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How Much Time Does It Take to Become a Biomedical Engineer?

by Kristine Tucker

Biomedical engineers must complete college-level coursework to obtain a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering. Full-time college students can usually complete the degree requirements in four years unless they pursue double majors or minors that require additional course completions. Some biomedical engineers pursue advanced degrees and complete doctoral programs, but they aren't necessary to enter the field of biomedical engineering. Biomedical engineering university professors, researchers and specialists in the field are most likely to pursue additional degrees beyond a bachelor's degree.

Core Requirements

First-year college students must complete core academic requirements that are often prerequisites for future academic courses. Some students receive credit for entry-level, college-equivalent courses they took in high school as long as the courses meet the minimum requirements and students received passing grades. For example, Georgia Tech requires first-year students to take introductory English, math, chemistry and physics before they're eligible to take biomedical engineering courses. Boston University requires biomedical engineering majors to take English, general chemistry with a lab, calculus I and II, a writing seminar, physics, engineering computation and introduction to engineering their first year. As long as students average 16 to 18 credit hours per semester and pass their classes, they'll likely obtain a biomedical engineering degree in four years.

Major-Specific Coursework

Students who major in biomedical engineering must complete a series of biomedical engineering courses their sophomore, junior and senior years. Most of the courses build on one another, so students must take them in sequential order. For example, Syracuse University requires biomedical engineering majors to complete 12 courses, ranging from three to four credit hours each, in biomedical engineering. They must also take six additional engineering courses that cover topics such as electrical engineering, statistics, engineering computation and engineering materials. Biomedical engineering majors must complete a total of 130 credit hours at Syracuse, 131 credit hours at Georgia Tech and 136 credit hours at Boston University to receive a degree.

Internships and Co-Ops

Students often complete field electives and professional electives as part of their biomedical engineering studies. Some participate in off-campus internships or co-ops with local businesses, hospitals or biomedical engineering companies during the academic school year. Others obtain paid or unpaid summer internships in the field. Biomedical engineering majors must also complete senior-level individual or group projects their last year of school, according to Boston University.

Advanced Degrees

Even though it generally takes four years to become a biomedical engineer, some graduates choose to pursue advanced degrees. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, biomedical research team leaders, biomedical engineers who pursue careers in dentistry or medicine and biomedical engineers who get law degrees to become patent attorneys must take graduate-level coursework above and beyond bachelor's degree requirements. The duration of additional academic coursework depends on the degree program and the specialty requirements of a particular profession.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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