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In this guide, we will give an in-depth analysis of the top biomedical engineering schools and explain why they are good schools.
This way, you can make a more informed decision about which one you would like to attend, depending on your individual focuses and needs.
Before we dive into the guide and explain the criteria or standards of a top biomedical engineering school, it is important to consider what the study of biomedical engineering entails.
What is Biomedical Engineering?
Many traditional definitions of biomedical engineering will tell you that it is a multidisciplinary major that combines the life sciences (primarily biology) with engineering.
- It is primarily known as the field in which students end up working in the design, creation, and maintenance of prosthetic body parts.
While this information is not untrue, there are a few things to be aware of.
First, biomedical engineering is considered to be the jack-of-all-trades engineering major.
- Its course of study covers electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, biology, chemistry, advanced mathematics, and many other things.
- This is because biomedical engineering is an integration of the life sciences with varying engineering concepts, so a student’s knowledge must cover all these things.
The benefit of this degree is that a student will be able to integrate knowledge from all these areas and perhaps come up with innovative ideas that are not limited to one discipline or another.
- It is also a major that is popular with pre-medical students since it includes many science courses required to apply to medical school, while diversifying student’s application with engineering knowledge.
A potential drawback to a biomedical engineering degree is that students may not gain specialization in any one area.
- For example, while the major offers an introduction to many different engineering fields like mechanical, electrical, and computer science engineering, students do not delve into any one field as deeply as they would if they had majored in it.
In the job market, this could translate into a lack of practical skills and application.
- Employers in the biomedical engineering field do not limit themselves to employing only biomedical majors – they also look for mechanical, electrical, and computer science engineers who may have more extensive practical experiences in their given specialization.
All this is not to say that you should not major in biomedical engineering if you are committed to the field.
These considerations are informative because they tell us what to look for in a good BME school:
- The school should have an actual BME department, rather than only offering BME as a major for students to elect.
Its program should be a comprehensive and truly multidisciplinary one and not just consist of a course list of classes from various departments. Ideally, it should also have BME-specific courses that have an integrative approach.
- It provides students with many chances to get hands-on experience through undergraduate research opportunities, jobs, and internships.
These opportunities are where students may be able to establish their area of focus, achieve specialization, and offset their potential lack in practical application relative to their other engineering peers.
- It prepares students for post-graduation plans and job readiness through undergraduate advising and career fairs.
When studying BME, students must be more intentional about decisions related to their career paths.
A good school should provide students with plenty of advising, guidance, and information about the major.
With these hallmarks of a good BME school in mind, let’s take a look at the top biomedical engineering schools and what they have to offer.
Please note that the schools are not necessarily listed in order below, because some of them tie for certain ranks.
Johns Hopkins University (JHU)
The Johns Hopkins BME program strengths lie in its elite faculty and strong name recognition.
- Undergraduates are taught by professors from two of its most renowned graduate school programs: the Whiting School of Engineering and the John Hopkins School of Medicine.
This comes with a whole host of benefits.
Biomedical engineering students are able to study, network, and work with some of the best engineering and clinical faculty in the world.
- Research opportunities are open to students at both the Homewood and Medical Institutions campuses.
- Essentially, this means students have double the number of lab positions available to at JHU.
- In addition, JHU’s prominence in the field means that it has far reach and strong affiliations with other diverse BME research centers and institutions, where students would be able to get practical, hands-on experience.
Beyond professional experience, JHU has a 5,000 square-foot Design Studio that is available to all BME students.
- It also has wet-labs, a workshop area, a machine shop, and rooms for team conferences.
- Students are encouraged to explore and implement their own projects here and test their ideas’ real-world clinical and global impact.
In terms of advising and career guidance, JHU certainly has the resources, but it leaves it largely up to the students to utilize them.
They offer advising through a comprehensive advising manual that students may refer to and make decisions independently, as well as through in-person academic advising.
- Again, it is up to the students to take advantage of these resources, but given JHU’s prestigious reputation, students should have minimal issues for post-graduation plans if they are self-directed.
JHU states that about one-third of their biomedical engineering graduates go to medical school, one-third go to graduate school, one-third work in different settings, including biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, consulting, and finance.
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
MIT does not actually offer a biomedical engineering degree. Instead, it has a degree for biological engineering (BE).
- The two are similar in that both have a foundation in biology and apply methods to “create real-life applications,” but BE’s application is more wide-ranging and does not limit itself to just medicine.
The MIT Biological Engineering Department is the place to be if you prioritize innovation.
- Where JHU strikes a balance between all potential outcomes of a BME degree, from medical school to industry, MIT focuses on the generation of new knowledge and discovery.
A unique aspect of MIT’s program is that it offers a wide range of joint-degree options.
- For example, students may also pursue degrees in the departments of Biology, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Science, and Civil and Environmental Engineering.
- This is extremely beneficial, since students would then be able to increase their marketability by getting both a multidisciplinary education through their BE major, as well as a specialization in another field of their choosing.
One of MIT’s biggest strengths is that they offer their students plenty of support.
- They have a very user-friendly webpage that includes everything from academic advising to personal support for wellness to careers, jobs, and internships.
Their service is extremely thorough and comprehensive.
- For example, under “advising and academic support,” it lists services for specific needs: writing help, support for students with disabilities, tutoring options, and even academic enrichment opportunities to help freshmen get adjusted to MIT.
- Students will have all the resources they need once they’re at MIT.
Lastly, MIT is a great advocate for its BE students. It candidly admits that “biological engineering is not often recognized by human resources at most companies.”
- As such, MIT proactively hosts a BE Career Expo every year for companies to come and recruit BE graduates. They also have a BE Career Development Office that accepts job-postings year-round and hosts recruiting events for students.
MIT’s efforts are effective as can be seen by this roster of companies that have employed their graduates.
Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)
Georgia Tech’s Walter H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering has a unique story: It is a partnership between Georgia Tech’s public engineering school and Emory University’s private medical school.
Much like at MIT, it is a combination of two renowned and respected institutions.
- BME undergraduates take all their classes on Georgia Tech’s campus, but they also have the opportunities to pursue research at either campus, as well as in Atlanta.
- All these factors make it a good school for both students pursuing industry/graduate studies, as well as students who aim to go to medical school after.
In fact, Georgia Tech has two kinds of four-year plans outlined for students: a traditional BME one and a pre-health one.
For both plans, students must take twelve hours of BME depth electives.
- This is where students may further deepen their knowledge of a specific sub-field and specialize in their degree.
- Georgia Tech gives students the flexibility of choosing in-depth electives from other majors as well, as long as they are on the approved list.
Georgia Tech’s BME department provides students with many opportunities to gain hands-on, practical experiences.
Its BME Design Shop is a workshop where students build something they have designed.
- It is staffed by two design instructors who are there for consultations and to instruct students on proper etiquette and use of tools: laser cutters, 3-D printers, CNC mills, manual lathes, and many others.
There is also a BME Capstone project students may apply to.
- What is unique about Georgia Tech’s Capstone is that students don’t work with faculty but with actual industry leaders and clinicians!
- Students learn about an unmet need in the field and work together on a solution.
Academic advising is available to students, as well as a mentoring program in which BME underclassmen are paired with BME upperclassmen to guide and support them through their course of study.
Looking at Duke University’s BME department pages, we can tell that it is a school that prizes pragmatism.
Duke’s BME program focuses on the practical application of skills and job readiness.
- Duke even quotes Medical Product Manufacturing News on its front page, highlighting that BME graduates from their school are ranked as having the 3rd highest median starting salary.
This pragmatism is reflected in every aspect of their department. The resources and flexibility they provide to students are notable:
Students are able to customize their BME degree in many ways to avoid the “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none” pitfall.
- Like at MIT, they may choose to pursue a dual-major option for their degree.
- But, if students would like to remain focused on BME rather than branch off into another engineering field, they also have the option of an elective course sequence that provides focus in one of these areas: biomedical imaging and instrumentation, biomechanics, electrobiology, or biomolecular and tissue engineering.
There are countless research opportunities at Duke.
- In fact, nearly 70% of Duke engineering undergraduates engage in research with faculty.
- This means that if you aim to do research, it is likely that you can get a position here.
- Not only that, Duke offers independent study for research, meaning students are able to conduct intensive, hands-on research for class credit if their proposal qualifies.
Unlike some other universities that will group internship opportunities for BME students on the general page for all students, Duke has a separate, individual resource page for them.
- It has a detailed four-year plan for students who are looking for internships. This plan is also aimed at getting students ready for post-graduation plans – it tells students when to start finalizing their resume, practicing with mock interviews, and attending career fairs.
- Duke goes one step further and even links employers who accept students for summer internships.
Lastly, consistent with what you have read above, Duke provides its BME students with plenty of academic and curriculum advising.
They have a detailed guidebook, as well as in-person advising.
- While BME faculty do not advise first-year students (because of the high number of students in their department), students are able to meet with general advisors and will be assigned their own faculty advisor once they officially declare their major.
- This means that BME students will be able to receive advising and counseling from someone who understands the specifics and challenges of their major.
This is an ideal school for students who want industry experience after graduation.
Duke University states that many of their graduates go into industry or consulting, a third go to graduate school, and about a fifth enter medical or dental school.
Stanford University offers a BS in Bioengineering (BioE), which is similar to MIT’s biological engineering.
Like biological engineering, it is wider in scope than biomedical engineering.
- It applies engineering principles to both medical and biological systems.
- Stanford’s BioE department is robust and truly interdisciplinary, as it resides jointly between Stanford’s School of Engineering and School of Medicine.
The Bioengineering Department at Stanford does not aim to direct its students strongly toward one career path or another.
- It is a great school for students who know they want to study bioengineering but have yet to figure out what they want to do with it.
Stanford encourages students to explore their interests and choose for themselves.
- To that end, Stanford offers comprehensive advising to help students with their decision.
- Even prospective bioengineering students are able to contact a specialist to talk more about the major and discuss whether it is a good fit for them.
- They have a different set of advisors for bioengineering students who are committed to pre-med, as well as a peer-advising program for students who would like to get advice from juniors or seniors in the department.
While every BioE student will follow a similar track during their freshmen year, they will begin taking core classes during their sophomore year that are important to pursue careers in bioengineering.
After that, they have further opportunities to take courses that are even further aligned with their interests and passions.
One unique aspect of Stanford’s BioE department is that it has an Undergraduate Research Summer Program (REU) that provides students with stipends to conduct research.
- Accepted students are able to work closely with faculty members from the department on advanced topics.
- Stanford’s distinguished status as an “Ivy of the West Coast” also means that it has partnerships across the state (including with companies in Silicon Valley) and the world.
- BioE students have access to opportunities like potential internships with tech giants and abroad.
While Stanford may not guide its students through career and job readiness as closely as some other schools (like Duke University), its name recognition goes a long way.
The internships and jobs page is filled with numerous opportunities and resources for BioE students.
Stanford has its own online platform, Handshake, which serves to connect students to employers.
It hosts many career fairs and provides services for resume and cover letter writing, as well as for interview practice.
University of California – Berkeley
UC Berkeley is another school that offers a Bioengineering major.
- Berkeley is in a period of growth and states that its aim is to increase its international recognition and become one of the top three departments of bioengineering in the U.S.
As such, it is a dynamic department with a clear, directed vision.
UC Berkeley carries this vision and purpose to its teaching model, and students here benefit greatly from it.
- In particular, the BioE department states that it has two current research strengths: cellular engineering for human and environmental health; and technology development for personal and precision medicine.
- If these two areas fall under your interests, then this would be an ideal school for you. UC Berkeley is also ideal for students who love research or who want to pursue bioengineering for the sake of bioengineering.
- UC Berkeley allows BioE students to specialize their degree through four different concentrations: Biomedical Devices, Biomedical Imaging, Cell and Tissue Engineering, or Synthetic and Computational Biology.
- If the concentrations are not enough, students may also pursue a bioengineering and materials science joint major.
As we mentioned above, Berkeley takes its BioE research seriously and encourages its students to do the same: 68% of its Bioengineering students have conducted research outside of a course and, by the end of their senior year, 94% have done research.
- There are a whole host of labs, programs, and immersion experiences for students to choose from.
- UC Berkeley lists suggestions for how students can get funding for their research and even journals that students could try to get published in.
- They offer a Capstone Design Course where students can gain deep exposure to “challenges in the clinical and commercial medical technology environment.”
Lastly, because UC Berkeley values practical experience and application, it lets students know that they can take a semester off to pursue co-op internships if it works within their academic progress.
BioE students are more than well supported by UC Berkeley.
- In fact, each student has three advisors who are available to help them at any point in time: their faculty advisor, BioE advisor, and Engineering Students Service advisor.
Unlike at some other schools, students are required to see their faculty advisor each semester so they will be less likely to fall through the cracks.
University of California – San Diego
UC – San Diego offers several Bioengineering majors – but the only way students can become one as a freshman is to apply as a senior during high school and be admitted.
Specialization is built into UC San Diego’s system, because each area of specialization is a major of its own.
- Students may choose from these four: Bioengineering, Bioinformatics, Biotechnology, or Biosystems. Each major follows a different curriculum flow chart and has different learning and career goals.
- For example, biotechnology prepares students in applying what they learn to cellular and molecular biology, with the aim of developing molecules, cells, and tissues to benefit human health.
- BioSystems prepares students for careers in research and development of applications.
- And Bioinformatics allows for the creation of new therapeutics, patient-specific designer drugs, and customized proteins.
As you can tell, UC – San Diego offers practical majors that address specific interests and concerns within the bioengineering field.
It is a good option for students who already know they are committed to the field and perhaps have an idea about what they want to pursue within it.
- Of all the schools on this guide, UC – San Diego’s Department of Bioengineering is probably the most hands-off.
- While they provide resources for advising, including one-on-one and group advising, the school encourages students to keep track and take charge of their own learning.
- Every student is expected to schedule their own appointments if needed and bring an updated flowchart of their academic progress to advising meetings.
Last, UC – San Diego is an industry-directed and practical experiences-oriented school.
- It requires a Senior Design Project from most undergraduates and Capstone Design course sequence for senior-level students Bioengineering and Biotechnology majors. A
University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)
Bioengineering students at UPenn are surrounded by opportunities – the kinds that are afforded by an Ivy League school.
UPenn’s department is strong in many areas and allows students the space and resources to fully explore the field.
There are two bioengineering degree options here: a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Bioengineering and a Bachelor of Applied Sciences in Biomedical Science.
- The first is a more traditional approach and prepares students for careers in engineering, while the second is more flexible, allowing students to pursue dual degrees and career paths that are not professional engineering ones, like medicine or law.
- Students may specialize in whichever degree they choose with one of eight concentrations that gives focused education on specific fields or sub-topics. These range from multiscale biomechanics to neuroengineering.
UPenn is a strong research school, where over 80% of its undergraduates engage in independent research.
The Department of Bioengineering fosters this in several ways.
- First, students are able to take up to two semesters of independent study to earn credit while working in labs with faculty members.
- There is a year-long Senior Design Project in which students work in small teams of 3-4 to apply their engineering skills to solve medical problems.
- Last, bioengineering students have access to The Stephenson Foundation Undergraduate Laboratory. It is dubbed the “BioMakerspace,” an instructional lab with 3-D printers, a laser cutter, mechanical prototyping equipment, and various other tools.
The course offerings at UPenn are unique and go beyond the traditional bioengineering classes.
- For example, there is a course where students can gain actual clinical experience.
- In this preceptorship, students shadow doctors for 10 weeks and are able to witness and learn about real-life problems in medicine.
Finally, advising and support are easy to come by. Students may directly contact the Associate Director for Advising for Bioengineering if they have any questions about the curricula.
She has walk-in hours, as well as advising by appointment. Every student is also assigned a faculty advisor for one-on-one support.
Additional Top Biomedical Engineering Schools
There are many other schools out there with strong BME programs and may also be a good fit for you. Here is a list of other schools with reputable programs:
- Columbia University
- Boston University
- Rice University
- University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)
- University of Washington
- Northwestern University
- University of California – Irvine
- Stevens Institute of Technology
- Rutgers University
- University of Rochester
- Purdue University
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute
- Clemson University
- University of California – Los Angeles
- Vanderbilt University
- Case Western Reserve University
- Dartmouth College
- Tufts University
- University of Southern California
- Carnegie Mellon University
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- University of Virginia
- Marquette University
- University of Texas – Austin
- Washington University in Saint Louis
- University of Wisconsin – Madison
- University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign
- Colorado School of Mines
- Michigan State University
- University of Illinois at Chicago
- Arizona State University
- Louisiana Tech University
- Florida A&M University
- State University of New York at Stony Brook
Conclusion: The Best Biomedical Engineering Schools
We hope that this guide on the best biomedical engineering schools has been helpful to you!
Of course, do not resign yourself to the schools on this list. Ultimately, whether a school is good for you comes down to your preferences.
Are you looking for independence or a hands-on approach? Do you need continual advising? Would you want to be mentored by upperclassmen or faculty?
Ask yourself these questions as you look to apply to the top biomedical engineering schools. You can always ask us for help!