Biomedical engineers apply concepts from fields such as mechanical, electrical, computer, and materials engineering to medical disciplines. They study the human body and use their engineering knowledge to help doctors and scientists create solutions for many health problems. Biomedical engineering degrees can lead to careers in research, industry, or hospitals. There are several different sub-disciplines of biomedical engineering, from which a student can choose.
The usual first step for anyone who wants to become a biomedical engineer is to obtain a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree in the subject. At some universities, a bachelor of engineering (B.E.) or bachelor of science in engineering (B.S.E.) is the equivalent degree. A subsequent master of science (M.S.) or master of engineering (M.E.) degree can provide more career opportunities, especially for people who intend to specialize in a very specific area. Someone wishing to pursue a research career in biomedical engineering will generally need to obtain a doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree in the discipline. Many biomedical engineers also obtain a doctor of medicine (M.D.) degree, which enables them to provide patient care or perform clinical research.
Most people who pursue biomedical engineering degrees choose a specialty area, though they obtain a basic understanding of other areas as well. There are several common sub-disciplines in biomedical engineering, which can be roughly divided into disciplines involving medical instrumentation or computer modeling, and those that work more directly with the human body. These fields overlap the most in the areas of orthopedic bioengineering and rehabilitation engineering, both of which involve the creation of artificial biomaterials such as bones, ligaments, and tendons, and the design of prosthetics and assistive technology.
Instrumentation and modeling biomedical engineering degrees include bioinstrumentation. This is the design of devices and computers for diagnosing and treating disease. Clinical engineers usually work in hospitals to ensure that instrumentation and computer records meet the hospital's needs.
Computational modeling, which is a large part of the field of systems physiology, uses computers to process experimental data and construct mathematical models of physiological responses. It can even construct simulations of human organs, which can be used to test new treatments. Bioinformatics and computational biology are used to learn more about genomes, proteins, and other cell components. This is a process that requires enormous amounts of information, and is made much easier and more efficient through the use of computer programs.
Biomedical engineering degrees may focus on almost any part of the human body. Some specializations include cardiovascular systems, tissue engineering, and biomechanics — which focuses on movement in the human body. Molecular, cell, and genetic engineers focus on the microscopic level and are also active in the field of nanotechnology.