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Biomedical Engineering Career Guide

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How to Become a Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineers use engineering principles to create devices that study and solve medical problems. Examples of biomedical devices include prosthetics, artificial organs, imaging equipment, more. Some of the field’s most cutting edge research and applications involve the integration of natural biological materials and technology, especially at the microscopic scale. According to the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), biomedical engineers work in hospitals, research facilities, government agencies, and universities.

Biomedical engineering encompasses several different science and engineering disciplines, like biology, chemistry, mechanical engineering, and materials science. Various academic and career specializations clarify how these fields work together to enhance and save human lives.

Biomedical Engineering Specializations

The BMES lists the following among biomedical engineering’s primary specializations:

  • Bioinstrumentation. Biomedical engineers who specialize in bioinstrumentation design electronic devices for medical diagnosis and treatment.
  • Biomaterials. Engineers in this specialty study natural and laboratory-created materials for medical use.
  • Biomechanics. Biomechanic specialists use mechanics to solve medical problems.
  • Clinical engineering. Clinical engineers use technology to improve the delivery of medical care.
  • Biomechatronics. This is interdisciplinary specialization uses mechanics and electronics to solve medical problems.
  • Bionanotechnology. Bionanotechnology combines biological research and nanotechnology—technology used at the microscopic scale—to design and create biological systems for research and medical applications.
  • Bionics. Biomedical engineers working in bionics design engineering systems modeled after natural biological systems.
  • Cellular, tissue and genetic engineering. This relatively new area of the field incorporates anatomy, mechanics, and biochemistry to address medical problems at the microscopic level.
  • Medical Imaging. Biomedical engineers who specialize in medical imaging design systems or devices that use sound, radiation, magnetism, and other physical phenomena to capture diagnostic images.
  • Neural engineering. Neural engineers use engineering techniques to replace, repair, or enhance properties of the brain.
  • Orthopaedic Bioengineering. Orthopaedic bioengineers use engineering and computational methods to study and design devices for medical problems related to the bones, joints and muscles.
  • Rehabilitation engineering. Biomedical engineers who specialize in rehabilitation use computer science to create devices that could help patients with cognitive or physical disabilities.
  • Systems physiology. Engineers in this specialization use tools to study how physiological systems work and respond under certain conditions.

Degrees, Certifications & Licensing

  • Minimum education requirement: Bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, bioengineering, or a related engineering field.
  • Popular professional certification(s): Certification in Clinical Engineering from the American College of Clinical Engineering
  • Licensing: According to IEEE Pulse, licensure can be beneficial for (but is not typically required of) biomechanical engineers. New and prospective professionals are encouraged to pursue Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) licensing soon after graduating. Once they have a few years in the field, they can pursue Professional Engineer (PE) licenses.

Salary, Career Outlook & Resume-Builders

  • Mean annual salary: $89,970 (May 2016)
  • Projected job growth: 7 percent between 2016-26
  • States with the fastest expected career growth:
    • Utah
    • Maine
    • Colorado
  • Resume-boosters: Employment prospects tend to improve with education, so candidates with master’s degrees may fare better than those with bachelor’s degrees. Voluntary licensure and certifications can also help.

How to Become a Biochemical Engineer

Biochemical engineering stands at the junction of biology, chemistry, and engineering. Like biomedical engineers, biochemical engineers develop tools and devices that work in biological systems, though not always for medical use. Those who do work in healthcare are more likely than their biomedical colleagues to focus their efforts on chemical processes in the body.

Degrees, Certifications & Licensing

  • Minimum education requirement: Bachelor’s or master’s degree in biochemistry, biochemical engineering, biophysics, or a related discipline.
  • Popular professional certification(s): Like biomedical engineers, biochemical engineers can pursue the Certification in Clinical Engineering from the American College of Clinical Engineering
  • Licensing: Voluntary FE and PE licensure.

Salary, Career Outlook & Resume-Builders

  • Mean annual salary: $94,340 (May 2016)
  • Projected job growth: 11 percent from 2016 to 2026
  • States with the fastest expected career growth:
    • Utah
    • Idaho
    • Colorado
  • Resume-boosters: The BLS notes that new biochemists who gain laboratory and professional experience in college tend to have the best job prospects after graduation. Professionals of all levels benefit from having a firm grasp on many different disciplines, like chemistry, microbiology, computer science, and more.

How to Become a Biomedical Engineering Professor

Postsecondary biomedical engineering instructors prepare and mentor the next generation of professionals. Not all professors spend their hours teaching courses, however. Universities are hotbeds of cutting edge research, and many of the latest studies and devices are penned or developed by teams of professors and students. Some colleges hire research professors— instructors who devote almost all of their time to research activities.

Degrees, Certifications & Licensing

  • Minimum education requirement: Doctorate in biomedical engineering or another applicable discipline, though community colleges will typically accept candidates with master’s degrees.
  • Popular professional certification(s): There are not certificates designed for biomedical engineering professors specifically, but voluntary industry certifications can be helpful when teaching specialized courses.
  • Licensing: Biomedical engineering professors may need to be PE licensed if the program for which they teach prepares students for PE licensure.

Salary, Career Outlook & Resume-Builders

  • Mean annual salary: $107,490 (May 2016)
  • Projected job growth: 15 percent between 2016 and 2026
  • States with the fastest expected career growth:
    • Utah
    • Maryland
    • Arizona
  • Resume-boosters: Colleges and universities generally prefer to hire candidates with solid industry and/or research experience.

How to Become a Materials Engineer

Materials engineers study the properties of various materials—metals, polymers, ceramics, and others—to find new applications for them or to advise companies about how they respond in certain conditions. Increasingly, the materials they work with have biomedical applications. Biomedical applications of materials may relate to biosensors, drug delivery, tissue engineering, artificial organs, and more. Some material engineers work to develop new materials mimic natural biological materials and their processes.

Degrees, Certifications & Licensing

  • Minimum education requirement: Bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering or a related engineering field.
  • Popular professional certification(s): Certified Materials & Resource Professional from the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management
  • Licensing: Voluntary FE and PE licensure. Note that candidates can sit for material engineering exams specifically.

Salary, Career Outlook & Resume-Builder

  • Mean annual salary: $97,050 (May 2016)
  • Projected job growth: 2 percent between 2016 to 2026
  • States with the fastest expected career growth:
    • Louisiana
    • Utah
    • Colorado
  • Resume-boosters: Materials engineers who want to work in the biomedical field benefit from additional biology- and health-related courses or a degree with a specialization in biomaterials.

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