Is Bioengineering for Me?
Engineers have historically made great contributions to the advancements of medical diagnostic and therapeutic sciences. Biomedical problems are often exciting challenges for engineering solutions. The knowledge that engineers have been perfecting over many years is sometimes underutilized in medical fields. This provides great opportunities for the application of engineering fundamentals and skills.
For example, in the orthopedics field, various implants are designed by engineers in collaboration with surgeons. Engineers also play a significant role in the development of new bio-compatible materials and suitable manufacturing processes for various medical devices. Kettering University works with a number of corporate employers in fields such as electromedical, ophthalmic, orthopedics, prosthetics, surgical instruments, and health services.
In addition to giving you an introductory knowledge of bio-engineering applications, this concentration augments your core mechanical engineering knowledge with a well-balanced combination of materials, manufacturing, and design skills. This combination is preferred by many engineering firms, including medical equipment manufacturers. In other words, participation in this concentration does not necessarily require co-op employment at a medical-related firm. Therefore, you are invited to consider this concentration if the potential of using your knowledge in medical applications is exciting to you, and if
- your chosen co-op employer's product is medical or crash safety related,
- your co-op employer finds the combination of materials, manufacturing and design incorporated in this concentration attractive, or
- your co-op employer has no specific preference as to which concentration you select.
If a company were looking to hire someone to fill a bioengineering job, what qualities would they look for in that person?
"Passion, intelligence, creative, work well with others, flexible and loyal." ~Patrick Atkinson
"Self-starter, self-motivated, general interest in how biological systems function." ~Jennifer Aurandt
"To me the most important thing is a good work ethic and willingness to come to work every day." ~Jeffrey Hargrove
"First and foremost, solid engineering knowledge/fundamentals relevant to what I need (e.g. mechanical design, electronics, fluid mechanics, etc…) Second, hands-on or laboratory experience + familiarity with setting up and conducting experiments. Third, learning potential (self-learner or high maintenance?). Fourth, exposure to bio-subjects. All of the above is moot if I get an uneasy feeling that the person has shoddy work ethics or will prove to be unreliable." ~Massoud Tavakoli
How much schooling should a student pursue if they want to become an active member of the bioengineering field?
"Minimum bachelor’s degree, ideal is a masters or Ph.D." ~Atkinson
"To pursue a career in Biology or Biochemistry I recommend a Ph.D. or Master’s." ~Aurandt
"At least a B. S., then, if by active you mean scientifically active, M.S. for sure. Then, if you really like research at a deep level, Ph.D. Breaking this up with a couple of years of work is preferable if you don’t let it get in your way of going back to school." ~Tavakoli
"That depends entirely on what your goals are for your career. I like to break it down in terms of 'if I had this degree, what am I qualified for?' Here are some examples:
- If you terminate your education with a bachelor’s degree, then you have a degree that gives you a general education with some knowledge in many aspects of the overall profession. However, you are not considered to have any particular expertise in any aspect of that profession. Therefore, you are well qualified for careers such as working for an established company in a bioengineering position, and less qualified for roles of management or leadership, at least at the entry-level.
- If you terminate your education with a master’s degree, then in addition to your bachelor’s you now have a degree that is generally designed to give you education with a focus, or a “specialization” in some aspect of the profession. For example, your master’s program may have focused on biomechanics, or bioinstrumentation, or hemodynamics, or human subject research (this list could go on and on). Whatever the area of specialization may be, you are now considered well-qualified for careers working for an established company in a bioengineering position, especially in your area of specialization, and you are much better qualified for roles of management or leadership in that area.
- If you terminate your education with a doctoral level degree (Ph.D., MD, DO, DVM, etc.), then you are now considered to have EXPERTISE in a very particular area of study. Keep in mind; it is critical that you put this in perspective of what is the difference between, for example, a Ph.D. and an MD/DO (see the question below about going to medical school). A doctoral degree is the highest level of education, and brings with it the greatest amount of opportunity. With a doctoral degree, you are an expert in the profession. You are well qualified for high positions within established companies, university positions (e.g. professors), top leadership positions, research positions, and independent professional practice. A doctoral degree also brings the potential for a lot of personal freedom. Many positions for individuals with doctoral degrees are the types of positions that feature little, if any, direct supervision and a lot of flexibility on hours. These careers are generally the kind of careers that allow you to work in things that are of HIGH interest to you, and therefore you will likely be very dedicated to your work. At the student level (and we’ve all been there) this level of education may seem daunting because it can take a number of years to achieve. However, very few individuals who invest that time regret it. The career opportunities for doctoral level individuals are extremely rewarding, and the time it takes to get there is often very well worth it.
- Finally, a word on the goal of “I want to have my own company ... be my own boss ... blah ... blah ... blah.” This is, of course, is a goal many people have in life, and it is indeed a very worthy and potentially rewarding goal! BUT, if this is your goal, one of the most important things you can do is get education in the thing you covet: business. It’s really very simple: having education in bioengineering is obviously very important to being a good bioengineer, but it doesn’t make you competent at all in developing and managing a business. Keep in mind; the most common reason for a business venture to fail is an inability to manage it. It’s kind of amazing, if you think about it, how many people long to “be their own boss,” but aren’t willing to invest in the education necessary to know just how to do that. If having your own company is your long-term goal, you are well advised to pursue both high levels of bioengineering education (you want to at least be specialized in your area of interest) and also pursue additional education in business. That will pay off greatly in the long run!" ~Hargrove
Do I need a co-op job in a bioengineering field in order to pursue bioengineering education?
"Absolutely not!! It may be “ideal”, but it’s nowhere near a necessity. And in some cases, it can be anything but ideal too. When you’re getting your education, you want to get good engineering experience out of your co-op employment ... period. And good engineering experience is relevant no matter what discipline it comes from. Think of it this way: good experience is valuable no matter what field of engineering you end up working in. Good engineering experience will serve you in ANY field you pursue. And keep this TRUTH in mind – while bioengineering may be your goal right now, nobody can predict how your interests may change over the years. Therefore, any co-op employer where you get an opportunity to gain good engineering experience is a good co-op employer." ~Atkinson
Does my bioengineering education help me if I want to go to medical school?
"Yes, medical schools covet prospective students with good analytical skills. Engineers are excellent candidates, and bioengineering is just that much more helpful." ~Atkinson
How many more years would it take to earn a masters degree in bioengineering? A doctoral degree in bioengineering?
"Typically a master’s degree requires an additional 2-3 years past the bachelor’s level, and a Ph.D. can range from 3-7 more years on top of that. A key to this is knowing what you want your terminal degree (i.e. the last degree you receive) to be. If you know you want to end up with a Ph.D., for example, then you may wish to investigate programs that let you go straight to the Ph.D. beyond the bachelor’s program. This can save you a couple of years and lots of money!" ~Atkinson