Dear Mentor:

Should I get my MS in mechanical or biomedical?

I am Bachelor's student in mechanical engineering. I want to do a Master's in biomedical engineering. Is it a good idea? Please inform me whether a mechanical engineering student gets good offers after completing an MS in biomedical engineering.

To Biomed or Not, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Dear To Biomed or Not:

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, as the saying goes. The mere fact that biomed programs exist and many students pursue them, they must be good for some people. Whether biomed would be good for you is really difficult for us to say. When choices exist, individuals have to make decisions; and, the decisions vary. The mere existence of choices indicates that you are not dealing with a universal truth. We can however propose an approach for determining whether a biomed degree is a good idea for you.

To make decisions rationally, one needs an objective set of criteria. You have indicated one criterion, and that is the availability of good jobs upon graduation. As you may know, the requirement for entering an MS program is typically a BS in electrical or mechanical engineering, or of course in biomed. A similar situation is true in the employment arena. Graduates from electrical and mechanical engineering can obtain jobs in biomed. However, graduates of biomed programs are considered so specialized that they usually can not obtain an electrical or mechanical engineering job without foregoing, at least to some extent, the benefit of an MS in biomed. In a nutshell, your job opportunities will be far more limited relative to someone with an MS in electrical or mechanical engineering. However, when you do find a good job in biomed, you are likely to receive good remuneration because of your higher level of specialization. The job market in biomed is currently reasonable. With the impending growth of biotech - so the pundits say - the demand for biomed graduates would increase. But when and how rapidly this growth occurs, our guess is no better than yours.

We would encourage you to expand your decision criteria to include such things as your ambitions and goals, personal interests, earning power over your life time as opposed to at the time of entering the job market, and so on. In other words, you should seriously consider, beyond a good offer upon graduation, what you would really like to do and where you would like to be a decade or two from now.

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