What Does a Biomedical Engineer Do?

Job Description

Biomedical Engineer
A biomedical engineer at work in a lab. Nicola Tree / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Give a biomedical engineer a problem having to do with biology or medicine, and he or she will analyze and then figure out how to solve it. They design prosthetic limbs and artificial organs, as well as the material that is used to manufacture them. They develop software that is used to run medical equipment. Like those working in other engineering disciplines, biomedical engineers use their knowledge of science and math, but they combine this with their background in medicine.

Some of the areas they may specialize in include bioinstrumentation, biomaterials, biomechanics, genetic engineering, and medical imaging.

Quick Facts

  • Biomedical engineers earned a median annual salary of $86,220 in 2015.
  • In 2014, this occupation employed just over 22,000 people.
  • Employers include medical equipment and supplies manufacturers, hospitals, and research laboratories.
  • Jobs are typically full time during regular business hours.
  • According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is a "Bright Outlook" occupation because of its excellent job outlook. Employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.

A Day in the Life of a Biomedical Engineer

To learn about biomedical engineers' typical job duties, we took a look at job announcements on Indeed.com. Here's what we found:

  • "Design, develop, and test all aspects of medical/surgical components, equipment, and instruments"
  • "Work with cross functional teams to test and validate prototypes"
  • "Analyze failure, corrective and preventive action to respond to customer complaints"
  • "Take input from R&D scientists and translate these into workable design options suitable for in vitro and in vivo applications"
  • "Perform independent research utilizing all available tools and resources"
  • "Install, adjust, maintain, repair, or provide technical support for biomedical equipment"
  • "Report research findings through scientific publication, oral presentation, and formal documents with regards to industry contracts and funded grant proposals"
  • "Demonstrate and explain correct operation of equipment to medical personnel"

How To Become a Biomedical Engineer

To work as a biomedical engineer you will have to earn at least a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering. Choose an educational program that is accredited by ABET, an organization that gives its stamp of approval to associate, bachelor's, and master's degree programs in engineering, engineering technology, applied science, and computing. Your coursework will combine engineering and biological sciences, and may include internships with hospitals and medical device manufacturers.

What Soft Skills Do You Need?

Biomedical engineers need certain soft skills, or personal characteristics, in addition to the technical skills they acquire in the classroom:

  • Critical Thinking: To solve problems and make decisions, you will need the ability to compare and contrast your options and choose the most viable one.
  • Communication Skills: Working as a member of a multi-disciplinary team requires excellent listening and speaking skills. Speaking skills are also critical for presenting your research findings.
  • Writing: You will also have to publish your research findings in professional journals.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

We again surveyed job announcements on Indeed.com to learn about the qualifications, other than technical skills and experience, employers are seeking. Here's what we found:

  • "Commitment to quality, attention to detail, and team player"
  • "Capable of prioritizing tasks and provide a timely schedule of completion"
  • "Ability to write test reports with minimal supervision"
  • "Ability to work in fast paced environment"
  • "Must be computer literate and possess the ability to learn new simulations software easily"
  • "Connects with members and staff in a caring, respectful manner"

Is This Career a Good Fit for You?

    Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

     DescriptionAnnual Salary (2015)Educational Requirements
    Computer Hardware EngineerOversees the manufacture of computer hardware and peripherals$111,730Bachelor's degree in computer engineering
    Biomedical Engineering TechnicianUses science, mathematical, and engineering principles to solve problems in manufacturing and maintenance$61,260Associate degree 

    Mechanical Engineer

    Research, design, build, and test mechanical devices$83,590Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering
    Biomedical Equipment TechnicianRepairs biomedical equipment$46,340Associate degree in biomedical equipment technology

     

    Sources:
    Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited January 23, 2017).
    Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited January 23, 2017).

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