Biomedical engineers enjoy work in a vocation that straddles the line between engineering and medicine, and that is often responsible for the creation of lifesaving medicine and technology. These professionals may assist in the development of pharmaceutical drugs, biocompatible prostheses, imaging equipment, and other products that help with the diagnosis and treatment of patients.
Ultimately, biomedical engineers devote a substantial amount of time to research and development, where they work to expand the boundaries of medicine by leveraging their engineering skills and expertise. Some biomedical engineers may spend their career in a university setting, while others may work in manufacturing facilities, research labs, medical institutions, or even government agencies.
One of many types of specialized engineering, careers in biomedical engineering are a blend of science, technology, design, and computer programming disciplines. These fields merge together in bioengineering bachelor degree programs which are required for most entry-level positions according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019).
Some biomedical engineers choose to pursue advanced degrees in medicine, law, or business depending on their area of specialization. Careers in biomedical engineering are projected to grow 5 percent nationally between 2019 and 2029, which is similar to the national average for all occupations (BLS 2020). As for salary, biomedical engineers earn average annual salaries of $97,090 (BLS May 2019).
Biomedical engineers are often responsible for the preservation and improvement of quality of life for ailing patients, so the work can be quite fulfilling. However, because of the complex and demanding nature of the work, interested individuals should possess certain character traits and complete their engineering education before beginning to work in the field.
It would be untrue to claim that all successful biomedical engineers possess an identical set of character traits that set them apart from the rest. In general, though, there are a number of characteristics that will certainly benefit an individual interested in becoming a biomedical engineer in the future. For example, O*Net Online (2020) lists the following skills among those necessary for someone hoping to work in this position:
There are specific educational and licensing requirements necessary for anyone who wishes to work as a biomedical engineer.
To begin, anyone who intends on working in this career field should first obtain a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university in biomedical engineering. Of course, while an individual does not necessarily need to obtain a degree from a program that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET), doing so is a requirement for eligibility to receive a professional engineer license, which may be a prerequisite for a number of jobs in the field.
Here, it should be mentioned that a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, specifically, is not a requirement to work in this capacity. Instead, a student may complete a degree in another field of engineering, and then go on to further obtain a graduate degree in biomedical engineering. This may take more time overall, however, it may provide the individual with a broader view of general engineering concepts and a deeper understanding of biomedical engineering specifically, which he or she can put to use throughout his or her career. Based on Payscale data (2020), the yearly salary range for biomedical engineers with master’s degrees is $3,000 to $10,000 higher than that of biomedical engineers with bachelor’s degrees.
Furthermore, a student who has already obtained a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering may still benefit from pursuing a graduate degree in the subject, as this will reinforce and deepen that student’s understanding.
Overall, the path to becoming a biomedical engineer will be very similar for most individuals aspiring to work in this career. In light of this, anyone interested in working in this capacity should consider following the steps listed below:
Once a bachelor’s or master’s degree in biomedical engineering has been obtained, an individual may begin working in the field immediately. However, as mentioned above, anyone wishing to work as a biomedical engineer should consider pursuing professional licensure in order to maximize employability and validate his or her qualifications and abilities.
As described by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), there are certain required steps in order to achieve a Professional Engineer (PE) license, which are listed below:
It is also important to note that a Professional Engineer (PE) license is applicable to all fields of engineering. As such, if an individual has degrees in both biomedical engineering and, for example, electrical engineering, a professional engineering license will benefit him or her while searching for employment in either field. In other words, once an engineer has earned the PE designation and so long as said engineer keeps it up to date, the PE certification remains valid.
The following provides a short overview of the time requirements necessary to become a biomedical engineer:
Total Time: Not counting the time it takes to finish high school or obtain a GED, an aspiring biomedical engineer may be eligible to work in this field within three to four years (this solely includes the time it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree).
Once a biomedical engineer finds a position in the industry, he or she may take another one to five years, or more, to obtain additional qualifications leading to greater responsibilities and pay. The relatively short time frame necessary to begin work, as well as the additional possibilities for career advancement, make this choice an enticing option for those who wish to work in the fields of both engineering and medicine.
Learn more about how these 20 leading professors of biomedical engineering are helping to advance the field, whilst ensuring their students join the vanguard and continue to innovate.
Biomedical engineers do not just improve lives; in fact, their research, tools, and devices save millions of them every day. Thanks to their work, which bridges the divide between medicine and engineering, people live longer, heal faster, and live more comfortably than ever.