Biomedical Engineering


Quick Facts: Biomedical Engineers
2017 Median Pay $88,040 per year 
$42.33 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 21,300
Job Outlook, 2016-26 7% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 1,500

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Biomedical Engineering Career, Salary and Education Information

What Biomedical Engineers Do

Biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with medical and biological sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software used in healthcare.

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biomedical engineering

Duties of biomedical engineers

Biomedical engineers typically do the following:

  • Design biomedical equipment and devices, such as artificial internal organs, replacements for body parts, and machines for diagnosing medical problems

  • Install, adjust, maintain, repair, or provide technical support for biomedical equipment

  • Evaluate the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of biomedical equipment

  • Train clinicians and other personnel on the proper use of biomedical equipment

  • Research the engineering aspects of the biological systems of humans and animals with life scientists, chemists, and medical scientists

  • Prepare procedures, write technical reports, publish research papers, and make recommendations based on their research findings

  • Present research findings to scientists, nonscientist executives, clinicians, hospital management, engineers, other colleagues, and the public

Biomedical engineers design instruments, devices, and software used in healthcare; develop new procedures using knowledge from many technical sources; or conduct research needed to solve clinical problems. They frequently work in research and development or quality assurance.

Biomedical engineers design electrical circuits, software to run medical equipment, or computer simulations to test new drug therapies. In addition, they design and build artificial body parts, such as hip and knee joints. In some cases, they develop the materials needed to make the replacement body parts. They also design rehabilitative exercise equipment.

The work of these engineers spans many professional fields. For example, although their expertise is based in engineering and biology, they often design computer software to run complicated instruments, such as three-dimensional x-ray machines. Alternatively, many of these engineers use their knowledge of chemistry and biology to develop new drug therapies. Others draw heavily on math and statistics to build models to understand the signals transmitted by the brain or heart. Some may be involved in sales.

The following are examples of specialty areas within the field of biomedical engineering:

Bioinstrumentation uses electronics, computer science, and measurement principles to develop instruments used in the diagnosis and treatment of medical problems.

Biomaterials is the study of naturally occurring or laboratory-designed materials that are used in medical devices or as implantation materials.

Biomechanics involves the study of mechanics, such as thermodynamics, to solve biological or medical problems.

Clinical engineering applies medical technology to optimize healthcare delivery.

Rehabilitation engineering is the study of engineering and computer science to develop devices that assist individuals recovering from or adapting to physical and cognitive impairments.

Systems physiology uses engineering tools to understand how systems within living organisms, from bacteria to humans, function and respond to changes in their environment.

Some people with training in biomedical engineering become postsecondary teachers.


Work Environment for biomedical engineers

Biomedical engineers held about 21,300 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of biomedical engineers were as follows:

Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing: 22%

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: 17%

Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing: 11%

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private: 11%

Healthcare and social assistance: 10%

Biomedical engineers work in teams with scientists, healthcare workers, or other engineers. Where and how they work depends on the project. For example, a biomedical engineer who has developed a new device designed to help a person with a disability to walk again might have to spend hours in a hospital to determine whether the device works as planned. If the engineer finds a way to improve the device, he or she might have to return to the manufacturer to help alter the manufacturing process to improve the design.

Work Schedules

Biomedical engineers usually work full time on a normal schedule. However, as with employees in almost any engineering occupation, biomedical engineers occasionally may have to work additional hours to meet the needs of patients, managers, colleagues, and clients. About 1 in 5 biomedical engineers worked more than 40 hours per week in 2016.


How to Become a Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering or bioengineering, or in a related engineering field. Some positions may require a graduate degree.

Education

Biomedical engineering and traditional engineering programs, such as mechanical and electrical, are typically good preparation for entering biomedical engineering jobs. Students who pursue traditional engineering programs at the bachelor’s level may benefit from taking biological science courses.

Students interested in becoming biomedical engineers should take high school science courses, such as chemistry, physics, and biology. They should also take math courses, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. Courses in drafting or mechanical drawing and in computer programming are also useful.

Bachelor’s degree programs in biomedical engineering and bioengineering focus on engineering and biological sciences. Programs include laboratory- and classroom-based courses, in subjects such as fluid and solid mechanics, computer programming, circuit design, and biomaterials. Other required courses may include biological sciences, such as physiology.

Accredited programs also include substantial training in engineering design. Many programs include co-ops or internships, often with hospitals and medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, to provide students with practical applications as part of their study. Biomedical engineering and bioengineering programs are accredited by ABET.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Biomedical engineers must analyze the needs of patients and customers to design appropriate solutions.

Communication skills. Because biomedical engineers sometimes work with patients and frequently work on teams, they must express themselves clearly. They must seek others’ ideas and incorporate those ideas into the problem-solving process.

Creativity. Biomedical engineers must be creative to come up with innovative and integrative advances in healthcare equipment and devices.

Math skills. Biomedical engineers use the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in math and statistics, for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Problem-solving skills. Biomedical engineers typically deal with and solve problems in complex biological systems.

Advancement

Biomedical engineers typically receive greater responsibility through experience and more education. To lead a research team, a biomedical engineer generally needs a graduate degree. Biomedical engineers who are interested in basic research may become medical scientists.

Some biomedical engineers attend medical or dental school to specialize in various techniques or topical areas, such as using electric impulses in new ways to get muscles moving again. Some earn law degrees and work as patent attorneys. Others pursue a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) and move into managerial positions. For more information, see the profiles on lawyers and architectural and engineering managers.


salaries for a biomedical engineer

The median annual wage for biomedical engineers was $88,040 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,070, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $142,610.

In May 2017, the median annual wages for biomedical engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: $95,980

Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing: $94,480

Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing: $88,190

Healthcare and social assistance: $74,210

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private: $61,990

Biomedical engineers usually work full time on a normal schedule. However, as with employees in almost any engineering occupation, biomedical engineers occasionally may have to work additional hours to meet the needs of patients, managers, colleagues, and clients. About 1 in 5 biomedical engineers worked more than 40 hours per week in 2016.


Job Outlook for biomedical engineers

Employment of biomedical engineers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Biomedical engineers likely will see employment growth because of increasing possibilities brought by new technologies and increasing applications to medical equipment and devices. Smartphone technology and three-dimensional printing are examples of technology being applied to biomedical advances.

As the aging baby-boom generation lives longer and stays active, the demand for biomedical devices and procedures, such as hip and knee replacements, is expected to increase. In addition, as the public continues to become more aware of medical advances, increasing numbers of people will seek biomedical solutions to their health problems from their physicians.

Biomedical engineers work with scientists, other medical researchers, and manufacturers to address a wide range of injuries and physical disabilities. Their ability to work in different activities with workers from other fields is enlarging the range of applications for biomedical engineering products and services.

Employment projections data for Biomedical Engineers, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 21,300

Projected Employment, 2026: 22,800

Change, 2016-2026: +7%, +1,500


Careers Related to Biomedical Engineers

Agricultural Engineers

Agricultural engineers attempt to solve agricultural problems concerning power supplies, the efficiency of machinery, the use of structures and facilities, pollution and environmental issues, and the storage and processing of agricultural products.

Architectural and Engineering Managers

Architectural and engineering managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities in architectural and engineering companies.

Biochemists and Biophysicists

Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes, such as cell development, growth, heredity, and disease.

Chemical Engineers

Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems that involve the production or use of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and many other products. They design processes and equipment for large-scale manufacturing, plan and test production methods and byproducts treatment, and direct facility operations.

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, and power generation equipment. Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, including broadcast and communications systems, such as portable music players and Global Positioning System (GPS) devices.

Materials Engineers

Materials engineers develop, process, and test materials used to create a wide range of products, from computer chips and aircraft wings to golf clubs and biomedical devices. They study the properties and structures of metals, ceramics, plastics, composites, nanomaterials (extremely small substances), and other substances in order to create new materials that meet certain mechanical, electrical, and chemical requirements.

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

Sales Engineers

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Agricultural EngineersBachelor's degree$74,780
Architectural and Engineering ManagersBachelor's degree$137,720
Biochemists and BiophysicistsDoctoral or professional degree$91,190
Chemical EngineersBachelor's degree$102,160
Electrical and Electronics EngineersBachelor's degree$97,970
Materials EngineersBachelor's degree$94,610
Mechanical EngineersBachelor's degree$85,880
Physicians and SurgeonsDoctoral or professional degreeThis wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year.
Sales EngineersBachelor's degree$98,720

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Biomedical Engineers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm