Previously viewed as a cross-disciplinary field, biomedical engineering is emerging as a stand-alone discipline. In the past, those who were trained in medicine and those who were trained in engineering would collaborate in order to bring innovations in diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment. Today, biomedical engineering is viewed as an independent disciple and a larger number of schools are offering degrees specifically in biomedical engineering from undergraduate through PhD. Innovations in biomedical engineering can be found in all specialties of medicine, including cardiology, oncology, and the development of new pharmaceuticals. Biomedical engineers have been especially important in the development of medical devices and medical imaging.

In order to create these advances and refinements, biomedical engineers need to have a strong understanding of both living systems and technology. By definition, biomedical engineering is an applied science, so biomedical engineers need to be able to create technologies that improve people’s quality of life. A biomedical engineer might work only on one part of a project or might work on every phase of a project, from design to human trials, even including writing computer code.

Biomedical engineers typically begin working after earning their bachelor’s degree and then pursue a master’s degree or PhD as they progress in their career. Also, many schools have programs where students who have an undergraduate degree in a different field can earn a master’s degree in biomedical engineering. However, it is the quality of the school’s faculty and facilities that can make a major difference in your biomedical engineering training. For example, Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) offers students both its Harris Center computing facilities and designated lab areas so that students can work on individual and collaborative projects. FIT also has faculty who are fellows for the American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as well as the president of the International Neural Network Society.

The potential for biomedical engineering to detect diseases early, monitor patients effectively, and restore health after an injury or illness is just beginning to be explored. The opportunities are limited only by the imagination and expertise of the biomedical engineers themselves. There is a high demand for biomedical engineers, but the first step is to find the right school for you. Before choosing on the basis of schools that are just well-known in general, take a look at those that are making strides within the field. While there are many popular schools that have great biomedical engineering programs, don’t overlook the hidden gems that are highly respected among biomedical engineers.