Around the world, there has been a notable shortage of biomedical engineers. From Kenya, to the U.K. and the U.S., healthcare facilities have begun filling positions that require specific training and licensing with underqualified employees, which has not only led to increased risk for health problems within communities, but it also reduces the advancement of medical technology and thwarts the cure of devastating diseases.
Biomedical engineers, while not the face of medical research like physicians and surgeons, are integral professionals within healthcare, and without them, we wouldn’t have most of the medical devices and tools in use today. It is imperative that more students pursue credentials in biomedical engineering, so we can continue to advance our medical knowledge.
What Do Biomedical Engineers Do?
Every industry relies on equipment. In healthcare, that equipment is designed, built, maintained, and sometimes operated by biomedical engineers. Combining typical engineering skills with medical training, biomedical engineers work alongside doctors to generate solutions to pressing medical issues. Like other engineers, biomedical engineers can claim a variety of responsibilities, to include:
- Evaluating medical equipment for safety, efficiency and efficacy.
- Developing new medical equipment, such as artificial organs and limbs, machines for testing and diagnosis, and devices that treat chronic illness.
- Installing, repairing, maintaining, or otherwise providing technical support for medical equipment.
- Training personnel for proper use or maintenance of medical equipment.
Undoubtedly, nearly everyone in developed or developing nations has seen the work of biomedical engineers. From MRI machines to prosthetic legs, from pacemakers to laser surgical tools, the most useful and innovative equipment in hospitals exist thanks to biomedical engineers’ efforts.
Less commonly, biomedical engineers might research biological systems, publish reports, and present their findings to scientists, executives, clinicians, hospital administrators, fellow engineers, and the public. These findings may serve as recommendations for the development of new technologies or the adoption of new methods in medical institutions. It is this academic biomedical engineering study that often pushes innovations in the field, but all biomedical engineers contribute to medical advancement — and it is all biomedical engineers that are currently lacking.
How Can Students Enter the Biomedical Engineering Field?Biomedical engineering, like other engineering fields, requires significant training. Prospective engineers must obtain a four or five-year biomedical engineering degree from an accredited school to qualify for entry-level positions. Successful biomedical engineering students tend to have excellent problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills, and they should be interested in nearly all the sciences. Biomedical engineering education typically includes study of physics and electrical systems, biology and anatomy, chemistry, advanced math and software development.
After completing a bachelor degree and gaining experience in the field, engineers might consider returning to school for an advanced degree, like a masters or doctorate. It is possible to study biomedical engineering online, especially when training for engineering management positions. These tend to earn engineers greater responsibilities — which come with greater salaries.
What Are the Perks of a Biomedical Engineering Career?
Because there are so few biomedical engineers and because the need for them is so great, biomedical engineering students can look forward to employment immediately after graduation, which isn’t true in many fields, even within engineering. In fact, in the U.S., the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that there is a substantially greater than average increase in available biomedical engineering positions: 31.4 percent, whereas overall engineering job growth hovers around 9.4 percent.
In addition to opportunity and job security, biomedical engineers enjoy relatively high salaries. However, exact income varies depending on what type of biomedical engineering one performs. For example, the best-paid biomedical engineers are typically involved in research and development; these earn an average annual wage of about $100,800. Meanwhile, biomedical engineers who work inside hospitals, providing direct benefit to doctors and patients, typically earn the least, pulling an average annual wage of about $76,500. Still, even the worst-paid biomedical engineer earns dramatically more than the average single American, who makes about $35,000 every year.
Finally, biomedical engineers enjoy supreme job satisfaction. Not only is the job project-oriented, meaning engineers see the direct result of their efforts in functional medical equipment, but more importantly, their work is meaningful. Biomedical engineers know for certain that the machines and devices they design will save lives, improve well-being, and contribute to a healthier, happier population. That alone should inspire millions to train in biomedical engineering and end the crisis threatening world health.