Biomedical Science or Biomedical Engineering, Which is better?

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Versus Series
  • Biomedical Science or Biomedical Engineering, Which is better?

Biomedical science and Biomedical engineering are both fields that utilise knowledge of medicine and knowledge of modern scientific advancements to understand and enhance human health.

Although these fields vary considerably, some students might be grappling with the choice of which one to study.

It is important to evaluate several factors including course difficulty, job availability, ease of progression, as well as a student’s career intentions, to determine whether biomedical science or biomedical engineering would be a better option to study.

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Biomedical Science or Biomedical Engineering, Which is better?

What to expect in Biomedical Engineering?

Biomedical engineering is a field that combines medicine, science, and technology to create solutions for healthcare. A degree in biomedical engineering teaches you how to use engineering principles to design and develop medical devices, equipment, and technologies that help doctors treat patients better.

It’s like being a bridge between doctors and engineers, making tools that improve health and save lives.

A BEng (Hons) in Biomedical Engineering is typically 3 years, or 4 years with placement or foundation year.

first year

Generally, the first year is all about getting to know your fellow student and technical staff, and also getting a grasp of the baisc, including core units such as electronic engineering principles, engineering mathematics, and mechanical engineering principles.

You will also get an opportunity to work on a design project, which. isa team based exercise where you get to develop and build a tangible solution to a set of design breif.s

Second year

Second and third year is spent on more group projects, but also developing deeper understanding of more advanced engineering principles, such as engineering fluids, solid mechanics, modelling and simulation, and control engineering.

Here you will also get an introduction to anatomy and physiology for engineers.

Third year

Your third year is where you will get a chance to put some of your technical knowledge to practice in an individual project, while also working with industry expects or even a placement employer.

You will get the option to specialise in a set of optional units which differ from university to university, but also exposed to newer subjects like biotechnology, computational mechanics , and digital design technologies.

the final year is certainly characterised by an individualistic sense of practice, and a focus on project design and implemantation.


Of course with such a hands on degree, there is also the opportunity to engage with a placement year.

A biomedical engineering degree often offers students the option of a year-long industry placement, allowing them to gain practical experience.

While not available to every student, those who opt-in for this opportunity extend their degree by a year, spending the third year working within a company.

These placements provide valuable skill development and insights into industry operations, demonstrating to future employers the student’s readiness for the workforce.

Support services such as employer presentations, advice, and placement fairs are commonly available to help students find suitable placements.

What to expect in Biomedical Science?

Biomedical science is all about understanding how the human body works and what goes wrong when people get sick.

A degree in biomedical science teaches you about diseases, how they spread, and how the body’s cells and systems function.

A lot of the curriculum is analogous to the first 2 years of a medical program, and often students intending to study medicine later in life will study biomedical science initially.

It’s like being a detective for health, studying the clues that can lead to new treatments and ways to keep people well.

First year

In the first year, a BSc in Biomedical Sciences is relatively familiar and reminiscent of A level biology and chemistry.

The first year will be broken into 2 semesters. In each semester, you will study 3 modules and write exams in January (for semester 1) and may (for semester 2).

All exams are multiple choice based.

This is usually the examination model that most biomedical science universities take.

Common first year modules include cell and tissue biology which is the study of cells under a microscope to examine organelles and other structures that allow them to carry out their specific function.

Human physiology and genetics are also usually studied in the first year to give students a better understanding of the human body.

In the first year some newer topics are introduced to students; These include biochemistry and microbiology.

Second year

In the second year, students continue to study about health and disease as they begin to specialise more deeply.

Students also are introduced to a variety of important lab techniques, and often will have to understake a lab based competency test to progress to he final third year.

Module for the second year include cellular biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, and a science communication module which includes a presentation of a biochemical theory or reaction to your peers.

Second year exams are largely short answer and essay based, which is is a stark contrast to the mostly multiple choice based questions in the first yer.

The second year is also likely to have an efffect on your final graduation degree score, whereas the first year did not.

Third year

The final year of a biomedical science degree is characterised by majority essay-based exams, a group based coursework module, optional modules, and a final year research project that spans both semesters.

This research project contributes tthe most towards your degree classification, with the final year contributing up to 60% of your total mark.

Elective modules include advanced immunology, biochemistry of disease, and human genetics.

The final year is by far the shortest, but the most meaningful in terms of knowledge gained, and contribution towards degree classification.

The final year often marks a period where students establish their most significant connections.

This is due to their involvement in tangible group projects, collaborating with individuals they might not have previously interacted with.

These projects hold substantial importance, as they contribute 10% towards the overall yearly assessment.

Which is better?

Biomedical science is harder

In terms of course difficulty, biomedical science is generally more challenging than biomedical engineering, given the depth of its subject matter.

It is a common misconception that biomedical engineering is inherently the toughest due to its mathematical and engineering components.

However, much of its complexity is rooted already well established principles. Once a concept clicks, it is likely to continue making sense for the remainder of the program.

Biomedical science, however, is under no obligation to “click” or make sense – as there is still much of the human body being actively researching – with a constantly evolving literature, and seemingly endless content to study, it’s no surprise that students find biomedical science to be challenging degree.

This might be one of the reasons why there is such a high dropout rate for biomedical science, when transitioning from first to second year.

Biomedical engineering certainly isn’t easy by any stretch of the imaginations, however, the limited exposure to human anatomy and physiology, coupled with the relatively self explanatory mathematics makes it an easier and often quite enjoyable discipline to study.

Additionally, the fact that the body of research isn’t endless—unlike the ever-changing nature of medicine and biomedical research—contributes to a more achievable sense of mastery when delving into the subject.

Biomedical engineering takes longer

Biomedical engineering programs typically require a longer duration to complete compared to many other fields.

In most universities it s a standard 3 year degree, however, a lot of graduates choose to take on an extra year and gain expereince ata placement, or acquire a MEng which certainly gives an edge when applying for jobs or graduate schemes.

This extended timeline is often due to the comprehensive nature of the curriculum, which combines elements of engineering, biology, and medicine.

The inclusion of specialized courses, laboratory work, and practical training can result in a degree program that spans beyond the standard four-year period.

However, this additional time investment allows students to develop a strong foundation in both engineering principles and medical knowledge, preparing them for a diverse range of career opportunities within the healthcare and technology sectors.

Both have good job prospects

Both biomedical engineering and biomedical science offer promising job prospects that extend beyond the conventional roles of biomedical scientists or engineers.

Graduates from these fields find themselves equipped with versatile skills that open doors to various career avenues.

Biomedical engineering graduates can venture into roles such as medical device designers, healthcare technology consultants, or even entrepreneurship in the burgeoning field of health-tech startups.

On the other hand, biomedical science graduates are well-positioned for careers in pharmaceutical research, academic research, clinical trials management, medical writing, and healthcare administration.

The convergence of technology and medical expertise in both disciplines creates a dynamic landscape of opportunities that cater to diverse interests and aspirations.

So in general, studying either will afford you the ability to enter a variety of different fields, and settle on the one that’s best for you.

Engineers have better career progression

Often, engineers in the biomedical field tend to enjoy a more streamlined career progression compared to their counterparts in biomedical science.

The structured nature of engineering roles, coupled with the specialized technical skills acquired during their education, allows biomedical engineers to swiftly climb the career ladder.

These professionals often find themselves in roles of increasing responsibility, such as senior engineers, project managers, or technical specialists, granted they have accrued sufficient experience.

The demand for their expertise in designing and developing innovative healthcare solutions contributes to accelerated career growth.

While biomedical science offers a different set of opportunities, the engineering discipline’s clear path of advancement appeals to those seeking a well-defined trajectory in their professional journey.

Biomedical science graduates have more options

Biomedical science graduates are presented with a wider array of career options, thanks to the comprehensive knowledge they gain about the human body and diseases.

This in addition to practical lab and research skills acquired during the degreed allows them to explore roles in various sectors such as research institutions, healthcare settings, pharmaceutical companies, and regulatory agencies.

From conducting laboratory experiments to analyzing medical data, graduates can pursue careers as clinical research associates, laboratory managers, forensic scientists, or even science communicators.

The broad spectrum of opportunities aligns well with those who value flexibility and wish to explore different facets of the medical and scientific realm throughout their professional journey.

Engineers have a higher starting salary

Something that students often consider before enrolling on a degree is the salary for prospective graduates.

Engineers in the field of biomedical engineering tend to start their careers with higher salaries compared to their counterparts in biomedical science.

This discrepancy is often attributed to the specialized technical skills and engineering expertise that biomedical engineers bring to the table.

Their ability to design and develop cutting-edge medical devices, equipment, and technologies places them in high demand, leading to more lucrative initial job offers.

While salary trajectories may vary over time, the competitive compensation for biomedical engineers at the outset of their careers reflects the value placed on their unique skill set and contributions to the healthcare and technology sectors.

Biomedical scientists help more people

Biomedical scientists have the opportunity to make a significant impact on a larger scale, contributing to the health and well-being of numerous individuals.

Through their work in research, diagnostics, and medical advancements, biomedical scientists play a crucial role in developing treatments, medications, and diagnostic tools that benefit countless patients.

Their efforts ripple through healthcare systems, touching the lives of those facing various medical conditions.

This sense of broad-reaching influence and the potential to improve public health draws individuals with a strong desire to contribute to the greater good through their scientific expertise and discoveries.

Engineers have more fun

A course lacking recreational elements can take a toll on students, potentially leading to elevated dropout rates.

So who has more fun??!

Biomedical engineers often experience a sense of enjoyment and engagement through hands-on practicals that form an integral part of their coursework.

These practical sessions allow them to directly apply engineering concepts to create medical solutions and devices.

This tangible aspect of their learning journey contributes to a dynamic and interactive educational experience.

Additionally, the prospect of seeing their creations have a direct impact on healthcare practices can be gratifying.

This practical and innovative dimension, intertwined with the potential to make a tangible difference, lends a distinct sense of fulfillment to the field of biomedical engineering, offering students a unique avenue to channel their creativity and problem-solving skills.

So in general, biomedical engineering students tend to have more fun during their time at university, however experiences may vary across universities.

Both have great transferable skills, engineers have more

While having a plan is fine, what if you decide to change directions? Have you acquired sufficient transferable skills to be confident in pursuing a different job?

Both biomedical engineering and biomedical science equip graduates with valuable transferable skills that extend beyond their respective fields.

However, biomedical engineers often possess a broader range of transferable skills.

The engineering discipline cultivates a strong foundation in problem-solving, critical thinking, and project management, skills that are highly sought-after in various industries.

Additionally, the technical expertise acquired in engineering programs, such as programming and data analysis, enhances graduates’ adaptability to different roles.

While biomedical science imparts a solid understanding of scientific methodologies and research techniques, the comprehensive skill set of biomedical engineers positions them favorably for diverse career paths and seamless transitions between industries, offering them an edge in the realm of transferable proficiencies.

Both require minimal contact with clients

Lastly, this could be crucial for those who worry about patient interactions, especially introverts, or even extroverts who prefer engaging with patients, this next part may be important.

Both biomedical engineering and biomedical science offer career paths that generally involve minimal direct contact with clients, catering to individuals who prefer roles that require less interaction with customers.

These fields predominantly focus on research, development, and analysis, allowing professionals to work behind the scenes, contributing to advancements in healthcare and medical technologies.

However, it’s important to note that within both disciplines, there are opportunities for those who wish to interact with clients or patients, such as in healthcare consulting or clinical research roles.

The option for more client-facing roles exists, but the emphasis on research and technical expertise remains a significant aspect, providing a suitable avenue for those who thrive in a less client-centric environment.

Common misconceptions

Biomedical engineering is only for maths geniuses

A common misconception surrounding biomedical engineering is that it is exclusively suited for individuals with exceptional mathematical aptitude.

While mathematical skills are certainly beneficial in this field, they are not the sole determinant of success.

Biomedical engineering encompasses a broad spectrum of responsibilities beyond complex calculations, including design, testing, problem-solving, and collaboration with medical professionals.

Creativity, critical thinking, and an understanding of medical principles are equally crucial attributes.

Biomedical engineers draw from an interdisciplinary toolkit that blends engineering, biology, and medicine, making it accessible to individuals with diverse talents and interests.

The misconception that only math prodigies can excel in this field is wrong, and it overlooks the multifaceted nature of biomedical engineering and the range of skills that contribute to its success.

Biomedical science is where all the medical rejects go

Also, “isn’t biomedcial sciece where all the medical school rejects are?”

A prevailing misconception suggests that biomedical science is a fallback option for individuals who didn’t make it into traditional medical or healthcare programs.

This notion couldn’t be further from the truth.

Biomedical science is a highly specialized field that delves deep into understanding the human body, diseases, and medical research. It’s a deliberate choice for those passionate about unraveling the mysteries of health and illness at a molecular level.

Biomedical science graduates play pivotal roles in advancing medical knowledge, contributing to breakthroughs in treatments and diagnostics.

Their expertise is valued in research institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare settings. Viewing biomedical science as a refuge for “medical rejects” undermines the dedicated pursuit of knowledge and innovation that defines this crucial discipline.

It is true that in certain cohorts, a large contingent of the student population on biomedical science programs intend to pursue medicine later in life.

However, it is generally recommended that biomedical science be used as an alternative, rather than a means to studying medicine.

Biomedical engineering has no job prospects

A prevalent misconception that plagues the field of biomedical engineering is the belief that it leads to limited job prospects.

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Biomedical engineering graduates are in high demand, given their unique skill set that combines engineering expertise with medical knowledge.

These professionals contribute significantly to the development of medical devices, equipment, and technologies that are integral to modern healthcare.

Their roles span from designing prosthetics to improving imaging systems, and from creating cutting-edge diagnostic tools to enhancing patient care through technology.

With the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare and technology, the opportunities for biomedical engineers continue to expand, making this misconception obsolete in the face of the growing demand for their expertise.

Generally though, positions are competitive, especially those advertised to graduates, which is why a placement year is usually recommended.

Biomedical scientists are paid badly

A prevailing misconception surrounding biomedical scientists is the notion that they are poorly compensated.

While there is an element of truth in the sense that entry-level salaries might appear only marginally above minimum wage, this perception overlooks the broader picture.

The diversity of career paths available to biomedical science graduates ensures that their earning potential isn’t confined to entry-level positions.

As professionals gain experience and specialize in areas such as clinical research, laboratory management, or scientific communication, their earning capacity grows significantly.

Additionally, the intrinsic rewards of contributing to medical advancements, coupled with the myriad opportunities to explore various facets of the medical and scientific realm, offer a compelling counterpoint to the notion that biomedical scientists are confined to meager pay scales.


In summary, even though biomedical engineering and biomedical science are distinct courses, they both use knowledge about the human body and the latest scientific progress to benefit population health.

Engineers usually start with higher salaries and develop skills that can be used beyond engineering, like computer science and creating surgical tools.

On the other hand, graduates in biomedical science can work in research, medicine, and various other areas.

Both fields often don’t involve direct interactions with clients, but there’s still room for that option.

The choice between the two should be based on what matches your goals, personality, and the specific field you want to work in.

Remember to think about the skills you can use in other areas too, and consider the potential for working in related fields.

It’s not just about the course itself, but also about what you might want to do later and how the skills from your current course could help you switch fields if needed.

Everyone’s situation is unique, so it’s important to make an informed decision based on your own circumstances. .

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