With decision day fast approaching, I’m offering up my unsolicited advice for choosing a specialisation and final words on my experience in BME. This blog post is a little bit of a hodge podge of information and overall quite long, so I have *tried* to organise it in some type of orderly manner that is going to look like this:
- FAQs (about BME)
- Student Profiles
- Parting Advice
Firstly, I thought I would try and address some of the questions that I have been asked repeatedly throughout the last few weeks at various specialisation events and at part one assistance centre:
- “Are there many opportunities in BME?”
This is my favourite question of them all, which is why I’m going to answer it first. The thing about BME is that you have a much less clear career path than, for example, civil engineering. There are not hundreds of internships, graduate programmes and big companies coming to the university to market themselves. None of these, however, equate to there being less opportunities – they just come in different formats. I think that many people look down on the fact that many BME graduates do not go on to BME jobs – but for many who have chosen the specialisation, that is either part of the appeal of the specialisation or because in the process of going through the diverse programme that is BME, they have found some particular aspect that they really enjoy and want to continue with.
So in summary, there are lots of opportunities that are open to you with a Biomedical Engineering Degree, but not all will take the form of “Biomedical Engineering Graduate Programmes”
- “Is BME hard?”
This one is a little harder for me to answer, especially because I haven’t done any other specialisations! From what I can gather from comparing my workload to that of friends in other specialisations, it is not necessarily any more or less, and again isn’t any more or less difficult. I’ll stress once again that one of the best things about BME is being in a really tight cohort. When we get hit with a tough assignment or topic, people really rally together to help each other out – this makes a really excellent learning environment, and even though the course work might be harder, you’re able to learn more because of this.
- “What do you do in BME?”
Check out my other blog posts!
- “What GPA do you need to get in?”
This is everyone’s favourite question, and despite the frustration of getting the answer “It changes year to year depending on demand,” that really is the only answer! No one yet knows what the GPA cut off will be for BME this year! Nothing should discourage you from ranking your specialisations in the order that you want to do them – this is the safest way to guarantee entry into the one you most want to do.
A slightly irrelevant but still nice-to-know piece of information is that the BME cohort is increasing by about 8 places next year (I know that doesn’t sound like much but it will make the cohort about 130% the size it is this year!)
Having told you that it’s really important to get other perspectives, I thought I would ask a couple of my friends to share a little bit about their experiences in BME. So here is what they have to say about being in BME:
Why did you choose BME: It is a diverse degree where you learn a range of different disciplines in various other specialisations. The job opportunities have the potential to have a practical aspect if thats what you’re interested in. It is a modern degree that is becoming more recognised and has interesting overseas job opportunities.
What specialisation would you being doing if you didn’t choose BME? Mechatronics
Having almost completed your first year in BME, what aspects of the degree have you found to be different to what you were expecting? Coding for modelling and optimisation; Circuit design and electrical components; Cellular biological (as well as the biomedical – larger scale) engineering
Favourite paper this year? BIOMENG221
Are there any particular areas of BME that you are especially interested in? Robotic prosthetics, CAD design
What are your thoughts on doing BME vs doing a more traditional Mechanical/Electrical/ENGSCI degree and applying it to the BME industry? Doing BME over Mechanical/Electrical/Civil gives you the opportunity to learn computational techniques which I think is an extremely valuable skill to have in the modern engineering industry.
BME is renowned for having “no jobs.” Why did you pick the specialisation anyway and what advice would you give to first years who are deterred from BME for this reason? Any job is hard to get if you don’t put in any effort. I think that if you put yourself out there and show what skills you have and make an effort to seek out jobs there are actually a lot of possibilities. I think people say there “are no jobs” because there is no set thing that we are ‘designed’ to do, we have the skills to work in a diverse range of jobs.
General advice to first years choosing specialisations? Read about what the papers you will be doing are so you can see what the rest of your degree will look like. Know the difference between what you will study in these papers and what is actually done by people in industry. Choose something that relates to papers you enjoyed and did well in in Part I
Any advice for first years considering BME? Figure out which part of BME you are actually interested in, and make sure that the BME degree is the best suited for that (You might find you’d be better off doing Biology because there’s less Bio than you thought in BME. Or that there’s more bio and materials than you expected and you would prefer to be doing robotics)
Alex Woodall; firstname.lastname@example.org
Why did you choose BME: Wanted to give myself a challange coming from 0 biology background. Thought the name sounded cool.
What specialisation would you being doing if you didn’t choose BME? Chemical & Materials
Favourite paper? ENGSCI233
Having almost completed your first year in BME, what aspects of the degree have you found to be different to what you were expecting? A lot more electrical aspects than expected.
Are there any particular areas of BME that you are especially interested in? The chemistry aspect in BIOMENG 261, some of the sections in MEDSCI 142 and BIOSCI 107.
What are your thoughts on doing BME vs doing a more traditional Mechanical/Electrical/ENGSCI degree and applying it to the BME industry? Do BME if you want to have a knowledge in the human body and are interested in biology. If you are more interested in the more technical side rather than the biology, then do another degree and apply it.
BME is renowned for having “no jobs.” Why did you pick the specialisation anyway and what advice would you give to first years who are deterred from BME for this reason? I picked it because I didn’t want to do any of the others by the end of the year.
What would you like to be doing in five years time? Something to do with the heart or with the musculoskeletal system
General advice to first years choosing specialisations? Go with what you most enjoyed studying for. But also look into the specilisations because the first year papers aren’t a good example for what it will be like.
Any advice for first years considering BME? Do you like biology as well as pretty much all other specialisations? BME is a mix.
Why did you choose BME: Relatively new field, with great importance in the future (I think so anyways)
What specialisation would you being doing if you didn’t choose BME? Mechatronics or Software
Having almost completed your first year in BME, what aspects of the degree have you found to be different to what you were expecting?
A lot less biology than I thought we would have to learn, but I don’t necessarily see it negatively. In a way it’s good that we still focus quite heavily on the different classical engineering aspects and apply it to field of biology.
Favourite paper? BIOMENG241
Are there any particular areas of BME that you are especially interested in? Right now it would have to be prosthetic or medical devices
What are your thoughts on doing BME vs doing a more traditional Mechanical/Electrical/ENGSCI degree and applying it to the BME industry? I would do a more traditional degree if I wasn’t exactly sure which field to focus on in the future, as it gives you the option to jump into the BME industry or other industry. I did BME because I was certain of entering the biomedical industry and if I found that I was lacking in the so called “traditional aspects” I can supplement it in some way.
BME is renowned for having “no jobs.” Why did you pick the specialisation anyway and what advice would you give to first years who are deterred from BME for this reason? I don’t believe that BME has “no jobs”, in NZ I’ll agree the market is small but there also seems to be many people in industry who don’t really know what biomedical engineers are or what they learn. I was even told by a representative from a company in my first year that doing a “mixed” degree like biomedical or mechatronics is not worthwhile, but I ended up sticking with it anyways. My advice would be to reach an informed decision, do lots of research on what fields you might be interested in and read on what the courses are in the degree to see if it interests you as well.
What would you like to be doing in five years time? Tough question, I’m not really sure as of yet. Could be working, doing further study or a business.
General advice to first years choosing specialisations? Spending a decent amount of time going through all the specialisations that you might be interested in and not just a quick glance at the blurb. Have a look at the courses, talk to lecturers or students in the specialisations to get a better idea.
Any advice for first years considering BME? Similar advice as above. Would add that as the smallest cohort (around 28) you will get to know basically everyone and in terms of a social aspect, a tight-knit group to spend the next 3 years of university together, going through tough and fun times.
The scariest thing about the “specialisation decision process” is that at some stage you are going to get all of the information you can possible get, and you still have to make a decision. If you aren’t yet at this point, I recommend reading through the blog posts on this site, reaching out to students in the specialisations you are interested in and also to lecturers – no one wants to make this process difficult for you, so as long as you ask politely, anyone will be willing to help!
And for those of you at saturation point, I hope the following advice gives you some assistance:
- Once you’ve chosen your specialisation, it’s still up to you how you will turn this into a career – there aren’t too many doors that will shut based on your decision
- The projects and extracurriculars you get involved in will speak volumes (perhaps even more than your specialisation choice) to prospective employers
- Stay true to your values and what you enjoy
- Consider which degree programme you think you will enjoy and be the most engaged in – you will get more opportunities in a ‘jobless’ specialisation if you enjoy it, are engaged and willing to take on extra work than in a specialisation where there are ample opportunities that float past you because you don’t enjoy what you study.
It’s been a pleasure being your Part II BME blogger this year! Please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me if you have any questions, and all the best with choosing your specialisation.
If you end up choosing BME, look out for me next year up at 70!