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I am a 4th year bioengineering major at UC Berkeley and I've long realized that I've made a terrible mistake. I really don't see how BioE should be as "hot" a major as it is. The program at Berkeley, given its admission statistics, is highly overrated. In terms of career prospects and earning potential, there is no added advantage to majoring in BioE. Here's my take on why it is a bad idea to major in BioE (with exceptions, below):
BioE is too broad and theoretical at the undergraduate level to be useful as a terminal degree. Companies in the relevant field hiring newly graduated bachelors are looking for people who have more specialized skill sets so they can be part of a interdisciplinary team. As a result, they will prefer the mechanical engineer, the chemical engineer, the materials scientist, or the electrical engineer (and put them all on the same team to complement each other) over the bioengineer (who knows a little bit of all the fields but is not good at any one of them). Alumni of Berkeley's BioE program have told me that there arent many jobs specifically available for BioE bachelors and they have found the need to compete with graduates of other engineering disciplines for jobs. (The BioE major trying to show employers that he can be better at chemical engineering than the ChemE major is already at a disadvantage.)
Of course, there are exceptions. For example, top rated BME programs at Johns Hopkins, Duke, and UCSD literally force their students to select another engineering field in which to specialize and offer few choices in actual course selection. Consequently, these are all ABET accredited. The BioE program (which is not ABET accredited) is poorly designed: you can get away by taking half your core in integrative biology department. If not, the result is still a mish-mash of wholly unrelated courses in various sciences and engineering. What I am hearing from people in the job search is that when employers ask them if they have experience in a certain field, they can say "I took a class and we covered this", but they can't really say they know or understand it. (Keep in mind that what is true for Berkeley is not true for a number of places, but it can still be representative for many emerging programs.)
On the other hand, it is worth getting PhD in bioengineering to get into the industry, but PhD programs take anyone who has majored in a science or engineering discipline. And here, BioE majors are still at no advantage, especially if they haven't done any substantial research.
So my advice to all of you early in the game:
-Major in BioE only if you truly love and enjoy the subject. This is true for any major.
-If you are premed, you must not only love and enjoy the subject but be good at it since your GPA will matter a gazillion (literally!) times over your major. The same holds the same if you are prelaw, but you will better off as a patent lawyer having majored in something more specialized at the undergraduate level like EE.
-If you want to enter a BioE-related field, then you do not need to major in BioE: try choosing another engineering discipline (e.g. EE to work on BioMEMS, MechE to work in orthopedic biomechanics). This will make it easier on you both when you are trying to find a job with a bachelor's degree and when you are trying to get into a PhD BioE program.
-If you do major in BioE, try to take classes in a single engineering discipline (or double major!) to make yourself more marketable to employers.
Keep in mind that what I learned firsthand I experienced in school. The rest I learned talking to other people. Feel free to validate these opinions or disagree with them.