How to Get a PhD in Medical Technology

Medical technology encompasses a range of activities at the intersection of science, technology, and healthcare. Medical technology researchers are advancing the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions in fields such as medical imaging, biomedical engineering, surgical technology, ultrasound diagnostics, cardiovascular technology, and hyperbaric medicine. Some of today's most exciting medical technology innovations include miniature surgical robots, replacement organs, tissue engineering, light-activated drugs, and genetic testing.

Make your mark as a medical technology researcher by pursuing a PhD in science, engineering, or medical technology. The doctoral degree offers not only the credentials for leading research roles, but also access to the resources you'll need to perform cutting-edge research. Work alongside leading medical technology developers in labs outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment. You'll emerge from the program with the expertise and relationships you need to achieve the next breakthrough in medical technology.

Doctorate Degree in Medical Technology: A Guide

Planning for a doctoral degree begins well before the applications arrive at the admissions department. Begin your preparation by exploring the options in doctoral education and focusing your own research and professional goals.

Doctoral Degrees

Universities offer a range of academic and professional practice doctorates leading to a career in medical technology R&D. Your options include:

Academic

PhD in science or engineering

The development of advanced medical devices and diagnostic equipment generally requires a PhD in science or engineering. Depending on the direction of your research interests, you may consider pursuing a PhD in biomedical engineering, biotechnology, medical physics, or a core science discipline (biology, physics, or chemistry). Core engineering disciplines such as mechanical engineering, materials engineering, and electrical engineering also prepare you to develop technology for medical applications.

PhD in medical technology or clinical laboratory science

The development of advanced laboratory processes requires a PhD in medical technology or biology. In the U.S., the PhD in medical technology is closely identified with clinical lab science. The medical technology or clinical lab science doctorate trains students to develop advanced laboratory processes for the diagnosis and early detection of disease.

International universities offer a broader PhD in medical technology that combines technology and clinical laboratory science specialties. These interdisciplinary degrees incorporate health informatics, optics, and biotechnology in addition lab science research.

Professional

All three PhD fields--science, engineering, and clinical laboratory science--have a professional practice equivalent. This applied doctorate aims for the same rigor and prestige as the PhD, but with a research component tailored to practical solutions rather than to fundamental breakthroughs. While the PhD requires an original contribution to the field, the professional doctorate applies existing research to specific technological problems. Options include:

  • DCLS (Doctor of Clinical Lab Science)
  • DEng (Doctor of Engineering)
  • ScD (Doctor of Science)

Resource

Learn more about the PhD and professional practice doctorates at WorldWideLearn.com's Online PhD Degrees and Doctoral Programs resource page.

Specializations

Whether you choose a PhD in medical technology, science, or engineering, you'll have the opportunity to pursue research in a specialized field. Medical technology specializations include:

  • Image-Based Diagnostics (ultrasound, magnetic resonance)
  • Molecular and Gene-Based Diagnostics
  • Medical nanotechnology
  • Robotics
  • Radiology
  • Medical Optics and Photonics
  • Clinical Pathology

Biomedical and biotechnological innovation is continually creating new areas of research. For a full picture of your specialization options, refer to current publications in biomedical research and medical technology.

Career Track

A doctoral degree in a medical technology field prepares you for high-level careers in academia, private research and development, and government laboratories.

Academic careers require a PhD in medical technology or a related field. Graduates assume positions as university professors and lab directors. They may also collaborate with corporate R&D or government labs to develop a new product or process.

Professional careers in medical technology apply research expertise to positions as:

  • Research lab director
  • Reference lab director (including private diagnostic services)
  • Medical consultant (for example, consultant to a physician ordering tests)
  • Research scientist
  • Product developer
  • Technical sales consultant

Plan for a PhD in Medical Technology

A vision of your research interests and career goals will help you navigate the vast options for doctoral education in medical technology. Use the following step-by-step guide to find the right school and prepare competitive applications for your top programs.

Step One: Find the Right Graduate Medical Technology Program

Take the program selection process step by step to find the right fit. Each step below features online resources to guide your research.

1. List Accredited PhD Programs

Once you've chosen the degree that best matches your research interests, compile a comprehensive list of your program options.

Accreditation is an important baseline criterion for educational quality. Make sure any school you include on your list is accredited by an approved agency. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of approved national and regional accreditation agencies. Major national accreditation authorities include the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) for medical technology and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) for engineering doctorates.

Resources

Online directories and accrediting agency member lists offer good starting points for your research.

2. Choose Campus or Online Format

Advances in educational technology and growing demand for mid-career education have given rise to online doctorates. PhD, DCLS, and other professional practice doctorates increasingly offer some or all instruction via the Internet.

The right format for you depends on your learning style, personal circumstances, and career goals.

Online doctorates offer access to advanced education for adults balancing work and family commitments. The self-paced format works well for independent learners, but lacks the collaborative research opportunities of a traditional PhD program. Online PhD programs make up for this shortcoming by requiring periods of campus residency. Online degrees may be more appropriate for professional students who can develop an applied project and access lab facilities through work.

Campus PhD programs are the preferred option for aspiring academics. Academic careers rely heavily on the campus program's research and teaching apprenticeships. Graduate students work closely with faculty using state-of-the-art research equipment.

Resources

To explore your program format options further, consult WorldWideLearn.com's Online Degree Programs and Campus Education sections. Search for an online program via the Online Degree Programs page, or find a campus program near you using the Degrees by Location search tool.

The Sloan Consortium, an organization representing online higher education, offers a list of online programs in health and nutrition as well as in engineering. You'll find a selection of online PhD programs and professional doctorates.

3. Explore Academic Programs

Next, investigate individual programs and determine which ones offer the best resources in your specialty. A strong sense of your research interests will serve you well at this stage of your program research.

Assess a program's academic resources and focus areas by exploring:

  • Faculty research topics
  • Research facilities
  • Specializations
  • Curriculum and course requirements
  • Special programs: research centers, conferences, publications, etc.
  • NSF or NIH funding

If you are considering a PhD program, pay particular attention to available faculty mentors and research labs sponsoring work in your field.

Resources

WorldWideLearn.com facilitates the research process by matching you with schools that meet your basic requirements. You can connect with school representatives and have your questions answered by filling out a simple online form. The automated tool saves time, allowing you to cover more ground in your research.

School Web sites often feature a goldmine of information, with links to professor publications, CVs, dissertation titles, course materials, and a list of research labs.

Academic Journals can help you identify the researchers and programs doing the most exciting research in your field. Contact these thought leaders for advice on doctoral programs, or to explore the possibility of a research mentorship. Research publications include:

  • Journal of Medical Engineering and Technology
  • The American Journal of Medical Technology
  • Medical Technology Journal

4. Evaluate Program Quality

Finally, narrow down your list by taking into account program quality and selectivity. Factors to consider in your assessment include:

  • Reputation
  • Admissions data, to determine selectivity
  • Graduation rate
  • Job placement statistics
  • Career support resources

Resources

Rankings allow you to compare the reputation and selectivity of different PhD programs in medical technology, engineering, or science. The major rankings include:

Admissions Data Sheets offer information about accepted applicants, job placement, graduation rate, and graduate student demographics in general. Use this information to get a sense of a program's selectivity and career support resources.

Campus Visits provide an inside glance into the graduate student experience. Tour medical technology research labs, meet with potential mentors and graduate students, and sit in on a graduate seminar.

Step Two: Apply to PhD Programs in Medical Technology

Application requirements vary depending on the degree you choose to pursue. Consult the admissions department for each program's specific prerequisites and requirements. You can expect to complete the following steps:

1. Complete Prerequisites

The Education Resources Guide can help you fulfill admission requirements, with information on test preparation, online prerequisite courses, and more.

  • A bachelor's or master's degree in a related science, engineering, or medical field. If your degree does not match your chosen doctoral field, you may have to complete prerequisite courses before you apply.
  • Graduate Record Exam
  • TOEFL exam (for international students)

2. Prepare Application Materials

Doctoral programs in science, engineering, and health sciences generally require:

  • Academic transcripts
  • Test scores
  • Statement of research interests
  • Letters of recommendation from faculty or professional colleagues
  • Resume or curriculum vitae

3. Secure Financial Aid

Universities may offer some doctoral funding, but you'll likely need to supplement from other sources. Financial aid options include:

  • University and private scholarships
  • Federal Pell grant
  • Federal research grants (NSF, NIH, etc.)
  • Federal and private loans
  • Corporate sponsorships or loan forgiveness programs
  • Teaching and research assistantships

 

Joining the Academic Community

With your applications headed to the admissions committee, you're just a step away from becoming a research scholar. It's not too early to start building relationships among your professional colleagues. Become an academic insider by subscribing to medical technology journals, joining professional organizations, and attending conferences in your future field of research. In addition to gathering ideas for your dissertation project, you'll have the opportunity to network with leading innovators who share your passion for cutting-edge medical research.

Medical technology is driving some of the most exciting advances in patient diagnosis and treatment. Do your part to advance medical care by pursuing a research doctorate in medical technology, biomedical engineering, or a related field. Planning your educational path now ensures that you stay focused and take advantage of professional opportunities as they arise. Whether you choose a PhD or professional practice degree such as the DCLS, you'll emerge from the program with the expertise to take on a leadership role in medical technology innovation.

 

Sources

  • Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
  • Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs, National Research Council.
  • Best Engineering and Science Graduate Schools, U.S. News & World Report (2009).
  • Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, U.S. Department of Education.
  • Division of Medical Technology, The Ohio State University.
  • Doctor of Philosophy Program in Clinical Science, University of Colorado at Denver Health Sciences Center.
  • Harvard MIT-Health Sciences and Technology.
  • National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).
  • Online Programs Search, The Sloan Consortium.
  • The Top American Research Universities, 2008 Annual Report. The Center for Measuring University Performance.
  • What is Medical Technology?, Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed).