For those who have interests in medicine, biology and engineering, a career in biomedical engineering might be just for them. It’s a field that combines the math and science of engineering with medicine and biology.
Those in biomedical engineering serve many roles, which include the invention and production of medical devices like prostheses, implants, artificial limbs and any fixture that may be utilized to assist in the improvement of the health and quality of life for patients.
In addition, capital equipment like imaging and other diagnostics are also produced by biomedical engineers. And since medical devices number in the thousands, the demand for engineers who specialize in this field is high.
Specifically, biomedical engineers will work on designing, constructing, testing, researching or marketing medical devices. Based on information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, biomedical engineers may also be involved in biomaterials, biomechanics, rehabilitation engineering, medical imaging, and orthopedic engineering.
Biomedical engineers perform duties with life scientists, chemists and medical professionals such as nurses, therapists, physicians, and technicians on the engineering intricacies of biological systems.
In general biomedical engineers perform the following:
- Design and build medical hardware such as artificial hearts, kidneys, hips, pacemakers, surgical lasers, and automated patient monitors and blood chemistry sensors.
- Create and implement engineered therapies like neural-integrative prostheses.
- Make sure computer software or hardware is adaptable for medical science and health care applications.
- Perform research to examine and improve known theories and create new theories.
- Make sure the equipment used for diagnostics and medical treatment monitoring is safe.
- When medical equipment breaks down, investigate what went wrong and give advice on buying and installing new equipment.
- Use engineering methods to solve basic problems relating to how the body works.
- Give input on patient assessments.
- Develop and present reports for the public and health care professionals.
- Manage and teach technologists and technicians.
According to a 2010 study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for biomedical engineers is $77,400. Biomedical engineers in the top 10 percent make about $121,000.
Not only do people in this line of engineering earn large salaries, the field is slated to grow by more than 70 percent by 2018, based on a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also, biomedical engineering is not a large field, as there are only about 16,000 working in this field. While growth in this field is very high, it will create only about 11,000 more positions in the next few years.
To become a biomedical engineer, students must earn at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering, either from a four-year college or university. While some students focus on earning a degree in biomedical engineering, some will also study electrical, mechanical, or a similar type of engineering.
For most senior-level positions, a master’s degree is typically preferred, but students with only a bachelor’s degree should not have difficulty finding a job in this field.