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Should I get a bachelors in Biomedical Engineering? should I go for a more traditional engineering pathway with a minor in biomedical engineering/ neuroscience/ biology? or solely pursue neuroscience?

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I am a High school student who is intuitive and drawn to both engineering and the brain. I am currently not sure whether Engineering or neuroscience will be better with me. Upon thorough research I have come to the conclusion that pursuing a bachelors in an engineering principle will provide me with widest array of options for my future whether it be medicine or engineering. However, I know that biomedical engineering can be too broad and I am not sure whether to pursue a more traditional engineering principle or neuroscience. #biomedical-engineering #engineering #neuroscience

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John’s Answer

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My Test Engineering Department in the Medical Device Industry hires Engineers directly out of college and also work with internships, Senior Project teams at Universities, and Co-Ops. A majority of college graduates aren't sure what they want to do until they get into the industry. Some want to work on the Bio side, others the Mechanical side. Some like the Research mostly, others enjoy working in Product Development or in Manufacturing. Many have moved onto Quality, Marketing, and even Project Management. Most also either go back to school while working (company funded programs) and some go back full time after a year or two in the industry as they realize where their passion is.

What I tell most of my interviewees is that it is perfectly ok not to know what you want to do out of college. Use the company to figure out what you want to do and move into something that makes you excited to come to work everyday. One Director once said that the Degree wasn't important (Biology, Mechanical, Chemical, Biomed, etc.), if they are a scientist, once they get in the industry, they will learn the business.

My advice is when you are in you BS program, try and keep your options open and take a broad range of classes in addition to your degree. And intern or co-op as soon as you can (through the WISE program we bring people in the summer before their freshmen year of College). Intern every year, and apply for internships as soon as possible (look in September). You get paid well, you figure out what you want to do, and you build your resume.
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John’s Answer

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My Test Engineering Department in the Medical Device Industry hires Engineers directly out of college and also work with internships, Senior Project teams at Universities, and Co-Ops. A majority of college graduates aren't sure what they want to do until they get into the industry. Some want to work on the Bio side, others the Mechanical side. Some like the Research mostly, others enjoy working in Product Development or in Manufacturing. Many have moved onto Quality, Marketing, and even Project Management. Most also either go back to school while working (company funded programs) and some go back full time after a year or two in the industry as they realize where their passion is.

What I tell most of my interviewees is that it is perfectly ok not to know what you want to do out of college. Use the company to figure out what you want to do and move into something that makes you excited to come to work everyday. One Director once said that the Degree wasn't important (Biology, Mechanical, Chemical, Biomed, etc.), if they are a scientist, once they get in the industry, they will learn the business.

My advice is when you are in you BS program, try and keep your options open and take a broad range of classes in addition to your degree. And intern or co-op as soon as you can (through the WISE program we bring people in the summer before their freshmen year of College). Intern every year, and apply for internships as soon as possible (look in September). You get paid well, you figure out what you want to do, and you build your resume.
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Stephanie’s Answer

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You need to ask yourself what type of tasks and problems do you want to address. Is it about design, surgical techniques, biologics, then biomedical would be the best bet. If it's more about manufacturing medical devices, you can become a design, process, quality, or validation engineer and would not necessarily require a biomedical degree. There are many medical devices that also require electronics and software engineers.

I would highly recommend that you do co-op at a medical company to get exposure to see which you prefer. My personal experience with my co-op made me realize that designing new medical devices took too long (a knee can take about 10 years). I wanted more action and changed my direction to work on the manufacturing floor. I work with new product launches but I do not design them. I do have some influence with the design in relation to quality concerns and manufacturing abilities.

Stephanie recommends the following next steps:

  • Find a co-op rotation with a medical company.
Thank you for the insight:) Jishnav K. Translate
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Catherine’s Answer

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If you are even slightly considering engineering as a career, I would recommend having some kind of engineering major. If you pursue a science based major but decide you want an engineering career later, you will most likely need some type of graduate degree in engineering.

As a biomedical engineer (both BS/MS degrees), I can agree that my background is much more general than a mechanical or electrical engineer. I think your choice in major should be based on what you think you would like to do in your career. I currently have a great career in Quality and Post Market Surveillance of medical devices and have zero regrets with the path I took to get here. I'll give you a couple of examples of what kinds of jobs you can do with each major:

Biomedical engineering: In my opinion, a great BS degree prior to medical school. You will be able to have an exposure to the technology aspect of the medical field while still getting the physiological background. Plenty of my colleagues have gone on to have successful medical careers after majoring in BME. Some degrees offer concentrations (biomechanics, biomaterial, bioinstrumentation) to make up for the broad curriculum. Do some research about the BME programs of the colleges you are looking at and see if they offer a specialization track. (Edit: based on your interest in neuroscience, bioinstrumentation would be the track for you to look into further).

Chemical engineering: this is a good choice if you would like to work for a pharmaceutical company. Chemical engineers are likely responsible for a lot of the covid-19 testing and vaccine responses being developed right now. R&D jobs in these areas will likely value a ChemE degree a bit higher.

Electrical/software engineering: think diagnostic equipment and software. You will get a higher exposure to circuitry and coding that can be applied across multiple industries (medical, automation, aeronautical, etc.). Any job in this area will most likely require an engineering discipline more specialized than BME.

Mechanical engineering: think CAD modeling and implants. You will get the technical background to model complex designs as well as conduct prototype testing. R&D jobs in this area will also value a MechE background slightly higher than BME.

This is just what immediately comes to mind but I'm sure there's other areas that would benefit from the background of one major vs. another. However, BME is an excellent major if you are not entirely sure what kind of job function you want but know you want to enter the medical field either through the engineering industry or doctorate profession. At the end of the day, your experience in your career will start to be valued more than your major so do not think that your entire career is dependent on choosing the right major.

Hopefully I've given you enough to think about as a starting point - definitely do some more research on what is the best background for your career interest!
This was a great and very thorough insight into what potential pathways could hold for my future! Thank you for taking the time :) Jishnav K. Translate
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Mahriah’s Answer

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Follow your dreams!
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