Should I major in biomedical engineering or biochemistry, or both?

I’m a rising senior, and I’ll be applying to colleges in a few months. I’ve wanted to do medicine for a long time, and right now I’m stuck between majoring in biomedical engineering or biochemistry. On one hand, I really want to do biomedical engineering and gain an engineering perspective for oncology, but on the other, I’m not sure if I want to risk getting a lower GPA since engineering usually doesn’t have high curves, and I’m planning on applying to medical school. Any help will be very appreciated!


You have a few things to consider.

  1. You can major in anything and apply to medical schools as long as you take the required courses for medical school applicants. You don’t need to major on biomedical engineering or biochem.

  2. You mention oncology as a possible goal. Let’s just say you are very much putting the cart before the horse. You need to do well in undergrad school, and on the MCAT and at an interview for medical school should you be invited to an interview. Then you need to go to medical school for four years. You will take many tests during that time…and your Step scores will actually be a big factor in determining your competitiveness for any specialty. In addition, you will be doing rotations in lots of different specialties as part of your medical school training. Oncology (so far as I know) is not a standard rotation. Anyway…every medical school student should keep an open mind about specialties.

  3. You will also need to do a number of other things to be a competitive medical school applicant…shadowing a physician, volunteer work with underprivileged groups, hands on medical experience if possible.

  4. I would suggest choosing a major that you love that could have some job/career potential other than medical school. Remember that only 40% of applicants get any medical school acceptances and the majority get only one. So…have a decent Plan B.

@WayOutWestMom what other advice does this high school senior need?


I would not recommend double majoring as you propose. Engineering majors tend to be very proscribed. You get a list of courses you must take each semester. When I was an engineering major I usually had one free elective a semester and used it to take something completely different that looked interesting in order to give my brain a break. If you double major in biochemistry, you will be using your free electives to take upper level bio chem courses. It will be hard and will probably make it even more difficult to keep your GPA up. Pick the major you like best. Don’t try to do both.

1 Like

Agree with @thumper1, any major can apply for medical school. Business majors-with the required courses and high MCAT-are quite sought after these days. Having a business degree helps understand how a medical practice should be run.
Definitely would NOT double major.
Select a degree that is a solid, stand alone degree…should you decide not to pursue med school.

1 Like

I don’t think OP suggested double majoring?

1 Like

Actually…read the title…he lists two majors…or “both”


Ah, ok! Thank you - I missed that.

And I agree with your and others’ advice to OP.


Business knowledge can help if the physician wants to run a small practice. However, about half of physicians are employees of large practices or hospitals, according to .


I would also not recommend a double major. Double majors require significantly more work and don’t improve your CV for med school. Adcomms are not impressed by double majors and you won’t get any GPA slack for having one. (Also you won’t get any GPA slack for having a “difficult” major like engineering, physics, mathematics. computer science, etc.)

Engineering is a very lock step curriculum. Engineering is easy to transfer out of, but very difficult to transfer into. If you think you may want to pursue engineering, apply for and start on the engineering track. You can always switch out after a semester or two if you decide you don’t like it.

Engineering can be hard on the GPA, but I know a number of students who majored in engineering and were able to maintain the GPA needed to support a successful med school application. Whether you will be able to do so depends on you, your math & critical thinking skills, your affinity/ability for engineering and your work ethic.

The ECs needed to support a med school application can be time consuming: physician shadowing, clinical or lab bench research experience, long term community service with disadvantaged populations, significant clinical exposure through volunteering or employment and leadership roles in your activities. So keep this mind when selecting a major. (Many pre-meds take 1-3 years post graduation to develop or burnish their ECs for med school application.)

P.S. I know you say you want to be a pre-med, but unless you’ve already had substantial clinical exposure through either volunteering or working in a clinical setting, you don’t really know you want to go to med school. Right now it’s more like a hopeful potential goal.


I honestly don’t know if it’s still the case, but in the past med schools have LOVED Bioengineers, because they know that these are the people who are going to be inventing/designing new tech in medicine. Biochem applicants are a dime a dozen - it’s probably one of the most common majors (after straight Bio or straight Chem) applying to med school. If you’ve got the inclination to do Bioengineering, I’d say go for it. Besides, if for some reason you wind up being among the many who decide not to go into medicine, you’ll still have a highly marketable degree if you go for Bioengineering.


This is all great advice. The advice I’d add to it would vary a bit based on whether or not you are hell-bent on going to med school.

The biochem degree might be easier to complete than the engineering degree for reasons others have mentioned (number of required courses, mathiness, etc).

However, if think you’d like engineering, I’d start with that program because the degree itself is more useful than the biochem degree. And as someone else mentioned, transferring from engineering to biochem is easy, but transferring into engineering can be hard or impossible.

If you will do anything to get into med school because it’s your true life’s passion, either degree will be fine and you’ll do what it takes to get there (even if it requires a punishing schedule or extra time after graduation).

If you don’t end up going to med school for whatever reason, either degree is also fine, but your job prospects would be somewhat better with the engineering degree.

Getting into the clinic for some real experience is essential, as is getting advice from MDs about your plans.

Good luck! Both are great pre-med choices.


Bioengineering majors don’t get any preference in med school admissions–though there are one or two niche med schools that specifically look for engineering/physics/CS, data science/math majors. (See Carle Illinois College of Medicine)

I also agree that an engineering degree is much more marketable for post graduation employment should med school not work out. Last year only 36% of those who applied to med school got accepted–including a couple of thousand with near perfect GPAs and MCAT scores above the 95th percentile.

Every pre med needs to have a Plan B career in mind.


I recall (back in the day) a med school admissions rep coming to speak to my Ivy’s bioengineers, encouraging them to apply to med school, saying that med schools wanted them for their skills. I also recall one of my bioengineer friends getting accepted at a prestigious, low-cost (at that time) med school even though their GPA, while very good, was definitely affected by having been an engineering major.

That was back in the day. Times have changed

1 Like

As a bit of an aside, my son is applying to engineering schools this year. If you ask him what his Plan B is, he says “med school”, in all seriousness :person_facepalming:

I think my son has it backward and OP has it the right way around! But yes, a Plan B is essential.

1 Like



After D1 turned down a PhD in biophysics to attend med school, I was asked at dinner party what her plans were. My announcement was met with silence, followed by the comment: “So…trade school, then? I’m sorry.

(I should mention that almost all of our friends hold PhD in physics, chemistry, computer science, material science or engineering. We do have one MD–a transplant surgeon–in our friend group, but even he has a BS in Electrical engineering.)


That’s what a lot of my college friends have told me but I wanted to get a second opinion. Thank you for your help!

Right now I’m working on an associate’s degree in engineering from my local community college and I’m really enjoying it, so I think I’ll apply as biomedical engineering first choice and biochemistry second choice for the reason you mentioned in your reply: it’s easier to transfer out of engineering than it is into engineering.

My one major issue with engineering is not about my potential GPA, since that’s directly correlated to me working hard and studying, but rather about time constraints. As you mentioned, the ECs are extremely time-consuming for medical school. Ideally, I’d want to be a TA for one or two semesters in college and do research and volunteer during the summer and weekends I’m free.

Also, regarding your statement of pre-med being a potential goal, I think I have enough clinical exposure to say for now that I want to go to med school. I’ve volunteered two summers at local hospitals and I’ve shadowed an oncologist for over a hundred hours.

Thank you so much for your help!

Please follow the directions on this thread and change your screen name

1 Like


Any financial constraints?

1 Like