BME Career Exploration: Examining Students’ Connection with the Field – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

BME Career Exploration: Examining Students’ Connection with the Field

Annie Wang


Pronouns: she/her/hers

Research Mentor(s): Aileen Huang-Saad, Assistant Professor
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 3 (1pm-1:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 2
Presenter: 2

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Historically, BME undergraduate programs have been successful in exposing students to the broad spectrum of knowledge required to adequately address problems in engineering and medicine. While this has allowed for flexibility in the careers that undergraduate biomedical engineers can enter, many BME students believe that the broad curriculum can lead employers to perceive them as underprepared to enter industry positions upon graduation. Recent studies have validated this concern as BME students report fewer co-op and industry internship placements pre-graduation, enter the job market with fewer available jobs seeking BME graduates, and receive lower average annual salaries than other engineering disciplines. However, despite the challenges, students continue to pursue and persist through BME undergraduate degrees. If the perception is that their options are limited in industry, it is important to identify and understand the careers that students view as attainable and choose to pursue. To explore what students perceived as possible for a career upon graduation and how students understand possible careers in BME, this longitudinal study examined changes in BME students’ career aspirations over time. Fourteen (14) undergraduate BME students were interviewed three times over the course of their third year at a large R1, public university. A qualitative, open-coding approach to identify patterns of change at the individual and group levels. Findings indicated that most participants had a narrow initial view of possible careers in the field. Over the course of the study, changes in participants’ understanding of career possibilities were observed based on if they had already decided what career they wished to pursue or not. For those who had not decided on a career yet, concrete exposures to possible BME careers were important to their development of more optimistic BME career outlooks. Suggestions for future research to more broadly understand BME students’ career exploration is also presented.

Authors: Cassandra Woodcock, Annie Wang, Aileen Huang-Saad
Research Method: Data Collection and Analysis

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