Biomedical engineers use a combination of biology, medical knowledge and engineering principles and practices to create devices and procedures to solve health and medical related problems. They assist in the development and improvement of a wide array of medical instruments and devices such as kidney machines, heart valves and lasers utilized in eye surgeries.
Biomedical engineering includes the fields of image processing, biomechanics, 3D modeling, clinical engineering, medical imaging, bioinstrumentation, genetic engineering and cellular research. Other fields are systems physiology, rehabilitation engineering, biomaterials and tissue engineering.
Some biomedical engineers perform research at universities and hospitals. Some biomedical engineers are employed at hospitals and monitor and maintain complex medical systems. Some of these engineers are employed by companies that make biomedical equipment.
- Advise hospital administrators regarding the planning, acquisition and the use of medical equipment
- Coordinate automated patient monitoring
- Evaluate the efficiency, effectiveness and safety of biomedical equipment
- Create computer simulations or models of human biobehavioral systems in order to gather data for measuring or controlling life processes
- Work with medical imaging systems
- Design optimal clinical laboratories
- Learn and apply sports medicine techniques
- Research new materials to be used for products
- Design and develop medical diagnostic and clinical instrumentation, equipment and procedures
- Perform research on the engineering aspects of biological systems of humans and animals
Biomedical engineers work in modern well-equipped research centers, hospitals and manufacturing facilities. Many engineers work 40 hours a week. They may have to work overtime to meet deadlines. Biomedical engineers should be creative, analytical and detailed oriented. They should also be able to work well as part of a team.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 72 percent employment growth for biomedical engineers from 2008 to 2018 which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The aging of the population and an increasing emphasis on health issues will increase demand for better medical equipment and devices designed by biomedical engineers. In addition, the median annual earnings for biomedical engineers in 2008 was $77,400.
Education, Certification, and Licensing
Biomedical engineers need at least a bachelor's degree. Some colleges and universities provide classes and degrees in biomedical engineering. Some biomedical engineering programs provide internships. Some biomedical engineers earn a degree in subjects such as chemical, industrial, electrical or mechanical engineering. Specialized biomedical training is needed.
Some candidates obtain an advanced degree in biomedical engineering or a related subject. Many biomedical engineers, especially those working in research laboratories, need a graduate degree. A broad background is an asset in the field.
Some of the common course programs and areas of study at biomedical engineering schools are physical chemistry and cell structure, molecular bioengineering, medical imaging, biomedical instrument design, biomolecular architecture, cell mechanics, and mechanics of biomaterials. Beneficial courses include physiology, biology, biophysics, biochemistry and medical instrumentation.
Candidates for the occupation should also have a strong background in technical and medical technology. They should also have advanced mathematics skills.
The Accreditation Board for Education and Technology provides accreditation to biomedical engineering programs. The Biomedical Engineering Society is another organization that approves and regulates biomedical engineering degree programs and studies in biomedical sciences.
Biomedical engineers may need to be licensed by the state where they are working. Every state requires licensure for engineers that offer their services directly to the public. Licensure typically requires a degree from an ABET accredited engineering program, four years of relevant work experience and passing a state examination.