Biomedical Engineering Degrees: Bachelors, Associates & Online Course Info

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What kind of jobs can you get with an associate's and bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering? Find out degree requirements, online options and info on courses in biomedical engineering.
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Studying Biomedical Engineering: Degrees at a Glance

Biomedical engineering focuses on the development of instruments and equipment that diagnose medical problems and improve patients' health. Types of instruments and equipment include X-ray machines, scanners, software, artificial devices and limbs, electronic beds and wheelchairs. Associate's degree programs are available in biomedical engineering technology, while bachelor's degree programs are available in biomedical engineering. With an associate's degree, individuals are qualified to work as a biomedical engineering technician. Those with a bachelor's degree can work as a biomedical engineer.

While biomedical engineers are responsible for designing these types of machines, biomedical engineering technicians are the professionals who will install, maintain and repair them. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2010-2020 biomedical engineering technicians such as medical equipment repairers are expected to experience a 31% growth in employment, while biomedical engineers are projected to see a 62% growth in job opportunities.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want to work as biomedical engineering technicians Those who want to work as biomedical engineers
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) -Biomedical engineering technicians ($47,000)*
-Biomedical engineers ($88,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full time 4 years, full time
Common Graduation Requirements -About 20-24 courses
-Practicum
-About 40-48 courses
-Capstone project
Prerequisites -High school diploma
-High school diploma
Online Availability Hybrid No

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Biomedical Engineering Technology

An associate's degree in biomedical engineering technology teaches students how to work with complex medical equipment and understand how to maintain, calibrate and modify these instruments. Students will learn how to identify and solve technical problems in the field and communicate with other medical professionals to learn why equipment is not working properly. In order to prepare students to work as biomedical engineering technicians, the program will teach them about different applications in mathematics, engineering, science and technology. Graduates will be prepared to work in all types of hospitals or other medical facilities.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Employment growth will be spurred by demand for healthcare
  • Advancements in technology will also increase jobs
  • Graduates with associate's degree will have best job prospects

Cons

  • The job may sometimes be stressful
  • Traveling long distances to make repairs might be necessary
  • Might need to work nights and weekends

Courses and Requirements

Students in an associate's degree program in biomedical engineering technology will take a variety of courses related to engineering and technology. While the program will initially require students to complete general education requirements and basic science courses, the second year of the program will include engineering and technology courses. Second-year courses cover topics such as biomedical instrumentation, digital electronics and biomedical engineering design. A practicum allows students to work in a real-world environment and learn under a professional biomedical engineering technician.

Online Course Options

Fully online associate's degree programs in biomedical engineering technology are not available because students are required to complete laboratory work on-campus and a practicum in the field. However, certain theoretical courses might be available online, including issues in biomedical engineering and technology as well as courses in special patient populations.

How to Stand Out

While certification isn't required to work in the field, it does demonstrate to employers a certain level of competence. The Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET) designation is offered through the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. It's also important for students to have strong manual dexterity and the technical knowledge to help them troubleshoot problems with equipment.

Bachelor's in Biomedical Engineering

A biomedical engineering program at the bachelor's degree level teaches students how to apply engineering and technology principles to issues involving health and medicine. Students will learn about different types of medical devices, artificial implants, biomaterials and biomedical instrumentation. A capstone project offers students an opportunity to perform research in the field and solve real-world engineering problems. Graduates will have the option to begin employment in the field or continue their education at the graduate degree level.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Opportunity to create life-saving devices
  • Work in a comfortable environment
  • Aging baby-boom population is expected to increase job opportunities

Cons

  • Might need to complete on-the-job training in addition to having a degree
  • Need a graduate degree to work in research
  • Stressful deadlines might be part of the job

Courses and Requirements

Before taking advanced biomedical engineering courses, students will need to take foundational courses in chemistry, biology and engineering. As students advance in their academic career, they will complete higher-level biomedical engineering courses. These courses cover areas involving biomaterials, biocomputing, biomechanics, bioimaging and biological systems design.

Online Course Options

Online biomedical engineering bachelor's degree programs are not available, because students will have several on-campus requirements, including laboratory sessions in subjects like chemistry and physics and higher-level biomedical engineering courses. If students do come across an online program in the field, they need to make sure it is accredited through the ABET (previously known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).

How to Stand Out

Graduates are required to have strong analytical skills in order to understand the needs of patients and be able to communicate with medical professionals about problems occurring in the equipment. In order to develop new and innovative machines, biomedical engineers also must gather information from physicians, nurses and patients about what is needed in the medical field; this can help them develop solutions to health-related problems. It's also important for biomedical engineers to stay current with technology systems in order to develop new instruments and equipment.

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