Biomechanical engineering is an intriguing field which combines aspects of many different professions, fields and industries. By nature and by definition, biomechanical engineering will include aspects of mechanical engineering and general engineering, as well as biology, biomechanics, bioengineering and biomedical engineering. That may all just sound like a word jumble to you, but the important takeaways are that this is a dynamic, challenging profession with a wide range of very important applications. Use this guide to learn more about a biomechanical engineering degree.
What to Expect from an Biomechanical Engineering Program
To understand more about a biomechanical engineering program, it’s first important to learn more about biomechanics. Biomechanics is basically the study of biological systems in terms of structure and functionality through the lens or application of mechanics. Biomechanical engineering students therefore combine engineering and mechanical principles with biological systems including the human body, animals, plant life, cellular organisms, organs and systems within the human body, and more.
Biomechanical engineering degrees will be offered on many different levels, although the majority of degrees in this specific field will come at the postgraduate level, including both masters and doctorate level degrees. Therefore, in your bachelor program, you may study something more broad such as bioengineering or mechanical engineering, perhaps with a major or class focus on biomechanics.
Many available programs are offered as one comprehensive program taking you from a bachelors straight through to a postgraduate level degree as well. These can often be completed in about six years, and are ideal if there’s a highly regarded institution available to you, and if you already know that you specifically want to get involved with biomechanical engineering.
The types of courses that students studying biomechanical engineering take are diverse, exciting and challenging. Students will need to study medical physiology, medical devices and instrumentation, rehabilitation, bioengineering, robotics, mathematics, specific human body physiology and system courses, computer sciences and more.
Once basic material and courses are taken, students will spend a lot of time in the lab or R&D type facilities getting their hands dirty, so to speak, with the application of these concepts to developing anything ranging from new heart valves or blood pumps to prosthetic devices or aided hearing systems.
Online Biomechanical Engineering Degrees
Biomechanical engineering is not something that can be mastered and applied solely from the reading of textbooks or from the listening of lectures in a classroom, whether you’re listening in person or listening from a home computer. Therefore, biomechanical engineering degrees generally need to have at least the lab and hands-on components of the programs taught and experienced through traditional on-campus settings.
The growing trend in all fields of study is towards more flexibility and the availability of online courses. So, you may find that some of your coursework can be completed online, while the lab work and other requirements are handled onsite.
Job Opportunities for Biomechanical Engineers
Biomechanical engineers will see that there is a wide range of job opportunities available to them in many specific fields, industries and subfields. A few disciplines of biomechanics and potential career paths could include sports biomechanics, biofluid mechanics, musculoskeletal and orthopedic biomechanics, continuum biomechanics, rehabilitation, implants and prosthesis, and more.
From there, biomechanical engineers often apply what they know to fields such as agriculture or even environmental engineering. There are opportunities in every sector, including commercial enterprises, nonprofit organizations and the government.
Is There a Demand for Biomechanical Engineers?
It’s an exciting time to be a biomechanical engineer. As our technology has exploded in the past decade and our understanding of, and need for, existing and new systems continues to grow, biomechanical engineers are going to be in very high demand. For the next few decades and likely even longer than that, biomechanical engineering graduates are going to enjoy an amazing career climate where the world is at their fingertips, and they can pick and choose the opportunities which may be best for them.
Taking a look at a specific number for a closely intertwined field, for biomedical professionals, the field is expected to grow by over 70% over the decade lasting from 2008 to 2018. That represents more than 11,000 new jobs in this one specific field alone, and biomechanical engineers can find work in many different branches of engineering, medicine and research.
How Much do Biomechanical Engineers Get Paid?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is usually the go-to source of information for areas such as salary and employment levels. They don’t, however, offer specific information for biomechanical engineers. What is useful however is to take a look at several of the main corresponding or associated industries and branches of engineering to get a broad sense of what you might expect.
For example, biomedical engineers earned a mean annual wage of almost $85,000, with the top 25% of the field earning more than $103,500 and the top 10% of the field earning more than $127,000 according to data from May 2010. Agricultural engineers earned a mean wage of about $75,000, with the top 10% earning more than $115,000, and mechanical engineering professionals earned a mean annual wage of about $82,500, with the top 10% in the field earning more than $119,000.
So, depending on where exactly you end up working and what you’re working with, your earnings level will vary. However, taking a look at some of the closest available specific fields and specialties, and you’ll see that the earnings levels are great indeed. Keep in mind that as with most industries, the more experience you have and the higher level of education or degree you have, the more you’ll end up earning both immediately and over the long haul as well.
That’s certainly a lot of information for you to digest and try to make sense out of. Ultimately, for a prospective student looking into getting a biomechanical engineering degree, remember the core aspects of many different fields and interests that biomechanical engineering offers, and keep in mind how crucial and important its applications and developments are. The rewards, both financially and intrinsically, can be great for this profession if you are dedicated and have the right background and interest in its disciplines.