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What is a biological engineering degree?

Biological engineers apply human ingenuity to life sciences. Learn what a biological engineering degree is and what it offers students at different levels.
doug-wintemute
Written by Doug Wintemute on
A Black, female scientist pipetting a sample into test tube.
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What is a biological engineering degree? This degree prepares you for a career in biological engineering with courses in computer systems, statistics, chemistry, and more.

Read on to explore the curricula and degree types schools offer.

What is biological engineering?

Biological engineering is the practice of using engineering principles, life sciences, systems analysis, and instrumentation to improve life for humans, plants, and animals. 

These engineers need skills in equipment design, computer systems and software, and statistical modeling.

According to the BLS, the largest industries for biological engineering degree jobs include medical equipment manufacturing, life sciences research and development, and healthcare. 

These professionals design new and improved medical equipment for more effective treatment, develop genetically enhanced food crops, and create artificial and replacement organs and body parts for humans and animals.

Technological advances, an aging population, and the need for biomedical healthcare solutions drive demand for biological engineering professionals. 


SEE: What is the difference between biology and biological engineering?

What do you learn in a biological engineering degree program?

Curricula vary depending on the school, the degree level, and the program's focus. These programs generally provide engineering and life sciences training. 

Students learn the fundamentals and can specialize in many areas, including:

  • Biology and physiology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Instrumentation
  • Design and modeling
  • Kinesiology and biomechanics
  • Computer programming

Biological engineering course examples

Biological engineering design

This course examines engineering design tools and processes. Students learn to use simulations, models, and impact assessments during the design process.

Biomolecular and cellular systems analysis

In this course, students learn how to use computers and experiments to analyze biomolecular and cellular systems. The training may cover molecular modeling, cell populations, regulation networks, and gene sequence analysis.

Biological systems

Students in this course study the complex systems within living organisms. They examine organisms at the molecular level and how systems function and work with the organism's environment. 

Biological chemistry

In this course, students examine organisms' chemical processes and biological systems. They study biological process reactions and interactions and how chemical strategies can manipulate these systems.

How hard is a biological engineering degree?

A biological engineering degree can present several challenges for students. 

The discipline requires knowledge of complex science branches, such as chemistry, biology, and physics. The programs also include mathematics and computer-related training that can present issues for some learners. 

Like most engineering programs, biological engineering also features rigorous study requirements and heavy workloads. 

Determined and self-motivated students who commit to the work may find success. Learners must also apply problem-solving, critical thinking, and reasoning to their studies.

What kinds of biological engineering degrees are there?

Bachelor's degree in biological engineering

A bachelor's in biological engineering typically features 120 credits and typically takes four years to complete. The training covers engineering and life sciences fundamentals and principles. It includes engineering analysis and biological system structures and functions.

Students may encounter courses in:

  • Cellular and molecular biology
  • Biostatistics
  • Organic chemistry

Graduates may access entry-level careers as biological engineers, biochemical engineers, and biomechanics engineers. 

Master's degree in biological engineering

A two-year master's in biological engineering tackles more advanced research and study topics in the discipline. 

Graduate students develop the methods and tools for practical applications. They also pursue specializations such as biomechanical engineering, robotics, and biomedical materials. 

Courses may include:

  • Physical properties of biomaterials
  • Advanced food engineering
  • Biomechanical design

In addition to the entry-level biological engineering roles, master's graduates can access senior and team leader positions in research and development labs, hospitals, and governments. 

Doctoral degree in biological engineering

Doctoral degrees prepare graduates for postsecondary teaching and medical scientist roles. The training emphasizes innovation and clinical and industrial applications, providing students with the resources and support networks to make a difference in the field and the world. 

These programs allow learners to pursue research and study specializations, including regenerative medicine, advanced imaging, and bioinformatics.

The training can take four to seven years and may include courses in:

  • Applied microbiology
  • Computational systems biology
  • Tissue engineering 

Who accredits biological engineering programs?

Accreditation shows schools and programs meet industry quality standards. Schools must hold institutional accreditation to offer federal financial aid.

Programmatic accreditation for biological engineering programs must come from the Engineering Accreditation Commission division of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

In conclusion

A biological engineering degree equips graduates with interdisciplinary skills to make an impact in the life and physical sciences. 

When choosing a school and program, consider your study interests and career goals to ensure you take the best educational path for you. 

Those interested in other engineering disciplines can check out an electrical engineering degree, mechanical engineering degree, software engineering degree, computer engineering degree, civil engineering degree, or industrial engineering degree.

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