Go into any hospital or medical facility and you will get an earful of beeping, humming and chirping noises. That's the sound of all the equipment being used to monitor patients' vital signs, look for diseases or injuries and keep bodies doing what bodies are supposed to do. When any piece of this equipment ceases to function, a biomedical equipment technician is the person called upon to fix it.
Also called a medical equipment repairer, he or she may work on equipment that is as simple as an electric wheelchair, or as sophisticated as a CAT scanner, depending on his or her training and experience. He or she is indispensable to any healthcare facility as it is this person who keeps patient monitors, diagnostic equipment, voice-controlled operating tables, wheelchairs, and gurneys functioning. A biomedical equipment technician, in addition to making repairs, also performs regular maintenance, to ensure that equipment continues to function well.
There were 38,000 biomedical equipment technicians employed in 2010. The companies that supply equipment to hospitals and healthcare facilities employed well over a quarter of them. Many also worked for hospitals and equipment repair and maintenance companies. Approximately 13% of biomedical equipment technicians were self-employed.
Those who work in this field most commonly have an associate degree in biomedical equipment technology, electronics or engineering. Less complicated work generally requires only on-the-job training, while more sophisticated work may warrant a bachelor's degree. One may also need a bachelor's degree for a job with a greater level of responsibility.
Another way to gain entry into this field is to get training from the armed forces.
Someone who is new to this field will spend a few months working under the supervision of an experienced biomedical equipment technician before he or she is deemed ready to work independently. The training doesn't stop there, however. As technology advances and new equipment is developed, biomedical equipment technicians must constantly keep up with these changes. They do this by attending seminars and engaging in self-study.
There are certain skills people who work in this field should have and most cannot be taught. First, good manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination will allow you to assemble and disassemble machines. Good time management skills will help you manage your workload. Biomedical equipment technicians can be very busy. You should have a great deal of stamina because you could end up standing or bending in an awkward position while fixing equipment. Good troubleshooting skills are necessary since the source of many problems won't be obvious.
The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) offers certification to biomedical equipment technicians who desire it.
Becoming certified isn't required, but it can make someone a more desirable job candidate. Those who want to move into supervisory roles may need to become certified. AAMI offers the following certifications: Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET), Certified Laboratory Equipment Specialist (CLEB) and Certified Radiology Equipment Specialist (CRES). Requirements for certification include earning an associate degree or completing training in the armed forces and working for two to three years. Candidates must take and pass an exam. Many employers will pay for certification.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a good future for biomedical equipment technicians. Employment in this occupation will grow much more quickly than the average for all occupations through 2020, and it will be one of the fastest growing occupations that require an associate degree.
Median annual earnings for those working in this occupation were $44,870 in 2011. Median hourly wages were $21.57 (US).
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a biomedical equipment technician currently earns in your city.
A Day in a Biomedical Equipment Technician's Life:
On a typical day a biomedical equipment technician's tasks might include:
- repairing malfunctioning equipment by fixing or replacing broken parts
- performing maintenance on equipment in order to keep it in working order
- testing and calibrating equipment
- reading manuals and attending training seminars
- teaching others to properly use equipment
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Medical Equipment Repairers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/medical-equipment-repairers.htm (visited August 6, 2012).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Medical Equipment Repairers, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/49-9062.00 (visited August 6, 2012).