Program Profile – Top 5 Bioengineering PhD Graduate Programs
For anyone hoping to do original research in the field of Bioengineering (a.k.a. Biomedical Engineering), obtaining a PhD is often necessary. In the field of Bioengineering, unlike in many other engineering disciplines, undergraduate coursework alone does not fully prepare students for the research component of working in fields like tissue, cell, or biomaterial engineering, which are just a few subsets in the field of bioengineering. Obtaining a PhD in bioengineering will often consist of combining modern approaches in the experimental life sciences with theoretical and computational methods from engineering in order to find solutions to medical problems.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for bioengineers between 2012 and 2022 is expected to grow by 27%, which is much faster than average. Most bioengineers either conduct original research in academia or are employed by medical device or pharmaceutical companies. The starting salary for those with a PhD in Bioengineering ranges from $80,000-$100,000. It is clear by just looking at starting salary that a PhD in bioengineering can be extremely lucrative. In addition, if you are conducting original research it is possible to gain patents and start your own side company based on marketable discoveries. Many of the foremost bioengineers own multiple companies and/or patents based on their research.
The work done in the graduate program of your choosing can heavily influence the research you do throughout your career, so it is important to pick the right school and lab within the school. Below we have listed the top 5 Bioengineering graduate programs. These rankings are based on expert opinions about program excellence and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research, and students. Make sure you research the bioengineering labs and Principal Investigators (PI) within each school to make sure you find one that aligns with your interests. Choosing the right lab and PI that fits with your interests, personality, and work ethic can be more important than choosing the school. Remember this lab is where you will spend the vast majority of your time for the 4-7 years it takes to earn your PhD.
*Please note that many of the GRE scores provided for admitted students are according to the old GRE scoring scale.
TOP 5 Graduate Schools for Bioengineering/Biomedical Engineering[*]
#1 Johns Hopkins University (Whiting) Baltimore, MD
Johns Hopkins University is known for having one of the very best medical schools in the world, which is a great advantage for those wanting to study bioengineering. Johns Hopkins educates engineers alongside their medical students in the biological sciences and then expands their education in advanced mathematical and engineering sciences. As would be expected, admission to Johns Hopkins is extremely competitive, but those accepted receive a full fellowship which includes a yearly stipend, full tuition, matriculation fee, and individual medical and dental insurance. In 2012, 500 students applied to the Bioengineering PhD program and 70 were accepted. Admitted students featured:
- Significant laboratory experience and published abstracts or papers
- Undergraduate GPA: 3.81 ± 0.17
- Quantitative GRE: 786 ± 21
- Verbal GRE: 604 ± 68
The areas of study students are recruited for include Biomedical Imaging Science, Cell and Tissue Engineering/Technology, Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Molecular Neural Cardiovascular Systems, and Neuroscience and Neuroengineering. To learn more about Johns Hopkins’s Graduate Program, visit www.bme.jhu.edu/graduate/phd/overview
#2 Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA
The Bioengineering PhD program at Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) is a great choice for anyone looking to pursue interdisciplinary research for their dissertation. Students apply through one of 8 participating Georgia Tech engineering home schools or departments and can work with any of the 90+ participating faculty members. This gives graduate students the unique opportunity to have a wide range of options for choosing their dissertation and work across multiple disciplines if they choose to do so. For example, someone hoping to develop a unique medical device can complete coursework in electrical, mechanical, and biological engineering to further their research. The average scores for students entering engineering doctoral programs at GIT are as follow:
- Average Undergraduate GPA: 3.70
- Quantitative GRE: 777
- Verbal GRE: 550
The areas of study include Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine, Cardiovascular Biology and Biomechanics, Cellular and Biomolecular Engineering, Integrative Biosystems, and Neuroengineering. To learn more about GIT’s Graduate Program, visit www.bioengineering.gatech.edu
#3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is well known as one of the top technical schools in the world, and this holds true when speaking of their graduate Bioengineering program. Their PhD program offers two tracks, one in Bioengineering and one in Applied Biosciences, which allows students to choose from a wide range of research options. You may choose to follow one of these tracks or a combination of both. Note though that students in either track may pursue research projects in any area with approval by their research supervisor. Average GRE scores of students admitted to MIT’s doctoral engineering programs are as follow:
- Quantitative GRE: 788
- Verbal GRE: 607
Due to the presence of multiple tracks, research area options are too numerous to list here. Refer to www.web.mit.edu/be/programs/ to find a full list of research areas in the MIT Bioengineering PhD Program.
#3 University of California—San Diego (Jacobs) La Jolla, CA
University of California San Diego has fantastic bioengineering programs both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. California is an ideal place to be for those interested in pursuing bioengineering research (and those that enjoy beautiful weather) because of the concentration of biomedical companies and research institutions that focus on bioengineering. UC San Diego focuses their bioengineering PhD program on Integrative Bioengineering. This means they promote the integration of research at all levels of bioengineering design from genes and molecules to the whole organism. They also promote interactions between engineering and biomedical sciences, coordination of research and education (you must complete four quarters of teaching to earn a PhD), partnerships between neighboring institutions, and collaboration with industry and clinical medicine. In order to be accepted to UC San Diego’s bioengineering PhD program, you must have a GPA of at least 3.4. The average scores of admitted students to engineering PhD programs at UC San Diego are as follow:
- Average GPA: 3.6
- Quantitative GRE: 780
- Verbal GRE: 543
Note that because UC San Diego’s bioengineering PhD is their highest ranking engineering doctoral program, the GPA and GRE scores of admitted students may be slightly higher than those listed. To learn more about UC San Diego’s Graduate Program, visit www.be.ucsd.edu/graduate
#5 Duke University (Pratt) Durham, NC
Duke’s Bioengineering PhD program is specifically tailored to those wishing to pursue specialized research in academia, industry, or a government lab. One great aspect of Duke’s approach to the Bioengineering PhD is their focus on mentorship. The process of finding the best fit between you and your research advisor starts before you are even admitted. After you submit your application, interested faculty may contact you and the best applicants are invited to Duke to interview with the group of research advisors that have identified you as a potential graduate student. This ensures that those accepted are placed in a lab that best fits the need of both the lab and student. The average scores of admitted students to engineering PhD programs at UC San Diego are as follow:
- Average GPA: 3.6
- Quantitative GRE: 780
- Verbal GRE: 599
To learn more about Duke’s Graduate Program, visit www.bme.duke.edu/grad
#5 Stanford University Stanford, CA
Stanford tied in ranking with Duke to give us the 6th school that makes the Top 5 Bioengineering Graduate Programs list. Like UC San Diego, Stanford’s location in California makes it a great place to build a network as well as earn a top degree. Stanford is ranked as having the 2nd best engineering school in the country overall, which means the caliber of interdisciplinary research is extremely high. Most of the top Bioengineering PhD programs offer a joint MD/PhD, but Stanford also offers a joint JD/MS/PhD. This is just one of the many benefits of attending a university that is top ranked in virtually every school they have. These joint programs are extremely competitive though, so expect to need a near perfect GPA and top scores in every qualifying exam to earn admission. The average scores of admitted students to engineering PhD programs at Stanford are as follow:
- Quantitative GRE: 786
- Verbal GRE: 605