Carnegie Mellon University

Undergraduate Program Frequently Asked Questions

What is the undergraduate Biomedical Engineering program like at Carnegie Mellon University?

Biomedical Engineering is offered as an additional major B.S. degree in combination with any of the traditional engineering B.S. degrees. The program follows a model that differs substantially from that seen elsewhere. The Department collaborates closely with traditional engineering departments, including Chemical Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering, in developing its undergraduate curriculum.

How can a student fulfill the course requirements for the Biomedical Engineering additional major and still complete a traditional engineering major in four years?

Many of Biomedical Engineering electives are also required by the traditional engineering program. In addition, "free electives" allowed by traditional engineering programs may be used for Biomedical Engineering courses. Biomedical Engineering works closely with partner departments to avoid schedule conflicts. It also offers its own advising and provides course planning tools.

Do I need to overload with additional courses to complete the Biomedical Engineering additional major?

No, because the additional major involves only a modest increase in course units. Typical total course units for traditional engineering major with or without Biomedical Engineering additional major are shown below.

Other Major

Units w/o BME

BME Track

Units with BME
(class of 2017-9/Class of 2020+)

Chemical Engineering




Chemical Engineering




Civil & Environmental




Electrical & Computer




Materials Science




Mechanical Engineering




Why not a stand-alone degree in Biomedical Engineering?

Due to its interdisciplinary nature, the field of Biomedical Engineering requires deep knowledge in traditional engineering. The goal of the Biomedical Engineering program is to make sure that students are conversant in not only Biomedical Engineering but also one of these traditional engineering disciplines. This challenge is met by organizing Biomedical Engineering as an additional major, capitalizing on the tremendous strength of the Carnegie Institute of Technology in traditional engineering education, and the strong collaborative culture among the departments at Carnegie Mellon University.

Why not an additional major degree in Biomedical Engineering and a basic science discipline?

The additional major program demands close coordination with the traditional engineering department to ensure appropriate engineering content in the overall curriculum, while the total course units are moderated through agreements to double count courses of mutual interest. Similar solutions are much more difficult to build across colleges of distinct missions, such that it becomes difficult to incorporate sufficient content in either science or engineering through a four-year curriculum.

When do students declare their major(s)?

Freshmen must declare their major(s) in the Spring semester. Additional major in Biomedical Engineering should be declared together with a major in Chemical Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering, or Mechanical Engineering.  There is no cap on the number of additional majors in Biomedical Engineering.

What are the tracks in Biomedical Engineering?

Tracks are designed to build depth in specific areas of biomedical engineering, since otherwise it would be impractical to cover all the aspects. Most tracks are designed to parallel traditional engineering disciplines for seamless integration. However, students may choose any track irrespective of their traditional engineering major.  A Self-Designed Biomedical Engineering (SBME) track is for students who have interest areas that are not covered by pre-defined tracks.

When does a student declare the track?

Biomedical Engineering majors generally spend their sophomore year taking core courses. Many students start their track courses in the Fall of junior year, while some may start in the following Spring. Therefore, students should start considering the track choice as soon as they declare the Biomedical Engineering major in the freshman year, and should make a decision during pre-registration in the Spring semester of the sophomore year and no later than the Fall semester of the junior year. Students taking the SBME track should submit the proposal to the Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Affairs Committee at least three weeks prior to pre-registration during the sophomore Spring semester.

I found a course that appears to be closely related to my track but is not listed as a track elective. Can I take it?

Students may petition the Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Affairs Committee to count unlisted courses that are clearly related to the declared track as track electives.

Is the Biomedical Engineering minor only available to engineering undergraduates?

A Minor in Biomedical Engineering is available to all the undergraduate students of Carnegie Mellon University. Please note that the requirements for Biomedical Engineering Minor are different between CIT and non-CIT majors.

What is the minimal Quality Point Average (QPA) required in order to graduate?

he College of Engineering requires that the cumulative QPA be 2.00 or higher for all courses taken after the first year. In addition, the Biomedical Engineering additional major requires a QPA of 2.00 or higher for all the courses that count toward the additional major, including the core courses plus the four courses that constitute the track. Failing to meet the course requirements for Biomedical Engineering does not preclude a student from graduating from the traditional engineering major.

Can I retake a class in order to get a higher grade?

A student may retake a course with a poor grade to meet the Biomedical Engineering QPA requirement. Only the highest grade of a given course will be used to calculate the QPA of Biomedical Engineering. Students also have the option of taking additional elective courses and not counting certain elective courses toward the Biomedical Engineering major.

Note that this policy differs from that for the traditional engineering major, which includes grades from all the enrollments in the calculation of QPA.  The units however are counted only once toward the total unit requirement. Therefore, if a course is taken more than once, the additional enrollments cannot be used to satisfy another curricular requirement such as a free elective.  

I met all the degree requirements for Biomedical Engineering but not my traditional engineering major. Can I graduate with a B.S. degree?

Since Biomedical Engineering is an additional major, a student cannot graduate with a B.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering without meeting all the requirements of a traditional engineering major.

How do I calculate the QPA for Biomedical Engineering?

The Biomedical Engineering course planning spreadsheet (2017-92020+) also provides a convenient way to calculate the QPA for Biomedical Engineering. Since the calculation takes into account only courses counted toward the additional major, the QPA may appear higher than the overall impression from the transcript.

How can I be certain that I am completing all my Biomedical Engineering requirements?

Students should visit the strategy page for tips, and use the course planning spreadsheet (2017-92020+) for self-monitoring. Students are strongly encouraged to attend advising sessions and meet with the advisor regularly.

Who exactly is my Biomedical Engineering advisor?

Faculty members who run the pre- or post-track declaration group advising sessions also serve as individual advisor. If there are several faculty members involved in guiding a track, the student may choose any of them as the advisor but is advised to stay with one advisor.  Your advisor can be found here.

Whom may I contact for questions regarding Biomedical Engineering major, minor, or tracks?

Please send questions to this email address:

What is the general job outlook like for biomedical engineers?

Please consult the web page of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, where it is indicated that "Employment of biomedical engineers is projected to grow 27 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations".

Where can I find the information on job placement?

Students should visit the university Career & Professional Development Center for assistance on job placement. In addition, this secure Career Development page contains a list of biomedical engineering companies and other helpful information.

Additional Frequently Asked Questions

What is the minimal QPA requirement in order to maintain good academic standing?

A student will be placed on academic probation if the QPA during one semester of the first year is below 1.75, or if the semester QPA beyond the first year falls below 2.00. Students who are unable to maintain minimal QPA standards for multiple semesters can receive further academic actions leading to probation, suspension, or termination from the program.

Do first year grades count towards the cumulative QPA?

First year grades, including that for 42-101 Introduction to Biomedical Engineering, are included in the calculation of cumulative as well as Biomedical Engineering QPA and class ranking. However, the college's 2.00 QPA requirement for graduation is based on courses taken after the freshmen year.

How can I be certain that I am completing all the degree requirements?

Students should read and understand the degree requirements as described in the Undergraduate Catalog and create an academic plan that will allow them to graduate in time. The On-Line Academic Audit is a helpful tool, but students should also meet with their departmental academic advisor(s) to make sure that they are on track. Please also see the question above on "How can I be certain that I am completing all my Biomedical Engineering requirements?"

I am failing a class. What is the university's policy on dropping or withdrawing from a course?

A student can drop a course on or before the drop deadline for that semester. The course will be removed entirely from the record. However, a full-time student must maintain at least 36 units of courses in order to maintain the full-time status. After the drop deadline, but on or before the last day of class prior to the final examination, a student may withdraw from a course. In this case, a grade of W will appear on the transcript.

I would like to study abroad for a semester or an entire academic year. Where can I find such opportunities and where can I get further information?

The Study Abroad Office in the Office of International Education maintains a list of institutions with which Carnegie Mellon University has experience in placing exchange students. The College of Engineering has formal exchange programs with technical universities in Monterrey, Mexico and in Lausanne, Switzerland. The Study Abroad Office can help students formulate an exchange program that provides academic credit at Carnegie Mellon.

Can I transfer course credits earned from other institutions?

Students planning on taking courses at another institution for transfer into Carnegie Mellon need to complete a Transfer Course Credit Approval Form PRIOR to taking the course. A separate form must be used for each course. A detailed description, preferably an official catalog description and/or a syllabus must accompany the petition. If approved, a grade of "TR" will appear on the transcript for the transferred course(s). These credits can be counted toward degree requirements but do not influence the overall QPA.

College courses and AP credit completed while at high school CANNOT be transferred after the first year at Carnegie Mellon (barring SAMS and APEA programs)

From what other institutions would Carnegie Mellon accept transfer courses?

There is no master list of acceptable universities from which Carnegie Mellon accepts transfer credits. The primary consideration is course content rather than the specific institution. The University Office of Undergraduate Studies will determine, upon consultation with the relevant department, whether the request should be approved. Courses taken during academic suspension cannot be transferred. Upon completion of the course(s), the student must arrange to have an official transcript sent directly from the other institution to the CIT Dean's Office.

How many courses can I transfer from other institutions and how many units will I receive?

There is currently no restriction on the number of courses that a student may transfer from other institutions. However, a student must complete at least 180 units and four semesters of coursework at Carnegie Mellon.

The number of units for transferred courses is determined on a case-by-case basis by the College of Engineering's Office of Undergraduate Studies. Typically three units at Carnegie Mellon are equivalent to one credit hour elsewhere.

What grade will I need to earn in order to have the course transferred?

The minimal grade to allow the transfer is determined on a case-by-case basis. The College of Engineering Office of Undergraduate Studies sets a minimum grade requirement for the transfer course depending on the type of course and the institution that offered the course.

Revised 08/24/2016