interests. Coursework also covers the introductory aspects of computer programming, giving learners the tools to create customized assistive tools to aid their quantitative work.
This course introduces students to the main types of materials used in biomedical engineering applications. Learners explore specific topics including biomedical implants, biosensors, cell behavior, and microarrays. Additional studies examine the engineering of biological tissues as well as principles of drug delivery.
The emerging field of bioelectronics integrates the principles of molecular biology with electronic technologies, allowing researchers to create and refine a new generation of diagnostic gear and treatment devices. Specific topics include biomedical sensing concepts, sensing methods, microfabrication, and the differing characteristics of organic and synthetic devices.
Biomedical engineers require a fully developed understanding of biomechanical principles with respect to cell, tissue, organ, and bodily system functions. In addition to these core topics, learners also explore methods of creating theoretical cell and mechanical tissue models, as well as experimental and emerging biomechanical techniques.
Most programs expect students to undertake a major research or thesis project during their final semester or academic year. These requirements give learners the opportunity to apply knowledge to self-selected topics or research interests on a variety of subjects. In biomedical engineering master's online programs, such projects typically ask students to work individually, though some favor collaboration.
These projects require faculty approval and proceed under the guidance and supervision of a faculty adviser. To gain approval, students must formulate projects that fully integrate the interrelated disciplines of engineering, biology, and medicine.
In addition to institutional and programmatic accreditation, look for learning opportunities endorsed by ABET, a nonprofit organization that accredits high-quality university and graduate school programs in engineering, engineering technology, applied science, natural science, and computing technology. Other markers of a good program include highly qualified faculty, strong graduation and post-graduation employment rates, and high student-reported levels of satisfaction. You should research these program characteristics using independent or external sources.
Signs that a particular program might not offer adequate value include loose entry requirements, low graduation rates, and low employment rates. Schools that do not hold applicants to high standards often do so to attract students who do not have the academic performance credentials to earn admission to reputable programs. Low graduation rates often signal student dissatisfaction with the program, while low graduate employment rates suggest employers do not hold the institution in high regard.
An online master's degree in biomedical engineering marks a critical step toward entry into a wide range of exciting and rewarding careers. Many graduates go on to positions in research, product development, quality control, and other specialized professions. Some graduates even use their biomedical engineering backgrounds to get into medical school, where they train to become physicians.
While you will have the academic credentials needed to transition into a biomedical engineering career, every employer has different requirements. Having a biomedical engineering master's degree can open up the following career paths, but it does guarantee your eligibility for available job vacancies. Some of these professions may also require additional training, certification, and licensure.
Typical duties include the design and development of biomedical assets such as prosthetics and orthotics, imaging equipment, diagnostic devices, and artificial body parts. Many engineers participate in biomedical engineering research, where they conduct tests on both existing and emerging technologies to assess their continued safety and identify areas for performance improvement. These engineers also help select, configure, and maintain laboratory equipment in addition to supervising the formulation and implementation of lab protocols and procedures.
Biomedical scientists focus on research activities. They design and carry out studies that test the effectiveness of emerging and existing treatments and techniques, analyze data gathered by other researchers, and create standardized methodologies for the reliable, safe, and efficient manufacturing of medicines, medical devices, and equipment. Medical scientists also require advanced writing skills and strong persuasive faculties, as many of them write proposals and grant applications seeking research funding from public and private agencies.
This entry-level career path covers support roles in research and development laboratory environments. Medical and clinical lab technologists calibrate, operate, and maintain lab equipment, log laboratory activities, and carry out tests and procedures under the supervision of senior personnel. Many new entrants to this career have bachelor's degrees; holding a master's in biomedical engineering can make you a more attractive candidate, helping you secure a job with growth potential that leads to increased levels of responsibility.
If your biomedical engineering online master's program offers a biophysics concentration, you can pursue a career in this specialized area. Biophysicists lead the planning and execution of research projects. They also write reports, author research studies, and make recommendations to stakeholders in keeping with their professional activities. Work in this research-intensive field covers advanced topics, such as molecular analysis, computer modeling, and disease pathologies. A master's degree may suffice for entry-level support roles, while leadership roles typically require candidates to hold a Ph.D.
A specialization in the broader field of mechanical engineering, biomechanical engineers lead the design, conception, testing, development, and refinement of specialized devices and implants used in medical imaging, diagnostics, and treatments. They also evaluate and analyze legacy devices to find ways of improving their performance. When new or improved devices are ready to go into production, biomechanical engineers play leadership roles in the design and supervision of manufacturing processes.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
BLS analysts project that demand for biomedical engineers will keep pace with overall job growth rates over the 10-year period between 2016 and 2026. As in many science and medicine-related fields, candidates with specialized proficiencies will likely enjoy higher rates of demand, though the overall number of jobs available in some specialist categories may be significantly smaller than generalist job classes. On the whole, experts predict a strong near-term future for employment-seekers with master's degrees in biomedical engineering.
Innovation drives the field of biomedical engineering, so career-minded individuals should take advantage of ongoing skills development and networking opportunities. Professional organizations offer these and many other advantages through programs like annual conferences, training workshops, career services support, and exclusive access to high-quality job boards.
Consider these leading organizations:
With a complete suite of educational opportunities, including webinars and in-person training programs, the BMES supports both emerging and established biomedical engineering professionals across the United States.
IBE provides excellent career support services, including a regularly updated job board and resume development support. Members also enjoy discounted access to the organization's many industry events and conferences.
Based in Washington D.C., the prestigious AIMBE works to advance public policy related to the field of biomedical engineering. The organization also offers special programs and extensive resources to student members.
EMBS serves as the biomedical engineering wing of the IEEE, the world's largest and most prominent organization for technology professionals. Global in scope, EMBS offers extensive community services to its robust membership.
Founded in 1977, the ASB caters to professionals in five specific disciplines: biology, engineering and applied science, ergonomics, exercise science, and health sciences. It offers ongoing educational initiatives and regular networking events.
Doing a biomedical engineering online master's degree tends to cost less than attending traditional classes, but many students still need to look beyond their own resources to pay for their schooling. In addition to personal savings, contributions from family members, and money earned through employment or investments, students can consider these funding options:
If you need loans to help cover program costs, you can start by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Each year, the ED awards approximately $150 billion in student aid, and submitting a FAFSA form automatically determines your eligibility for all federal loan programs.
Some professional organizations offer scholarships to biomedical engineering students. Benefactors will typically ask applicants to display a strong commitment to the field through strong academic achievement and robust participation in extracurricular initiatives. International, national, and regional organizations all offer these opportunities, so cast a wide net with your research.
The school where you plan to pursue your biomedical engineering online master's may offer its own set of scholarship opportunities to incoming and established students. While award amounts tend to be more modest with program scholarships, applicant pools also tend to be smaller, which can increase your chances.
If you still have gaps in your financing plan after exhausting all federal aid programs and scholarship opportunities, you can consider private lenders. Personal finance experts recommend considering these options only as a last resort, as their repayment terms tend to be significantly less flexible than those offered by public lenders.