While the field of biomedical engineering may seem like it is not conducive to online learning, the schools that work hard to ensure that online learners get the same education that students on campus do. In fact, some programs even offer a live course option where online students actually 'attend' live courses via online streaming video. In addition to coursework, students have access to professors via email and during office hours and most programs feature student forums where online learners can interact with their classmates, ask questions, get feedback, and work on group projects. These interactive capabilities make it possible for schools to offer online degrees in biomedical engineering without sacrificing any educational quality.
The option to study biomechanical in an online setting is ideal for those who want to pursue this exciting and in demand field but do not necessarily have the time or resources to commit to an on-campus program. Online education is a popular choice for working parents who need to spend more time at home as well as active or reserve military members who are unable to live in the same place for an extended period of time.
Gaining admissions to a reputable online biomedical engineering program does require a fairly extensive application process. While the specific demands of any program will vary, there are a few steps that are common across most schools.
Applicants will need to complete and submit an online application, along with an application fee in most cases. Applications for these types of programs are generally accepted for set semesters, usually Fall and Spring. Deadlines for admission in fall tend to be at the end of Spring (e.g., June 1) while applications for Spring should be completed towards the end of fall (e.g. December 1). Some schools do allow for Summer semester admission. In addition, there are programs that utilize rolling admissions, meaning you can apply at any time and should you be accepted, you will be eligible to start classes whenever the next semester begins.
Biomedical engineering applicants must have demonstrated proficiency in a number of areas during their undergraduate career with the majority of programs demanding applicants have a minimum 3.0 GPA prior to applying. Students must submit official transcripts from their undergraduate programs. Many also have course requirements for calculus and life sciences courses, as well as current GRE scores. Applicants who earned their undergraduate degree from a school in a country where English is not the official spoken language will likely also have to submit the results of the TOEFL or IELTS exam.
The most prevalent accreditation for biomedical engineering programs comes from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which provides accreditation evaluations for programs focused on applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology at the associate, bachelor, and master degree levels. ABET is nationally recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
State or federal licensing requirements are uncommon for biomedical engineers, although a Professional Engineer (PE) license is available to those that earn an undergraduate degree from an ABET accredited institution. In the U.S. it is frankly rare for biomedical engineers to be required to sit for a licensing exam. However, because licensing is governed on a state by state basis, those looking to go into the profession should be sure to confirm their status with their state of residence prior to employment.
For online graduate studies in biomedical engineers, the exact courses will vary, but commonalities exist across different program curriculums. Common core courses for ME students include:
In terms of specialization, not all programs offer a specialization beyond biomedical engineering itself, but some do. Common specializations may include:
In those programs where specialization is offered, it is an integrated part of the program and does not require additional course hours or semesters to complete.
Post Graduate Certificate Curriculum
For those students who choose to pursue a certificate rather than a full Master's of Engineering at this time, the course requirements are similar but more limited. For instance, whereas an ME student may be required to take 10 courses in five years, as is the case at Johns Hopkins University, a certificate student will take only 6 courses over three years. The courses will be focused directly on biomechanical engineering fundamentals and advanced concepts, with not as much breadth of study as a full Master's degree program.
A number of highly regarded universities offer online biomedical engineering programs. While this is not a complete list, these are some of the top options for students interested in pursuing an online graduate degree or postgraduate certificate in biomedical engineer.
The biomedical engineering program at Case Western Reserve University was founded in 1968, making it a true pioneer in the field. Research is a key part of the program's success and the school's close affiliation with facilities such the Cleveland Clinic, the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and the University Hospitals Case medical Center offer tremendous employment opportunities to graduates of the program.
Erin Lavik is the Elmer Lindseth Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Lavik was the recipient of the NIH Director's New Innovator Award in 2010 as well as being awarded a Fellowship at the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers in 2014.
Kenneth R. Laurita is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Laurita also works as a Senior Scientist at the Heart and Vascular Research Center.
Colorado State University, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, offers a Master of Engineering (ME) degree in Biomedical Engineering through an online program. The CSU program is closely associated with the School of Veterinary Medicine, meaning that students will not only learn biomedical sciences as applicable to humans, but also as it applies to animals.
Stuart A. Tobet is a professor of Biomedical Engineering as part of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. With a PhD from MIT, Dr. Tobet has published in many different journals, including Endocrinology, the Journal of Neuroscience, and Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology.
Jozsef Vigh is an Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. Dr. Vigh's research interests lie in the visual signal processing in the retina and much of his work takes place in the research lab with graduate students.
Purdue University’s graduate engineering program is ranked 8th in the US News and World Report rankings for 2014. Purdue offers an interdisciplinary Biomedical Engineering program that culminates in an MSE/MS degree. The program allows students to focus largely on biomedical engineering as well as technical knowledge. The online program culminates in a non-thesis degree.
Eugenio Culurciello is a multitalented professor who holds positions as an Associate Professor in three different department at Purdue:
Dr. Culurciello, who earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University, has a particular research interest in vision, in particular how circuits and sensors can be used to mimic human vision.
Andrew Brightman is the Assistant Head of Biomedical Engineering and Associate Professor of Engineering Practice at the Weldon School of Engineering at Purdue University. In addition to Dr. Brightman's various publications, he is also the owner of a number of patents in the biomedical engineering field.
As part of its Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, Columbia University offers an online master's level program in biomedical engineering. Online courses at Columbia are completed through a tried and tested system known as the Columbia Video Network (CVN), with Columbia professors.
Elisa E. Konofagou is an Associate Professor in both Radiology and Biomedical Engineering at Columbia. Her academic career has been extremely decorated, with awards that include the International Society of Therapeutic Ultrasound Early Career Award and the Nagy Award from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineeiring.
Helen H. Lu is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Chair of Graduate Studies at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering. Dr. Lu's research has earned varied support from the National Institutes of Health, the New York Stem Cell Initiative, and the National Football League (NFL) Charities.
Johns Hopkins University offers both a Master's degree and a Post-Master's Certificate in Applied Biomedical Engineering. Online, hybrid, and on-site programs are all available in three different specializations. The online option for biomedical engineering was only announced in 2015, making it one of the newer and more promising programs.
Taekjip Ha is a Professor of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry as well as Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University in addition to being an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He has the distinction of being the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and has published numerous academic articles.
Michael I. Miller is the the Herschel and Ruth Seder Professor of Biomedical Engineering and University Gilman Scholar at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Miller directs the Center for Imaging Science and is co-Director of the Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute having particular research interests in Computational Anatomy and Brain Mapping.
Not all online biomedical engineering programs actively and consistently report how many campus visits may be required to complete their programs. However, it is possible to give an overview of some different possibilities. Because online biomedical engineering programs are largely targeted towards working engineers, they can be generally be completed without ever setting foot on campus. This is true of programs as varied as Columbia University, Colorado State University, and Purdue University. For students who are looking for a more hybrid option, Johns Hopkins University offers a number of courses that are available both online and on-campus, giving students the opportunity to choose whether or not they want that type of personal interaction.
It would be impossible to list all the different considerations that must go into choosing the right online biomedical engineering program, but there are a few things to consider that differ from choosing an offline program. For instance, it is essential that anyone participating in this type of learning be fluent in the technology they will be using. While universities offer some degree of technical support, learning can be interrupted if you do not have the proper hardware and internet connection necessary to watch classes and participate in discussions.
It is also understandable that students may concern themselves with a lack of professor interaction when it comes to online learning, but all programs offer access to office hours in addition to email communication with professors. Some programs also have online forums where students can discuss assignments with their classmates, which can be effective for learning as well as networking for future opportunities.
While alumni visibility will not be as high for those students who do not actually attend class on campus, many universities organize alumni networking events around the country which will be available to online students. It is important to note that for networking and career assistance, online students may have to work a bit harder to seek out these types of resources, but they will still have that important access if they choose to take advantage of it.
The quality of the faculty at any school is a critical part of the quality of education that is offered there. The following professors teach at schools who offer online biomedical engineering courses and have shown a commitment to their field as well as to teaching.
Dominique M. Durand is the EL Lindseth Professor of Biomedical Engineering as part of the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Neurosciences,Physiology and Biophysics in addition to being the Director of the Neural Engineering Center and Editor in chief of the Journal of Neural Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Durand's recent teaching involvement includes Biomedical Instrumentation and Signal analysis and Bioelectric Phenomena.
Ketul C. Popat is an Associate Professor of both Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Colorado State University. Dr. Popat has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the George T. Abell Outstanding Early Career Faculty Award, College of Engineering.
Eric A. Nauman is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Professor of Basic Medical Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, and Director of Honors Programs and the Purdue University College of Engineering. In 2010, Dr. Nauman was the recipient of the Purdue College of Engineering Early Career Research Award of Excellence, Purdue University Faculty Scholar Award, and the B.F.S. Schaefer Outstanding Young Faculty Scholar from the School of Mechanical Engineering.
Ellis Meng is Professor & Chair of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering where she is also chair of the Women in Science and Engineering program. Dr. Meng was a recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER and a Wallace H. Coulter Foundation Early Career Award.
Jennifer H. Elisseeff is the Jules Stein Professor at the Johns Hopkins University Wilmer Eye Institute and Biomedical Engineering and Translational Tissue Engineering Center. Dr. Elisseeff has had an impressive academic career, having earned her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and publishing over 120 articles, book chapters and patent applications in addition to giving over 130 national and international invited lectures.
Learn more about how these 20 leading professors of biomedical engineering are helping to advance the field, whilst ensuring their students join the vanguard and continue to innovate.
Biomedical engineers do not just improve lives; in fact, their research, tools, and devices save millions of them every day. Thanks to their work, which bridges the divide between medicine and engineering, people live longer, heal faster, and live more comfortably than ever.