Biomedical Engineers Overview

Biomedical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering to start their careers, however some research jobs require a masters degree. After college, biomedical engineers should expect to continue education throughout their careers to keep up with the latest improvements in technology. Overall the job outlook is good and employment for biomedical engineers is expected to grow at an average rate. Starting salaries for biomedical engineers are some of the highest compared to other college graduates.

Nature of the Work for Biomedical Engineers

Math and science are used together by biomedical engineers to develop economical solutions to technical problems. They link scientific discoveries with commercial applications to meet consumer and social needs.

Many biomedical engineers work on new products. During development they consider several factors including functional requirements, design, testing and evaluating the product for reliability, safety, cost and effectiveness.

Beyond design and development many biomedical engineers work in maintenance, production or testing. They may supervise factory production, look for causes of failure and test for quality. Estimating time and cost of projects is also the biomedical engineers responsibility. Supervisors oversee entire projects or major components.

Computers are key for biomedical engineers. They use them to produce and analyze designs, simulate and test systems, generate specifications, monitor quality and control efficiency. Nanotechnology is also now adding new principles to the design process.

Biomedical engineers combine their knowledge of medicine and biology with engineering practices and principles to develop devices and procedures to solve medical and health problems. Research with the help of medical scientists is common in order to develop and evaluate artificial organs, medical information systems, instrumentation, prostheses and health management and care delivery systems. They must also design devices for medical procedures, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other imaging systems and devices for automating or controlling body functions. Most biomedical engineers have specialized biomedical training and possess a strong background in another engineering specialty such as electronics or mechanical engineering. Biomedical engineers may specialize in medical imaging, rehabilitation engineering, orthopedic engineering, biomaterials or biomechanics.

Often biomedical engineers work in an office, or lab setting. Some must travel to worksites or plants around the country or abroad.

A 40-hour workweek is typical for biomedical engineers, though deadlines and design standards can bring added pressures and in turn, longer hours.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Biomedical Engineers

Biomedical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering for entry-level positions. However, some college graduates of natural science programs or mathematics programs can qualify for biomedical engineers positions. Most engineering degrees are offered in mechanical engineering, civil engineering or electrical and electronics engineering. This way workers have the flexibility to work in specialties that have the best job prospects.

Most biomedical engineers study math, science, general engineering, computers, design, laboratory classes, humanities and social sciences in college. Core curriculum is covered in the first two years while the last two years typically focus on engineering courses and a specialty. Many biomedical engineers complete a 4-year degree in 5 years.

In addition to standard engineering degrees, many colleges offer 2 year and 4 year engineering technology degrees to biomedical engineers. These programs are more hands-on, focusing on the current issues in engineering principles. They prepare students for production and practical design work rather than jobs that focus on science and theory. Graduates of the 4-year programs often see opportunities similar to those with bachelors degrees in biomedical engineering find. However, the skill level falls somewhere between an engineer and technician.

For research and development and faculty positions, biomedical engineers usually need to have a masters degree. In addition, a graduate degree can broaden biomedical engineers educations and help them learn new technology.

All 50 states require biomedical engineers who offer services directly to the public to be licensed as a professional engineer (PE). Typically, to qualify for the license biomedical engineers must earn a degree from an Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, or ABET-accredited program, pass an exam and complete 4 years of relevant work experience. Just after graduation, biomedical engineers can start the process taking half of the exam to become an engineer intern. Later, after completing suitable work experience they can take the second part of the exam and complete the process.

Biomedical engineers must also possess good communication and teamwork skills. They should be creative, detail oriented, analytical and inquisitive. When working for the Federal Government biomedical engineers must be US citizens and sometimes, must hold a security clearance.

At the entry-level, most biomedical engineers work under a more experienced engineer. Once they gain experience and skills they can work independently and take on more challenging projects. Later many biomedical engineers become supervisors or technical specialists. Some may become managers in engineering or other fields or move to sales positions.

Professional certifications are widely available and can be beneficial to biomedical engineers hoping to advance to managerial or senior technical positions.

Employment and Job Outlook for Biomedical Engineers

Out of the 1.6 million working engineers, only 16,000 are biomedical engineers. Most engineering jobs are found in manufacturing industries or the professional, scientific and technical services industries. Federal, state and local governments employ 12 percent of engineers and 3 percent are self-employed.

While most fields in engineering are expected to have only average growth, jobs for biomedical engineers are growing rapidly. An impressive 72 percent growth in employment is projected for biomedical engineers, which is much faster than average compared to all occupations. Much of the demand will come from the aging population and a growing focus on health issue that drives the need for better medical equipment and devices designed by biomedical engineers. Beyond a need for more sophisticated medical procedures and equipment, an increased concern for cost-effectiveness will also require more biomedical engineers, particularly in pharmaceutical manufacturing and related industries. As the interest in the field grows, the number of biomedical engineering degrees granted has also increased greatly. Now, many biomedical engineers need a graduate degree, especially for jobs in research laboratories.

Continuing education is a must for biomedical engineers to stay up to date with the latest technology. Knowledge of current advancements is important to employers who expect biomedical engineers to offer the best solutions and provide the greatest value as a worker. So those who don’t stay current in the field will have outdated skills and be at a disadvantage for promotions and new jobs.

Earnings and Salary for Biomedical Engineers

Biomedical engineers earn median annual salaries of $82,550. The highest 10 percent earn above $123,270, the lowest 10 percent earn below $49,480 and the middle 50 percent earn between $60,980 and $100,890. Engineers earn some of the highest starting salaries among college graduates with bachelor’s degrees. At the entry level, biomedical engineers earn average annual salaries of $54,158.

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