In the field of biomedical engineering, what are th epros and cons of going straight from undergrad to a master's degee vs going out into the work force?
I go to a school with a strong coop program. I am wondering if it is fiscally responsible to go straight to master's degree, or get a job with a bachelor's degree.
The short answer is: It depends on what you want to do on the job, how marketable you want to be to employers and where you want to live. The longer you stay in school, the more possibilities you'll have later.
I am a biomedical engineer with a B.S. degree. After graduating I went to work for a biotech company instead of pursing a Masters degree. While the work was rewarding and very educating (I dealt with implementing stem cell therapies in the OR), I eventually found myself in a disadvantage in the workforce. My former student peers experienced a very hard time finding work in the field.
Today's Bachelor degree is like yesterday's high school diploma. You might or might not get any real practical knowledge from pursuing a Masters degree, but it will be worth the extra push when it comes to applying to jobs and earning a better wage. On that note, the bioengineering field is highly specialized. While some companies employ BioE's as engineers, many of them look for the BioE background for sales and support jobs. My experience is that most of the interesting and better paying jobs (higher level R&D and management) required a PhD.
Most of the medical device jobs are in CA and Boston. There are jobs elsewhere, but relatively few.
So, if you want a basic skills job like being a technician, an assembly worker or an easier customer support position, than no need to go for a Masters, and consider biomedical technician certifications. If you want to be competitive for the lower to mid-level jobs, go for a Masters. If you want access to the more interesting work, to jobs in the academic world and the higher-level positions, go for a PhD.
Unfortunately, many employers still view the BioE degree as a rare bird, which reduces the chances of getting hired in larger companies or more traditional industries like pharma, manufacturing and even medical devices design. If you want to work in the medical device field and be more competitive, consider completing your undergrad in BioE and doing a Masters in a more traditional engineering field, like mechanical or electrical engineering. Chemical engineering, although similar in curriculum to BioE, mostly leads to lower paying jobs in the fossil-fuels, food or manufacturing sectors.