Biomedical Engineers

by Kate Williams

What Biomedical Engineers Do

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBKj9Uh1PgI

Work Environment

Most biomedical engineers work in manufacturing, universities, hospitals, and research facilities of companies and educational and medical institutions. They usually work full time.

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for biomedical engineers was $91,410 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of biomedical engineers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. Increasing numbers of technologies and applications to medical equipment and devices, along with the medical needs of a growing and aging population, will require the services of biomedical engineers.

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

Duties

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.

Biomedical engineers held about 21,200 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of biomedical engineers were as follows:

Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing 17%
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 14
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing 9
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 8
Healthcare and social assistance 8

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. Some biomedical engineers work more than 40 hours per week.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of biomedical engineers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Agricultural Engineers

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

Bachelor’s degree $80,720

Architectural and Engineering Managers

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

Bachelor’s degree $144,830

Biochemists and Biophysicists

Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes.

Doctoral or professional degree $94,490

Chemical engineers

Chemical Engineers

Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems that involve the use of fuel, drugs, food, and many other products.

Bachelor’s degree $108,770

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment.

Bachelor’s degree $101,250

Materials Engineers

Materials engineers develop, process, and test materials used to create a wide range of products.

Bachelor’s degree $93,360

Mechanical engineers

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.

Bachelor’s degree $88,430

Physicians and surgeons

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses.

Doctoral or professional degree This wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year.

Sales engineers

Sales Engineers

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses.

Bachelor’s degree $103,900

For information about general engineering education and biomedical engineering career resources, visit

American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering

American Society for Engineering Education

Biomedical Engineering Society

IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society

Technology Student Association

For information about accredited engineering programs, visit

ABET

CareerOneStop

For a career video on biomedical engineers, visit

Biomedical Engineers

O*NET

Biomedical Engineers


Suggested citation:

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


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