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a year ago
Admissions Advice

The difference between a major in Biomedical Engineering and Biochemistry? Which is best for med-prep?
Answered

Greeting CollegeVine,

Looking into schools, I stumbled upon a very general question (noted above) and I wish to know which major grants the best preparation for medical school and gives the best opportunities for undergraduate research. My life goals are to become a physician-scientists which will mean I need to attain a dual degree MD/PhD. Neither of my parents are doctors or researchers and I have no guidance as to where to direct my undergrad studies to best prepare me for medical research. Any advice would be very well appreciated!!

Many sources and forums I’ve looked at seem to hold a debate as to which major, especially BME, holds the greatest potential for med-prep regarding opportunities, classes, etc.

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Accepted Answer
a year ago

Great question, and with all great questions... I'm not going to give you a black and white answer here.

Here's the short answer: it doesn't really matter, in the sense that neither BME or Biochem will give you an inherent advantage over the other in preparing for a med research career.

Here's the long answer: the difference between BME and Biochem is really one of preference, not success/prestige. I would argue that BME is a little bit more of a specialized track, so it may potentially be slightly more difficult to find labs to work at during summers since there are comparatively less bme labs available at the undergrad level. That said, anybody that is on the BME track is quite well-equipped to go to a biochem lab as well. More importantly, within the context of any individual school, once you're on a Biochem or BME track there shouldn't be a noticeable difference in the opportunities presented within one or the other -- schools will have departments that are proportional to the major size and so the relatively higher specialization level of BME shouldn't really come into play in how many/what type of opportunities will be available to you.

One other quick point of consideration: BME is also often an engineering degree at the graduate level, so if your end goal is, for example, to enter a R&D company and do interesting work, the PhD in some cases on the BME track won't be as necessary for the purposes of that goal.

My ultimate advice to you, as with anything in college admissions, is to think about which endeavor is more intellectually exciting to you. At the end of the day, the major that you are more personally interested in is the major you will perform better in, which will boost your chances for success in medicine far more than any guesswork that you do in evaluating which one is most likely to lead to "success."

To make that decision, you need to understand the nature of the Biochem PhD vs. the nature of the BME PhD/grad degree. BME is a better fit for those students that are interested in using their med background to help develop new technologies. Biochem sets you up a little more for an abstract career, like discovering new concepts. If your clear priority is to establish an obvious avenue through which your med background can have real life applications, I would lean towards BME. The academic path is a little different too. The fact that BME doesn't necessarily lead you to the PhD track again shows that it's not necessarily as academically inclined/purely research based, although of course these are factors that you yourself can adjust to your own preferences.

Hope this gives you something to think about!

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