Definition and Nature of Work
Biomedical engineers work with a combination of biology, medicine and engineering. They are trained to analyze and design solutions that will improve patient care. They are the professionals behind sophisticated medical equipment like MRIs and microscopic surgical machines.
Biomedical engineers are also responsible for research and development of medical innovations like artificial organs and prosthesis.
Biomedical engineers install, maintain and repair or provide technical support for medical machines and equipment. They make sure that they are always running at peak efficiency and won’t compromise patients’ lives.
They generally work with medical scientists, life scientists and chemists. They take part in research to develop and implement biomedical equipment. Biomedical engineers also ensure that personnel in charge of the machine know how to use and care for it.
A Day in the Life of Biomedical Engineers
Biomedical engineers can work in many different industries. They may work in hospitals, research laboratories and even manufacturing facilities. They also work in commercial offices if they are asked to deliver customer support service and make business decisions.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 23 percent of these professionals worked in medical equipment and supply manufacturing as of 2010. About 19 percent worked in scientific research services, 14 percent were employed in medicine and pharmaceutical manufacturing and 11 percent had jobs at colleges and universities. Around 7 percent worked in general medical hospitals according to the BLS.
Biomedical engineers work with the health team, patients and other professionals in the medical and engineering fields. Most of them work full time at 40 hours per week. However, they may work longer hours in order to accommodate patients’, co-workers’ and clients’ needs.
Becoming a Biomedical Engineer
Biomedical engineers must complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering. Another route is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in another engineering field and get a graduate degree in biomedical engineering. They can also get a job through training in the field. However, they have to make sure they only enroll in ABET accredited programs.
Aspiring biomedical engineering students can start preparing as early as high school. They should take as many math and science courses as they can such as calculus, physics, chemistry and biology. Mechanical drawing, drafting and computer programming courses are also valuable. ABET programs also include internships and co-ops.
Biomedical Engineer Employment and Outlook
The BLS reports that employment for biomedical engineers will grow at 62 percent from 2010 to 2020. This means the number of jobs will increase from 15,700 to 25,400 in a decade. The 9,700 difference over a ten-year period may appear small because biomedical engineering is an emerging field. Nevertheless, biomedical engineers will be more in demand than those in other engineering specialties that are projected to decline in the coming years.
The aging population triggers this demand. As more and more people grow old, they will need additional medical equipment like hip and knee replacements and machines to keep them healthy and monitor their well being.
The rise of medical advancements also increases the number of people who are taking advantage of these as prescribed by physicians. Biomedical engineers who consistently seek further training and education will become more attractive to employers.
CNNMoney.com listed a career as a Biomedical Engineer as the #1 Best Job in America for 2012.
Typical Biomedical Engineer Salary
According to the BLS, biomedical engineers earned as much as $81,540 in 2010. The top ten percent earners make more than $126,990 while the bottom ten percent earned less than $49,690. Among the highest paying industries include scientific research and development services where employers pay as much as $88,330 in median annual salaries.
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing companies offer $88,330 on average. This is then followed by medical equipment and supplies manufacturing firms, colleges and universities and general and medical hospitals that pay $81,150, $68,070 and $59,010 respectively. Biomedical engineers with a master’s degree increase their chances of commanding a larger salary than those with just a bachelor’s degree.
Biomedical engineers who obtain a graduate degree may land a job that will let them supervise and handle a research team. They may get additional training and education from dental and medical schools where they can earn more credentials. Doing so will allow them to find an area where they can specialize in. Alternatively, they may get a law degree and become patent attorneys.
Is this career right for you?
Biomedical engineers should have excellent analytical skills. This is because they need to analyze their clients’ and patient’s needs before they can create the right medical equipment and machines. In addition, they should have good communication skills as they have to work with other professionals. With this, it is essential that aspiring biomedical engineers are able to assess themselves before deciding on getting into this field.
Experts recommend starting preparations during high school and getting as much training in a related field as possible. In addition, they should get into internship programs. Doing so will allow them to discover the real challenges of being a biomedical engineer.