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Best Master’s Programs in Biomedical Engineering

sjsu biomedical engineering

Dig into the world of biomedical engineering, and it’s easy to get carried away with the Dr. Octopus of it all. This is, after all, the field that blends engineering with medical science. How far of a leap is it, really, from improving the fit of a prosthetic foot to the hero-defeating villainy of robotic super appendages? Pretty far, it turns out. The reality of biomedical engineering (BME) is less “climactic, city-leveling superhero battle” and more “meticulous study and research.” 

“Biomedical engineering” itself is an umbrella term that comprises numerous fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts it simply: Biomedical engineers combine engineering with medical science to design and produce equipment, devices, computer systems, and software used in health care. That generalization overlooks the many specializations within biomedical engineering. There are medical devices like implants, biomedical sensors, prosthetics, and orthotics. There’s also bioinformatics (using software to study biological data), tissue engineering, genetic engineering, neural engineering, biomaterials, optics, imaging, and bionics (i.e., artificial body parts). The list goes on and on. Many universities have their own specialties under the biomedical engineering umbrella, which can be further personalized depending on students’ interests and career aspirations. Unsurprisingly, BME is strongly interdisciplinary, having emerged in the past few decades as its own field, and not just a specialization of engineering itself. As such, many schools’ BME programs are fairly new – the one at San Jose State University only became a separate entity in 2018. 

See Also: 10 Best Master’s in Industrial Engineering

COMMON APPLICATION AND ADMISSION QUESTIONS

Most programs require an undergraduate degree in engineering, if not biomedical engineering itself, or a related field as a prerequisite. Some provide a little wiggle room, allowing students to take basic courses to get up to speed, but strutting into the registrar’s office with a BA in communications probably won’t cut it. That goes double if your undergraduate GPA was below 3.0 or 3.5 – most places require at least a 3.0. GRE score prerequisites (or scores from international tests like TOEFL and IELTS) vary by school, with some schools establishing a minimum score to qualify and others having none at all. Plan to have a couple letters of recommendation to send with an application, along with a personal mission statement. Some schools accept applications only at certain times of the year, while others allow students to begin their studies in the winter, summer, or fall. Once in a program, students usually choose from a thesis or non-thesis/research- or project-based track. (This is not true of them all – Virginia Tech, No. 10 on our list, requires a thesis.) A thesis track typically entails less coursework, as credit is earned for thesis writing and research. Naturally, students will need to successfully defend their thesis orally, to complete the master’s degree. Schools that offer a non-thesis track usually require a final project or additional research, but not all do; sometimes additional coursework is enough. Thirty credit hours is the widely accepted standard for a master’s degree, with the specific mix of classes depending on the student’s BME specialization. It’s a mix of course work and electives, and usually a graduate seminar. The electives aren’t “Introduction to Volleyball” or “Music History,” either, but BME-related courses that extend beyond the student’s specialization. All of these universities require graduate students to create their own coursework study plan, pending approval by a faculty advisor or departmental committee. Those plans need to be set and approved within a semester or two.

WHAT ABOUT FINANCIAL AID & SCHOLARSHIPS?

Prospective students won’t want to wait long to figure out how to pay for their graduate education. Our list calculates the net cost per academic year of each school’s biomedical engineering program, using the tuition fee as a base and factoring in financial aid opportunities. The differences among schools can be vast, with our most expensive school coming in at $43,815, and the least expensive at $9,180 – a difference of nearly $35,000 per academic year. The median net cost of our top 10 schools is $31,065, a significant chunk of change no matter how you look at it. Going to college has only become a greater financial burden on students and their families in recent decades, and those adding a few years of graduate studies need to be able to justify the cost. The good news is that every university offers some form of financial aid. Most offer graduate students a limited number of teaching or research assistantships, where students work as TAs or lab assistants in exchange for payment or tuition relief. This is the equivalent of having a part-time job, with 20 hours per week dedicated to helping out in the department. The savings can be significant; assistants at Stevens Institute of Technology, No. 5 on our list, earn $24,647 per year, which translates to 30% of students’ costs per academic year. Federal Work Study is another option for students in need. Via this government program, students earn at least minimum wage at an on- or off-campus job to help fund their education. Grants and scholarships, which vary by school and state, are also available – prospective students should check with university financial aid offices to see what opportunities await. For example, Lawrence Technological University, No. 6 on our list, offers industry tuition discounts for students who are already working. Some companies offer tuition reimbursement for employees who pursue continuing education. Graduate students who aren’t so lucky can earn a $200 discount off each course thanks to LTU’s industry tuition discount program. Some schools even prepare a financial aid plan for students, which is the case at our No. 1 pick, Georgia Tech. Its scholarships office evaluates students’ eligibility based on program requirements and offers a financial aid package tailored to their needs. Aid often includes grants, scholarships, subsidized loans, and other forms of assistance. Scholarships and fellowships are generally based on merit (i.e., good grades and test scores) or financial need, with prospective students who have both enjoying the best chances of securing a good financial aid package. Veterans also have a variety of options. Of course, student loans remain the most obvious option for people who need help paying for school, and with all the attention currently being paid to predatory student loans, it’s easier than ever to find good ones that won’t simply become a financial millstone around the necks of graduates for decades. Check out the U.S. Department of Education’s easy-to-understand overview to learn what to look for and avoid when the time comes to seek out a loan.

HOW MUCH CAN I MAKE WITH A MASTER’S DEGREE IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING?

You know what makes paying a loan off easier? A nice salary, and biomedical engineering is a good industry in which to find one. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, biomedical engineers earned a median of $88,550, or $42.57 per hour, in 2018. For reference, the median salary for all workers at that time was $38,640. According to the Bureau, the bottom 10% of biomedical engineers likely make more than that (less than $51,890). As mentioned earlier, biomedical engineering comprises a variety of fields, with the BLS noting that biomedical engineers typically work in manufacturing, universities, hospitals, and research facilities. Among those subfields with the best earning potential, the Bureau says medical equipment and supplies manufacturing take the top spot for the highest levels of employment and highest concentration of employment within biomedical engineering. Others that offer the highest level of employment include pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing; scientific research and development services; navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing; and colleges, universities, and professional schools (i.e., teaching and research). Computer systems design and related services (which includes numerous industries outside of BME) offers the best salary, with an average of $120,190. Those subfields within biomedical engineering may still sound too nebulous to understand, so some schools get specific when it comes to jobs graduates can explore. Florida Tech – No. 8 in our ranking – has published a list of 13 potential BME careers, which includes jobs like biomedical engineer (well, duh), medical imaging specialist, systems physiologist, medical equipment designer (cha-ching!), pharmaceutical and medicine researcher, and a variety of job titles with “engineer” as their second word (design, plant, clinical, and biomedical). There’s also quality control analyst, research scientist, and regulatory specialist, as Stevens Institute of Technology notes on its program page. The point is that the interdisciplinary nature of biomedical engineering allows for a wide variety of specialties and careers, and all of them generally pay well. In 2019, a time when many people have to take a hard look at the value proposition of not just grad school but even a bachelor’s degree, biomedical engineering makes a compelling case for earning an advanced degree. Not many other areas of study can say the same thing, even in the future-friendly STEM world. The variety can also keep biomedical engineers engaged; an advanced degree prepares students for many applications, so if they get tired of working in one area, they can move to another BME subfield without a significant amount of new training.

There seem to be plenty of jobs out there for BMEs. According to the BLS, biomedical engineers held roughly 21,300 jobs in 2016, the most recent year for which data are available. The field is expected to grow at a rate of 7% through 2026, as technology advances and the aged population increases. (Baby boomers will need lots of tech to keep them limber.) The BLS also notes that, as the public grows more conscious of advances in medicine, more people “will seek biomedical solutions to their health problems.” Because biomedical engineers are, by their nature, interdisciplinary, their ability to work with scientists, medical researchers, and product manufacturers “is enlarging the range of applications for biomedical engineering products and services,” according to the Bureau. It may be surprising then, that the BLS expects the field of biomedical engineering to grow only at a rate of 7%, the national average for all occupations. It’s important to remember those are national numbers, however, and there may be significant variations by state. For example, Florida International University notes that the projected growth rate through 2024 for the industry in Florida is 35%, much higher than the national average. The BLS has a helpful series of maps that capture these sorts of variations, from employment of biomedical engineers by state (California, Massachusetts, and Illinois take the top three spots), to the number of biological engineers by state (Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Utah come out on top), and average salary by state (Minnesota, New Jersey, and Massachusetts). It even breaks all that data down further by metropolitan area: Boston has the most BME jobs; Boulder, CO has the most biomedical engineers; and engineers living in California near San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara earn the most money. Engineers who wish to avoid cities should look in eastern Ohio, which boasts the highest employment rates, highest concentration of BME jobs, and the best salaries for nonmetropolitan areas. 

Looking beyond employment rates, salaries, and geography and onto the bigger issues like gender disparity, biomedical engineering fares better than other engineering fields. The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering noted in its annual report that the gender wage gap is “nearly closed” – within 3% – between men and women. Women earn 41.4% of undergraduate biomedical engineering degrees and 43% of master’s degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Among undergraduates, biomedical engineering awards the second-highest number of degrees to women, following environmental engineering. That said, much work needs to be done when it comes to diversity: Women represent just 23% of tenure-track faculty in biomedical engineering, according to the American Society for Engineering Education, and minorities account for just 29.2% of MS degrees awarded in engineering. However, diversity is on the minds of people in the industry. The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering recently launched a new website that offers research and resources for women and minorities, including step-by-step instructions for institutions to maximize their openness to diversity and minimize the biases that stifle it. In general, biomedical engineering is a great field for advanced study, with an enviable average salary and projected growth rate. Pursuing it is less of a gamble than, say, an MA in philosophy. (Sorry, Sartreheads.)

Check out our list of the best master’s programs in biomedical engineering! 

#1 – GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY-MAIN CAMPUS

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING

Engineering is Georgia Tech’s raison d’etre: When the school opened its doors in 1888 as the Georgia School of Technology, it offered one degree: engineering. That’s because it was founded to help bring some industrial knowhow to the largely agrarian South. It succeeded so well that it adopted the name Georgia Institute of Technology in the 1940s, to reflect its emergence as a leader in technological and scientific research. Biomedical engineering fits squarely into the school’s mission and makes it the obvious choice for the top spot on our list. We’re not the only ones who see it this way; in early 2019, three engineers from its Coulter Department of Biomechanical Engineering won the distinguished Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education. The award, from the National Academy of Engineering, recognized their “pioneering program” of “fusing problem-driven engineering education with learning-science principles.” That means the school’s biomedical engineering program is on the cutting edge. Even better, it’s affordable: At a net price of $16,950, Georgia Tech in the bottom half of our list for cost. 

The program is fairly new by Georgia Tech standards – it began in 1997 – but also unique, in that it’s the result of a partnership between public and private universities: Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering and Emory University’s School of Medicine. That partnership has resulted in a curriculum and research focus on six areas: biomedical imaging and instrumentation (think MRIs, CT scans, PET scans, ultrasounds, etc.), biomaterials and regenerative technologies (working with living tissue), cellular engineering and mechanics (working on the cellular level), biomedical informatics and systems modeling (developing software for understanding biological data), neuroengineering (working within neural systems), and biomedical robotics (robots!). The degree requires 30 credit hours, with thesis and non-thesis options. The latter requires 30 hours of coursework (at least three each in bioscience, engineering, and data science, and at least nine hours of electives), whereas the thesis track limits coursework to 21 hours (students take the same courses, except for six hours of electives), with nine hours of thesis work. Each student designs their best mix of bioscience, data science, and engineering courses with an advisor based on their background, professional goals, and research interests. 

To be admitted into the program, prospective students must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution (and must “be able to demonstrate academic excellence,” per Georgia Tech’s website), and to have experience with biomedical engineering, such as a bachelor’s degree or professional work. Those who complete the program join some distinguished company. The department’s namesake, Wallace H. Coulter, developed the Coulter principle, which created a method for counting and sizing microscopic particles. His “Coulter counter” made it possible to get a full blood count from a patient, which became one of the most important diagnostic tests in medicine. That is OG BME, but students at Georgia Tech are excellently prepared to follow in his footsteps.

#2. SAN JOSE STATE UNIVERSITY

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING

San Jose State’s history dates back to 1857, but its biomedical engineering program may be the newest of the schools on this list. The Biomedical Engineering Department was only established as a separate entity in July 2018, and SJSU didn’t offer degree programs in biomedical engineering – at the undergrad or graduate level – until 2011. (Prior to that, students could study bioengineering as an emphasis in an engineering bachelor’s degree.) SJSU has wasted no time since establishing biomedical engineering as a degree, bringing on faculty and building new facilities for the program, which now includes 340 undergrads and 110 graduate students among its 32,000-plus student body. This aggressive forward momentum is part of SJSU’s Transformation 2030, which aims to realize “the university’s potential as a nationally prominent urban public university.” It’s on the way: U.S. News & World Report ranked San Jose State at No. 5 in its Top Public Schools for the western U.S. Its location in the heart of Silicon Valley – the school bills itself as “Powering Silicon Valley” – makes it especially attractive for a tech-minded field like biomedical engineering. The Department of Biomedical Engineering takes a cue from the tech world with its lofty ambitions: “to be a recognized leader in translational biomedical research; to provide hands-on education focused on solving real world biomedical problems; and to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the service of human well being.” Unsurprisingly, it has some fairly rigorous admissions standards. The school has a battery of so-called “transition courses” – general chemistry, calculus-based physics, materials engineering, and more – that either must be present on applicants’ undergrad transcripts (with at least a B average) or taken while at SJSU. If the latter, those students are assigned “conditionally classified” standing at the school until they complete the coursework. Prospective students need a 3.0 GPA to apply for the master’s program, or a GRE score of 315 or higher in verbal and quantitative reasoning, along with a 3.5 or higher in analytical writing. Once in the program, San Jose State requires 30 semester units for a master’s in biomedical engineering, which are accrued via two tracks: thesis or project. The thesis option includes 16 units of coursework (with subjects like “Physiology for Engineers,” “Experimental Methods in Biomedical Engineering,” “Medical Device Design and Principles,” and more), nine units of electives (such as “Tissue Engineering,” “Biomaterials,” and “Orthotics and Prosthetics”), and five thesis units. The project option is the same, except with 12 units of electives. Beyond that, students must maintain a 3.0 GPA, earn a “C” or better in all courses, and satisfy a writing requirement (which could entail an additional three units of coursework). Obviously, all students must pass their project/thesis proposal and final presentation. The good news: The master’s program at San Jose State will set students back only $14,519, making it the second-least expensive option in our top 10.

#3 – WORCESTER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING

Where other programs speak in general terms about the applications of their curriculum, Worcester Polytechnic Institute gets into specifics. Its grad students collaborate on projects like designing, producing, and testing biomaterials in engineered blood vessels and creating “a valve-scale 3-D in-vitro tissue model using heart valve cells.” At the foundation of WPI’s curriculum lies advanced, independent research (with advisor guidance) conducted at the school’s 125,000-square-foot Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center. It boasts an enviable list of lab and equipment capabilities, such as biomaterials fabrication, microfabrication, bioinstrumentation, histology, and cell culturing. The building, which opened in 2007, hosts not only biomedical engineering, but also biotech, chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, and several local life sciences companies. The idea is to foster collaboration across academic departments, and between academia and the private sector. That collaborative spirit heavily informs WPI’s biomedical engineering program. Graduate students work on multi-disciplinary teams with faculty and external collaborators, so that it feels less like top-down instruction and more like joint problem-solving. In fact, in 2016, WPI took the top spot in The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education Ranking’s category of Top Faculties, among “schools that do the best in combining scholarly research with classroom instruction.” That top spot comes with a hefty price tag – $43,815, the most expensive on this list – but access to great instructors and a uniquely collaborative environment may be worth the cost. WPI allows students – who are expected to have an undergraduate degree or “strong background” in engineering, physics, computer science, and applied mathematics – to tailor their curriculum according to their academic background, interests, experience, and professional goals. During the first semester, students create an individualized Plan of Study, which they submit to the BME Graduate Studies Committee. Periodic check-ins with the committee ensure students remain on course to satisfy all degree requirements. Like other programs on this list, WPI offers a master’s via a thesis- or project-based track. Both require 30 credit hours, which comprise 12 hours of BME coursework, a minimum of six credits for a thesis or project, and 12 credits of electives. (Among the electives are courses like graduate-level engineering, math, and physics.) For added flexibility, some courses may be taken online, and coursework and thesis/final project work can be done via internships, co-ops within the industry, or even while the student is employed full-time. 

Beyond the BME coursework, all students must satisfy five of what WPI calls “core competencies” in mathematics; life science; clinical needs analysis and design; regulation and controls; and value creation, innovation, and technology commercialization. Each covers a different aspect of the fundamentals needed for a career in biomedical engineering, and waivers are available if students have documented work experience, degrees, majors, or minors that can prove their mastery of a specific core competency. (The Graduate Studies Committee must approve all such waivers.) Once students fulfill all the requirements, they join notable WPI alumni such as Robert H. Goddard, creator of the first liquid-fueled rocket; Segway inventor Dean Kamen; and, um, J. Geils, of the J. Geils Band! (Cue “Centerfold.”)

#4 – GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING

George Washington had a lot of good ideas – loading Dorchester Heights with artillery to end the siege of Boston, establishing a two-term tradition for presidents, making whiskey at his home – so it’s hard to say where “founding a national American university” falls on the list. GW has educated some of the world’s most notable people over the course of its nearly 200-year history, and while it can’t compete with WPI’s J. Geils, it did host the guy who sang “What is Love.” One of GW’s biggest strengths comes from its location in Washington, D.C., which means proximity to a variety of renowned research hospitals and government agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Children’s National Medical Center. Like others, GW’s program – which takes two years to complete if studying full-time or three if studying part-time – uses an interdisciplinary approach to prepare students for the array of potential careers that a master’s in biomedical engineering affords. The school also likes to showcase the breadth of study and research areas for students, such as cardiac electrophysiology, cancer therapy, microfluidics, optogenetics, and robotics, among others.

GW prefers prospective students to have an undergraduate engineering degree (with a minimum 3.0 GPA), though people lacking one may still be granted admission, so long as they take “deficiency courses” during their first semester at the school. The biomedical engineering program requires 30 credits, with the standard thesis and non-thesis options. Both require 18 credits from required courses, though the non-thesis option requires 12 elective credits, with the thesis option comprising six elective and six thesis credits. Among the elective options is the pretty awesome-sounding “Introduction to Human Health in Space.” (Free suggestion, GW: Punch up that name to “Introduction to Human Health…in Space!”) The course may sound fantastical, but GW has produced at least two astronauts and three NASA administrators, so it may come in handy. The regular courses for the BME master’s don’t sound as cool – “Regulatory Law for Medical Devices,” “Image Engineering,” “Biomedical Signal Analysis,” and so on – but they can’t all be about the effects of zero G on cardiac function, now can they? At $39,600 per semester, GW is at the pricier end of the spectrum, but U.S. News & World Report ranks it No. 68 in Best Value Schools. More germane to its BME program, GW is ranked No. 37 on the publication’s Most Innovative Schools list. Some of the Biomedical Engineering department’s recent research bears that out. For instance, Assistant Professor Chung-Hyuk Park has been using robots to help autistic children function in difficult social situations. In 2019, the chair of the department, Dr. Igor Efimov, was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors for his work. He is now leading the first global study on abnormal heart rhythms that cause sudden death. Innovation seems to come easily to GW, just as it did to the university’s namesake.

#5 – STEVENS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

MASTER OF ENGINEERING

Located just outside of Manhattan in neighboring Hoboken, NJ, Stevens Institute of Technology goes hard at biomedical engineering: It’s the second of the school’s six “foundational research pillars” and housed at its Center for Healthcare Innovation. Basing its program on “a solid foundation in basic science, math, biology and engineering fundamentals,” SIT aims to give graduates broad technical expertise; a thorough understanding of techniques for biomedical engineering design and design assessment; and a command of biomedical design, simulation, analysis, and project management. Like others on this list, SIT’s master’s program is designed to be flexible and tailored toward students’ interests. Full- or part-time enrollment is available, and both thesis and research tracks are offered. Prospective students must have an undergraduate degree in engineering or physics (with a minimum 3.0 GPA); the school suggests that those who do not have one look into its master’s in bioengineering program. The BME master’s degree requires the standard 30 credits of graduate work, though only six of them come in the form of required coursework. The other 24 hours are geared toward students’ research projects or professional development goals. Students on the thesis track earn nine thesis credits, while those who are not complete a six-credit research or design project, in addition to three credits of graduate coursework. The six required credits of coursework are “Strategies and Principles in Biomedical Design” and “Selected Topics in Biomedical Engineering.” Everything else is up to the student (with sage input from their advisor). With so much left to students’ individual preferences, SIT offers a significant array of courses, such as “Biomechanics,” “Natural Polymers in Medicine,” “Movement Control Rehabilitation,” and the science fiction-sounding “Introduction to Brain-Machine Interfaces.” Though an introductory course, SIT professor Ramana Vinjamuri won $500,000 in funding in 2019 to study how the brain controls the hand. The hope is to create robotic exoskeletons that can replicate hand movements for people who are paralyzed. Vinjamuri has been at Stevens since 2013, when the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science had a lot fewer faculty members. In the past two years, the school has added 36 faculty, including three new assistant professors in the Department of Biomedical Engineering for the 2019-20 academic year. 

SIT’s excellence comes at a price. At a net cost of $39,862, SIT is one of the more expensive options on this list, but ask yourself: If it’s good enough for the drummer of Slipknot, isn’t it good enough for me? Okay, maybe that’s a bad example. It’s probably better to take a look at the school’s website for a list of career opportunities (clinical engineer, regulatory specialist, and others) from organizations who have hired SIT students, such as Merck, Johnson & Johnson, U.S. Veterans Affairs, and many others. SIT also touts its proximity to New York City, home to myriad BME companies and powerbrokers, all of whom are just a short PATH train ride away.

#6 – LAWRENCE TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING

Lawrence Technological University is located in Southfield, MI, just a little under 20 miles northeast of Detroit. Like seemingly everything else in Michigan, it owes its existence, at least in part, to Henry Ford, who loaned some space next to his Model T plant for the school to get started in 1932. At the time, Detroit was the center of innovation and manufacturing in the United States, and though it has seen hard times the past 40-plus years, it – and Michigan – has found new life in the tech industry. According to Mlive, Michigan ranks in the top five states for employment in engineering services and R&D testing labs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists it on the higher end for BME jobs (with 220 – 570 in the state), with an average salary in the range of $77,920 – $85,280. LTU prides itself on what it calls “entrepreneurial minded learning,” described as an inversion of traditional engineering education, where faculty adapt technical instruction to “cultivate curiosity, connections, and creating value.” In simpler terms, it goes beyond knowing how and adds knowing why. With four dedicated instructors, LTU has a fairly small biomedical engineering team, but they aren’t the only ones with BME on the brain. For example, Assistant Professor Jinjun Xia, from the school’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, won a $151,000 grant in 2019 to study tissue-engineered blood vessels, which falls squarely in the world of biomedical engineering. Like SIT above, LTU requires an undergraduate degree in engineering (“or a related field”) with a minimum 3.0 GPA to enter its BME master’s program. The curriculum is similar to other programs, with 30 credits required to graduate via a thesis or non-thesis track. Students opting for the thesis route will need 18 credits in core courses, three to six in electives, and six to nine for their thesis. Project-based study also requires 18 credits of core courses, but six to nine elective credits, and another three to six for their design project. Among the core courses, there is a trio of “Engineering Analysis” classes, along with “Quantitative Physiology,” “Bioelectrical Physics,” and “Cell Mechanobiology.” Electives include options like “Biomedical Simulations,” “Surface Chemistry,” and “Applications of Engineering in Orthopedics.” 

The LTU curriculum is highly collaborative, pairing students and instructors for research, and the school strongly encourages co-ops and internships, so students get real-world experience before graduating. The university hosts several job fairs throughout the year for employers with co-op positions and an annual Science & Technology Showcase, where students and faculty discuss their work (which also draws employers from the region). In addition, the school offers workshops and individual coaching to help students prepare for the job market. At a net price of $30,222 – just under the list median of $31,065 – LTU offers a good amount of bang for its advanced-degree buck. Just make sure to give Henry Ford a shoutout at graduation.

#7 – MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING

A powerhouse in sports, academia, and student-body population (more than 50,000 – 10,000 of them grad students), Michigan State University needs no introduction. Located in central Michigan, in East Lansing, it has long been one of the most well-known public universities in the United States. In short, Michigan State boasts a lot of resources, like the Institute for Quantitative Health Sciences and Engineering (a.k.a. MSU IQ). It’s a huge new research center “dedicated to basic and applied research at the intersection of engineering, human medicine, and natural science.” Unsurprisingly, the Department of Biomedical Engineering calls the IQ home, with separate divisions for BME-related studies in biomedical devices, biomedical imaging, neuroengineering, and synthetic biology, among others. With the new facility, MSU seems to be on a roll; in the spring of 2019, it landed a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study ways to improve brain implants for treating conditions like Alzheimer’s, PTSD, and depression. How the school will study the implants also speaks to its collaborative nature: BME professor Erin Purcell has recruited a team drawn from MSU’s physiology department, a professor from the University of Michigan, private research company Biomilab, and an interdisciplinary team of graduate students and postdoc fellows. 

To join MSU’s biomedical engineering program, prospective students need an undergraduate degree in BME or a related field (the university stipulates students lacking a BME undergrad degree may have to complete “collateral coursework,” which may not count toward the master’s degree), along with a GPA “that would indicate success in graduate study” (ideally, 3.0 or above). The master’s programs follows the usual tracks: thesis (Plan A) or non-thesis (Plan B), both requiring 30 credits for the degree. Beyond a required course in “Research Methods,” MSU leaves course planning up to students and their advisor. Thesis-track students receive four to eight credits for their thesis and must complete the “Biomedical Engineering Seminar.” The program has a suite of lower-level courses such as “Biomaterials and Biocompatibility” and “Biofluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer,” though they can only account for six credits toward the master’s degree. The program has few upper-level lecture courses (“Research Methods” and “Biosensor Principles and Applications” among them), with most graduate credit coming from more independently minded, student-led study (such as “Selected Topics in Biomedical Engineering,” where students examine “special topics in biomedical engineering of current importance”). 

At $16,227, Michigan State offers the third-least expensive option among the schools featured in our top 10, a comparative bargain for such a big school. Or maybe it’s cheaper because there are so many students? The fall of 2019 saw nearly 1,000 graduate students enter the College of Engineering alone. 

#8 – FLORIDA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING

Search “Florida Institute of Technology alumni,” and the results will be a bunch of people in space suits and important-looking military uniforms, which makes sense. The university began in 1958 to support NASA, which was also founded in that year. Located in Melbourne, FL, Florida Tech lies just 35 miles south of the Kennedy Space Center, along what’s known as the Space Coast. (The campus itself is only about 20 minutes from the beach, which may help or hinder studying.) As the school’s website notes, the region is home to the nation’s fifth-largest high-tech workforce, with more than 5,000 tech companies in the area. (There are also intangibles like “year-round beautiful weather,” says the website, 72 miles of Atlantic coast beaches, and the chance to be part of any number of hilarious Florida Man memes.) Florida Tech makes a compelling case for studying BME in general, and at Tech specifically, spelling out the numerous career options open to graduates and providing a broad overview of the future of the field itself. The TL;DR version: Demand for this kind of work will only increase, and numerous specializations under the umbrella of biomedical engineering allow for myriad jobs. 

Like others, Florida Tech’s BME master’s program requires an undergraduate degree in the field or one similar. If a student’s undergrad degree isn’t sufficient, they’ll likely need to complete some preparatory coursework before starting the program. Once admitted, students choose from three areas of specialization: biomechanics; biomedical instrumentation, imaging, and computation; and biomaterials/tissue engineering. Students must complete 30 credit hours to earn a master’s degree, either with a thesis or without one. Interestingly, master’s students earning money through teaching or research assistantships must take the thesis route. As other schools do, Florida Tech allows students to customize their coursework according to their interests, but they must submit a master’s degree program plan before completing nine credit hours. Both thesis and non-thesis tracks demand nine semester credit hours of required courses (“Biomedical Applications in Physiology,” “Biomedical Engineering Analysis 1,” “Applied Physiology”), a “Biomedical Engineering Seminar” each semester (for zero credits), and three additional biomedical engineering credits, for a total of 18 credit hours. The remaining hours are filled by 12 hours of approved electives (for non-thesis students), or six hours of electives plus six hours of thesis work. Florida Tech’s BME site helpfully breaks down the course options for each specialization. For instance, biomechanics requires “Advanced Biomechanics” and “Orthopedic Biomechanics,” then students can choose another class from a list of six, such as “Transport Processes in Bioengineering,” “Tissue Engineering and Regeneration,” and “Biomaterials.” Students planning to write a thesis will need advance approval of the topic from their faculty committee. Non-thesis students must pass a final exam during their last semester in order to graduate. 

Thesis or no, Florida Tech’s master’s degree in biomedical engineering has a net cost of $34,139, right around the middle of the cost spectrum of schools on this list. Don’t forget to factor in how much it’ll cost to park at the beach.

#9 – FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING

With nearly 48,000 students enrolled, Florida International University,  in Miami, consistently ranks as one of the largest schools in the United States – U.S. News & World Report most recently listed it at No. 3 – and coupled with its status as a research university, FIU has some serious pull. The Carnegie Commission on Higher Education classifies it as a level R1 school for “very high research activity” in doctoral studies, and the Department of Biomedical Engineering notes that it ranks high for best value and most popular BME programs nationwide. It’s hard to argue about the value part: FIU’s program costs $9,180, significantly lower than the next-cheapest one on our list, and it is tens of thousands less than the most expensive. For price-conscious prospective students, the cost alone would be enough to make FIU the best option, but it has plenty else going for it. 

Unlike other biomedical engineering programs, which simply split the field between thesis and non-thesis options, FIU offers three tracks and specializations: professional, research, and orthotics and prosthetics. The professional specialization is geared toward engineers already working in the field and students interested in a management career within the biomedical industry. It requires 27 credit hours of coursework and a three-hour capstone project. The research track prepares students for continued graduate study or a career in the research side of biomedical engineering. It offers thesis and project-based options and requires 30 credit hours, with a minimum of 24 hours of coursework (15 hours in specialty electives, six in math core courses, and three in a life-science elective), including one semester of the “Biomedical Engineering Seminar.” Students working on a thesis earn six credit hours for it, and the master’s project option offers three. The orthotics and prosthetics track includes training in life science, such as anatomy, kinesiology, pathology, and normal pathological gait, according to the department’s website. It also offers engineering training with biomechanics, material science, research skills, and the production and evaluation processes for orthotic and prosthetic devices. This track differs from the others in that the hours and course requirements are less regimented, and it is but one step in a process toward certification. As FIU’s course catalogue notes, earning a master’s in BME from this track prepares graduates for earning a certificate issued by another organization, such as the International Institute of Orthotics and Prosthetics. A residency follows that, and finally, the Orthotics, Prosthetics, and Pedorthics Practitioner Certification Exam by the American Board of Certification. For people wanting to get into the field of orthotics and prosthetics, a master’s in biomedical engineering from Florida International University is the beginning of a journey that they will complete somewhere else. 

While FIU doesn’t specify an undergraduate degree requirement to join its master’s program, it notes that students from science and engineering areas other than biomedical engineering will have to complete remedial undergraduate courses (and earn a 3.0 GPA with no grades below a C) to gain full admission to the program. There is no minimum GRE requirement, but the school prioritizes applicants with higher scores. Considering its affordability and flexibility, Florida International’s biomedical engineering program is difficult to beat. 

#10 – VIRGINIA POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE AND STATE UNIVERSITY

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING

First, no one uses the 18-syllable monster of a name you see above, instead opting for the simpler “Virginia Tech.” Second, its School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences (SBES) is the result of a partnership among three entities: the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, the Wake Forest School of Medicine, and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. That trio means prospective graduate students have numerous options to pursue here, from an MS or Ph.D. in biomedical engineering to a DVM/Ph.D. through the vet school or an MD/Ph.D. via Wake Forest’s medical school. (Graduate diplomas feature both Virginia Tech and Wake Forest logos.) Students may enter the master’s program in biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, VA, or at Wake Forest, in Winston-Salem, NC. To get in, a 3.5 GPA is “preferred” (sounds like there’s wiggle room on that one) with a BS degree, along with a GRE score of 310 or higher (verbal and quantitative reasoning) and 4.0 or higher in analytical writing. Once enrolled, students will find nine areas of concentration: biomechanics, tissue engineering, biomedical imaging, neuroengineering, nanomedicine and nanobioengineering, translational cancer research, cardiovascular engineering, biomaterials, and automotive safety. While Virginia Tech recommends students stick to the concentration area requirements set by each faculty group, they don’t have to focus on one of those specific areas, and the school affords students some flexibility in mapping out their coursework according to their interests and professional goals. That said, Virginia Tech requires a thesis, which students will need to successfully defend, and they must pass a final exam to earn the master’s degree. Students also participate in the annual SBES Research Symposium each spring and complete an oral research presentation once before they graduate. Beyond that, the MBE program details are pretty typical: 30 credits are needed to graduate, with 21-24 of them coming from coursework, and six to nine from the thesis research. The course load breaks down like this: nine engineering course credits, including “Quantitative Cell Physiology” and “Quantitative Systems Physiology”; three credits of graduate-level mathematics (either pure math or statistics); three credits of life science; six to nine elective credits; and research making up whatever remains to reach 30. There’s also a seminar required for BME graduate students every semester, along with a one-time ethics course. Grad students must submit their plan of study within two semesters of starting the program. 

In summary, Virginia Tech’s biomedical engineering program is not messing around, either academically or financially – it costs $31,908, right around the median of schools on this list. Good thing they don’t charge by the syllable.

OTHER NOTABLE PROGRAMS

#11. Carnegie Mellon University

Location: Pittsburgh

Degree: Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Net Price: $30,847

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#12. Illinois Institute of Technology

Location: Chicago

Degree: Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Net Price: $25,814

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#13. Duke University

Location: Durham, NC

Degree: Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Net Price: $19,785

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#14. Drexel University

Location: Philadelphia

Degree: Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Net Price: $36,727

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#15. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Location: Madison, WI

Degree: Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Net Price: $14,169

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#16. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

Location: Indianapolis

Degree: Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Net Price: $9,371

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#17. Brown University

Location: Providence, RI

Degree: Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Net Price: $27,238

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#18. Catholic University of America

Location: Washington, D.C.

Degree: Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Net Price: $36,080

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#19. Columbia University in the City of New York

Location: New York

Degree: Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Net Price: $21,220

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#20. Northwestern University

Location: Evanston, IL

Degree: Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Net Price: $27,540

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Michael Templeton
Managing Editor

Kacey Reynolds Schedler
Contributing Editor