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How to Become a Biomedical Engineer: A Complete Guide

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Few scientific research fields have real-world applications and affect humans, like biomedical engineering. It is the middle ground where medicine and engineering collide. Biomedical engineers are experimenters who develop groundbreaking and life-saving solutions to medical problems. The job involves developing medicine, technology, and software that help sustain and upgrade the human body.

A career in biomedical engineering will put you at the forefront of edge-cutting research in practical science. In this career, you can develop Nano-sized robots that kill cancer cells in the bloodstream, build innovative wearable gadgets, and research the latest gene-editing methods. If this sounds like something you’d love to do, read on to learn what you need to start your career.

What Is Biomedical Engineering?

Biomedical engineering is a combination of medical research and the principles of engineering to design services and products for the healthcare sector. Professionals in this field use their understanding of science, math, medicine, and biology to create digital innovations, medical equipment, and software used in rehabilitation centers, laboratories, hospitals, and clinical trial settings.

With new advances in technology and biological research, biomedical engineers play an essential role in developing human enhancement technologies. These technologies make humans more efficient – with higher cognitive prowess, physical abilities, and an extended life expectancy. Some examples are artificial hearts, pacemakers, surgical lasers, dialysis machines, and medical information systems.

What Do Biomedical Engineers Do?

Biomedical engineers are natural problem-solvers who work hard to get the best out of engineering and medical research for humans. They create and evaluate a wide range of products and designs. For example, they work on medical diagnostic equipment, therapy products, health management software, body enhancement products, prostheses, and artificial human organs. In addition to that, they maintain, repair, and fine-tune these types of equipment.

You can find biomedical engineers in manufacturing, healthcare, government, and higher education institutions. While pharmaceutical firms employ some professionals, others work for hospitals and medical equipment manufacturers.

Specialization is also common in this field, and the duties largely depend on their specialization. For example, biochemical engineers are concerned with cell structures, whereas genetic engineers focus on the genetic structure of different organisms. Biomaterial engineers test artificial and natural sources in implants and medical devices, and clinical engineers deal with medical equipment.

Common Duties:

  • Install and maintain biomedical equipment
  • Assess the efficiency, safety, and effectiveness of biomedical equipment
  • Research new drug therapies
  • Build devices and equipment such as diagnostic machines, body part replacements, and vital internal organs
  • Design medical computer programs and software to be used by healthcare workers
  • Prepare, publish, and present technical procedures, reports, and research findings
  • Instruct patients and clinicians in the use of biomedical equipment
  • Create solutions for novel clinical problems.
  • Work with scientists to illustrate the relationship between specific biological procedures and engineering principles

How to Become A Biomedical Engineer

A career in biomedical engineering might be an excellent fit for you if you are interested in healthcare, have strong analytical and creative abilities, and love helping people. Ideally, candidates are interested in biology, chemistry, math, and physics. If you also excel in computer programming and mechanical drawing courses, that is an added advantage.

  1. Get a Biomedical Engineering Degree
  2. Intern or Volunteer to Gain Experience
  3. Get Licensed
  4. Stay Updated

1. Get a Biomedical Engineering Degree

After high school, the next step is earning a bachelor’s degree. You can go for a Bachelor of Science in Engineering. Still, then you’ll have to take courses in medical optics, biomechanics, biological science, and bio-instrumentation. However, the most common degree is a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering.

Before you begin to apply to colleges, it is essential to note that most licenses or certifications will require a degree from a college with accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Many employers also require a biomedical engineering certificate from an ABET-accredited school, apart from having licenses and certifications. You can go through this for a list of ABET-accredited biomedical engineering programs.

Biomedical engineering programs generally take four years to complete. Students will take courses in organic chemistry, fluid and soil mechanics, physiology and biomaterials, circuit design, and statistics and calculus.

You can also choose to go a step higher and earn a Master of Science in Engineering. This degree can be completed in four years and opens the door to top supervisory and research roles, as well as a juicer pay package. Furthermore, you can earn a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering if you desire to work for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or a university.

Related Resource: ABET Accredited Online Schools: A Guide to the Top 15

 

2. Get an Internship or Volunteer

After earning a degree, volunteering or interning at a bioengineering firm is an excellent way to gain valuable experience. It also gives you insight into the types of roles available. The Biomedical Engineering Society offers undergraduates internship opportunities to build skills, expand their knowledge, and gain vital work experience.

3. Get Licensed

A license is not compulsory, and many employers will still hire you without one. Nonetheless, earning one can help you land jobs with many states and the federal government.

Fundamentals of Engineering License

One of the most recognizable licenses in the profession is the Fundamental of Engineering (FE) license. To possess this license, candidates must take and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, administered by the National Council of Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). The license will be beneficial if you apply for consultant or managerial positions.

Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) License

After gaining FE licensure, biomedical engineers need to work for at least four years to qualify for the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) license. The Principle and Practice of Engineering exam tests the candidate’s engineering field competency. Passing the PE exam allows you to become a licensed professional engineer and use the PE seal. Every engineering specialty has a different exam for the PE license, but there is none for biomedical engineers. As a result, biomedical engineers can pick an exam from any specialty of their choice.

4. Stay Updated

You might have earned all the necessary degrees and certifications and maybe even gotten your dream job. But, biomedical engineering is an ever-evolving profession. There are always new trends, innovations, and technology in the field. You have to join biomedical engineering organizations and attend events and conferences to stay relevant. In all you do, ensure to keep up with the latest trends and explore the possibilities in your specialization.

Skills You Need To Become A Biomedical Engineer

Apart from qualifications and licenses, there are some vital skills to succeed on the job.

Communication Skills

Biomedical engineers and bioengineers typically work with customers and patients to assess their needs. They also work on teams, and as such, they must be able to pass their thoughts in a clear and composed manner. They should read and assimilate work materials, write clearly, and listen to others.

Analytical Skills

A biomedical engineer must be wise in discharging their day-to-day responsibilities. They must weigh the consequences of specific actions, recognize problems, combine information to draw conclusions, and quickly adapt to new systems and designs.

Creativity

Biomedical engineering roles demand a lot of creativity. For a bioengineer to thrive in their position, they must be willing to be creative and think outside the box.

Problem-Solving Skills

The role itself puts up lots of challenges, and for a bioengineer to excel, they must break down complex problems into tiny chunks and solve them accordingly.

Math Skills

As a biomedical engineer, there’s no hiding from math. Analyzing data, troubleshooting, and designing products require calculus, statistics, and advanced knowledge of mathematics. Bioengineers must have a solid math background to succeed in the field.

Where Do Biomedical Engineers Work?

Biomedical engineers work in a wide range of organizations and companies. According to the Bureau of Labor Services (BLS), biomedical engineers held around 19,300 jobs in 2020. 7% worked in colleges, universities, and professional schools, 9% worked for healthcare and social assistance organizations, while medical equipment and supplies manufacturing firms employed 16%.

Biomedical engineers often work in teams. They typically work full time and put in at least 40 hours of work weekly. In this career, you’ll likely spend most of your time researching to produce healthcare products. You might also supervise a team of biomedical equipment technicians or recommend certain new medical products and equipment to hospitals. Here is a breakdown of the most common workplaces:

  • Pharmaceutical firms
  • Laboratories and hospitals
  • Software companies
  • Clinical research centers
  • Medical device manufacturers
  • State and federal governments
  • Educational institutions

Biomedical Engineering Salary & Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for bioengineers and biomedical engineers in 2020 was $92,620. Biomedical engineers working in colleges, universities, and professional schools earned an average of $71,820. In contrast, their colleagues who worked in research earned $93,630. On the other hand, those employed by medical equipment and supplies manufacturing companies earned $94,960. Those in navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing earned $104,050 annually.

The BLS predicts a 6% growth in the number of jobs between 2020 and 2030. During that period, there should be an estimated 1,400 job openings yearly, with most of those opportunities resulting from the need to replace workers who retire or switch occupations.

In summary, the career prospects are limitless, especially with new tech and innovations in the medical field. A typical example of the influence biomedical engineering has on technology is 3D printing and fingerprint recognition on smartphones. Also, with more awareness, more and more people will seek biomedical solutions to their health challenges.

Related Resource: Highest Paying Healthcare Careers by Degree Level

Specializations in Biomedical Engineering

Bioinstrumentation

The bio-instrumentation subsector designs and develops equipment and tools used in treating diseases. The majority of this equipment and tools are built to work with computers.

Biomechanics

Biomedical engineers specializing in the biomechanics sub-field work to design, develop, and improve products and equipment that help with the body’s movements. For example, they may create joint replacements to help improve motor functions or artificial heart valves that help improve blood flow.

Biomaterials

Biomedical engineers who work in the biomaterials section create safe materials for use in the human body. They have to ensure that these implant materials have no toxins or carcinogenic properties and would not cause harm to patients. The materials must be tested for longevity, as they often have to last a lifetime without deteriorating. Some biomaterials are produced with living cells to enable them to blend with the body.

Systems Physiology

Systems physiologists use engineering principles and engineering tools to understand how living creatures survive and function.

Tissue, Cellular, and Genetic Engineering

Biomedical engineers specializing in tissue, cellular and genetic engineering focus on cellular activity to detect problems and find healthcare solutions. They concentrate on the microscopic level to pick out how diseases develop and tinker with solutions to counter the progression of these diseases.

Medical Imaging

Biomedical professionals in the medical imaging sub-field design and develop equipment that healthcare workers can use to view inside the human body.

Clinical Engineering

Biomedical professionals in clinical engineering use medical equipment, software, and products in healthcare facilities. They often work in a team with nurses, doctors, and other healthcare personnel to help them use the medical products.

Orthopedic Bioengineering

Bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles are the primary focus of orthopedic bioengineers. These professionals design and develop implants that aid movement. Sometimes, they have to replace the ligaments, bones, joints, or muscles. They also develop implants built to work with the existing tissues.

Rehabilitation Engineering

As the name implies, these biomedical engineering professionals focus on building prosthetics that help people regain normal functions in the event of injury or damage to body parts.

Types of Biomedical Engineering Careers

According to data from the BLS, healthcare takes a considerable chunk of the spots on the list of highest-paying occupations. There are many areas where these professionals can work as they design, develop, and proffer solutions to medical problems.

Quality Engineer

A quality engineer inspects medical products to make sure that they meet specifications and standards. After examining the products, they can offer suggestions for changes, and in some cases, they make the improvements themselves.

Manufacturing Engineer

Manufacturing engineers design and develop a wide range of medical products, including prosthetics, imaging devices, and other healthcare products.

Researcher

A researcher works hard to explore gray areas and find the knowledge that could lead to breakthroughs in medical research. Their primary focus is on the understanding that will assist with designing medical products to ensure that patients or end-users suffer no harm. Researchers are commonly found in academia.

Software Engineer

Biomedical engineers who work to develop software for medical use. Medical personnel uses these programs to display and make inputs to data recorded by various medical devices.

Physician

It is common for professionals with a biomedical background who switch to full medical practice. They typically go through medical schools, after which they can diagnose and treat illness.

Is Biomedical Engineering A Good Major?

Biomedical Engineers Are In High Demand

Over the last couple of years, there has been an increased demand for biomedical engineers. They are needed to develop new technologies in the healthcare sector, such as knee and hip replacements to 3-D printing.

The Opportunity To Change Lives

Biomedical engineers can save lives and positively impact the world through their research. If you pursue a career in this field, you might design a life-saving device or procedure that could help millions of people. These are some of the exciting innovations:

  • Nanotechnology involves using nanoparticles to find and treat cancer in different forms at near cellular levels.
  • X-ray Machines continue to be a significant breakthrough in the medical field. They allow medical personnel to look into the human body and detect dental cavities, broken bones, and everything in between.
  • Electrocardiographs allow medical professionals to see whether a patient’s heart is working correctly.

You Gain Vital Transferable Skills

This career path can give you a wide range of soft skills that can help you prepare for other opportunities or professions. Some of the skills you can learn on the job include:

  • Analytical Skills
  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Teamwork
  • Attention to detail
  • Creative and technical ability
  • Computer literacy

Wide Range of Specializations

A career in biomedical engineering opens you up to a wide range of exciting career options. You can specialize in biomechanics, rehabilitation engineering, or biomaterials.

Start Your Biomedical Engineering Career Today!

As you can see, biomedical engineering is an exciting and rewarding career. Are you feeling inspired already? You can check out related career paths in our education resource center or learn more about online schooling.

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