Biomedical Engineer: Career Profile for the Biomedical Engineering Field
Biomedical engineers use their knowledge in the fields of engineering, medicine and biology to create solutions for medical problems. To enter this field, a person must complete a degree program in biomedical engineering or bioengineering and may have to obtain an engineering license.
Career Information for Biomedical Engineers
Biomedical engineers use engineering, biological and chemical principles to identify and develop products or devices to be used in the medical field. They work with common scientific processes, such as instrumentation, fermentation and purification. Their primary job duties can range from researching to overseeing the manufacturing process of drugs or other products. Biomedical engineers may work with manufacturing personnel, scientists and medical professionals.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) from 2008-2018, biomedical engineers were expected to see employment increase by 72% (www.bls.gov). This rapid growth was attributed to increased health care needs from an aging population and the need for more advanced and efficient medical equipment.
Biomedical engineers can work in many different medical and scientific fields. According to the BLS, the medical equipment and supplies industry employs the greatest number of biomedical engineers, followed by research and development centers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, universities and hospitals.
According to the BLS, as of May 2010, the median annual salary of biomedical engineers was $81,540. The 10th percentile earned $49,690 and the 90th percentile earned $126,990.
Training Requirements for Biomedical Engineers
Most biomedical engineering jobs require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in bioengineering or biomedical engineering. In a program, students learn to analyze and interpret data from living organisms and use the principles of math and science to design biomedical systems. Non-engineering requirements consist of sequences in chemistry, biology and advanced math. Biomedical engineering-specific coursework and labs focus on specific areas, including mechanics, transport and systems. Some programs offer concentrations, such as neural engineering or cell and tissue engineering.
When choosing an undergraduate program, students need to check the program's accreditation because this may affect future graduate school options and their ability to obtain a license. According to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), many graduate programs, employers and state licensing boards require that an individual hold a degree from an accredited program (www.abet.org).
Students interested in research or advancing to management positions may need a master's degree. These programs include advanced coursework and allow greater flexibility for students to personalize their program through choosing different options in coursework. Some programs may give students the choice of pursuing a research option through a thesis, laboratory work or an internship.
Biomedical engineers who wish to work as consultants or offer their services to the public need to be licensed, according to the BLS. Licensing guidelines are set by each state and requirements may vary, but the process of licensing includes passing two exams administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). The first exam is the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam that can be taken by a student who is near graduation. After passing the FE, an individual must gain at least four years work experience before taking the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam and earning an engineering license.
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