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How to Become a Biomedical Engineer

By Jessica Wallace

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Do you possess a combination of strong technical skills, critical thinking ability, and creativity? Are you passionate about improving healthcare through innovative solutions? A career in biomedical engineering might be right for you! In this guide, you’ll follow the hitchhiker’s path to becoming a biomedical engineer.

Career Summary

Biomedical Engineer Salary

Biomedical Engineer Salary

Let’s see what your potential earnings would be if you switched careers to biomedical engineering today.

  • Entry Salary (US$36k)
  • Median Salary (US$42k)
  • Executive Salary (US$50k)

Compared to the national average wage for all occupations in the US, Biomedical Engineers are high earners.

What does a Biomedical Engineer do?

Biomedical engineers collaborate with clinical health professionals such as doctors, allied health experts, and researchers to develop medical systems, tools, and solutions to resolve clinical challenges. As a biomedical engineer, your job is to blend science and engineering principles to design and develop computing solutions (software and systems), devices, and equipment.

Biomedical Engineer Career Progression

The career ladder in all biomedical fields consists of five major steps. The following list will give you an idea of what responsibilities you can expect at each one:

  • Entry-Level Engineer/Intern: Beginning a career as a biomedical engineer, you’ll be working on various projects, and gaining valuable industry experience.
  • Junior-Level Engineer: Junior biomedical engineers usually handle data gathering and analytics with ease in research situations.
  • Mid-Level Engineer: Mid-level engineers analyze, develop, and improve systems for manufacturing biological processes using empirical outcomes.
  • Senior Biomedical Engineer: This role often involves having a broad understanding of interactions between electrical and mechanical engineering and human physiology to effectively drive algorithms development, and specify methods for measuring medical parameters.
  • Engineering Program Manager: An engineering program manager coordinates a team of fellow engineers, manages resources, and ensures that operational efficiency is achieved across the board.

Pros:

  • You’ll be solving problems that matter to humanity.
  • Your work will be engaging and fun, as you combine various skills and knowledge from many disciplines.
  • You have a diverse pool of organizations and locations to work at and live in, respectively.

Cons:

  • It requires ample investment in education and educational resources.
  • Bioengineering projects are no child’s play. They’re often time-sensitive and crucial.
  • Balancing the need for continuous learning with limited time can pose a challenge.

Useful Skills to Have as a Biomedical Engineer

There are quite a few skills biomedical engineers should have. We’ll share a few of the vital ones here:

  • Understanding of complex medical problems
  • Knowledge of engineering and mathematics
  • Creative thinking
  • Problem-solving and analytical thinking

Popular Biomedical Engineer Specialties

The more common specializations of biomedical engineering include:

  • Bioinstrumentation: Bioinstrumentation specialists make tools for modern diagnosis and treatment of disease.
  • Biomaterials: Biomaterials specialists design and create materials well-suited for  the body.
  • Biomechanics: Dealing with body movements and biological integrity such as artificial heart valves and joint replacements.
  • Cellular, Tissue, and Genetic Engineering: The application of microscopic techniques to discover solutions for bigger techniques.
  • Medical Imaging: Medical imaging bioengineers design and develop devices that make it possible to examine the human body internally and externally.

How to become a Biomedical Engineer

Excited to pursue a career in biomedical engineering yet? Here’s a basic pathway to follow your dreams.

Education

Do I need a degree to become a Biomedical Engineer?

A bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering or a related field is often the minimum educational requirement for entry-level positions in the field. This degree program provides a solid foundation in engineering principles, biological sciences, and medical technology. It covers topics such as biomaterials, biomechanics, medical imaging, tissue engineering, and signal processing.

While a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for some entry-level positions, obtaining a master’s degree or even a Ph.D. greatly enhances career prospects and opens opportunities for more advanced roles in research, development, and leadership. It’s worth noting that specific requirements for biomedical engineering roles will likely vary depending on your country, region, and organization. It’s advisable to research the specific educational requirements of the institutions or companies you are interested in working for to ensure you meet their criteria.

Why is it important to get a degree in Biomedical Engineering?

Getting a degree in biomedical engineering is important for several reasons:

  • Specialized Knowledge: A degree program provides you with a specialized curriculum that covers topics such as biomedical instrumentation, medical imaging, biomaterials, biomechanics, and physiological systems. This knowledge equips you with a solid foundation to address the unique challenges and complexities of healthcare technology.
  • Practical Skills: In addition to theoretical knowledge, a degree program in biomedical engineering offers hands-on training and practical experience. You will have the opportunity to work with medical devices, conduct experiments, analyze data, and solve real-world problems.
  • Industry Relevance: Employers often prioritize candidates with significant formal education, as it shows that you have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills to contribute effectively to the industry.
  • Professional Opportunities: A degree in biomedical engineering avails you of a wide range of career opportunities. You can pursue roles such as research and development engineer, quality engineer, regulatory affairs specialist, clinical engineer, or project manager.
  • Advancement and Growth: Higher-level qualifications can lead to leadership positions, research opportunities, and the ability to contribute to cutting-edge advancements in the field.
  • Professional Recognition: Graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering allows you to join professional organizations and societies specific to the field. These organizations provide valuable networking opportunities, access to resources, and professional development programs. They also offer certifications that can further enhance your professional reputation and career prospects.

How long does it take to get a degree in Biomedical Engineering?

The time required to earn a degree in biomedical engineering depends on several factors, including the level of degree you’re pursuing and the educational system of your country of study. Here are the typical time frames for each level of degree:

  • Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering usually takes around four years of full-time study to complete. This duration may vary slightly due to specific curriculum and university requirements.
  • Master’s Degree: Pursuing a master’s degree in biomedical engineering typically takes an additional two years after completing a bachelor’s degree. Some universities offer accelerated programs that allow students to earn a master’s degree in a shorter time frame, typically a year if they can provide proof of having already completed a relevant bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree program involves advanced coursework, research, or design projects, and may require completing a thesis or comprehensive examination.
  • Ph.D. Degree: A Ph.D. in biomedical engineering is a research-oriented degree that generally takes around four to five years to complete after you earn your bachelor’s degree. Ph.D. candidates typically engage in original research under the guidance of a faculty advisor, complete advanced coursework, and write and defend a doctoral dissertation. The duration may vary depending on the nature and complexity of the research project.

How much does it cost to study Biomedical Engineering at university?

The cost of studying Biomedical Engineering at a university can vary significantly depending on various factors such as the country and region where the university is located, the specific university or college, whether you are an international student, and the duration of the program.

In addition, tuition fees can change over time, so it’s important to consider the most up-to-date information.

In the United States, undergraduate tuition fees for Biomedical Engineering programs range from $12,000 for in-state students to $38,000 for out-of-state students.

Can I become a Biomedical Engineer through online education?

Yes, it is possible to pursue a career in biomedical engineering through online education. Such programs have become increasingly popular and accessible, offering flexible learning options for individuals who may not be able to attend traditional on-campus programs.

However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind:

  • Accreditation: Ensure that the online program you choose is accredited by a recognized accrediting body. Accreditation ensures that the program meets certain educational standards and that your degree will be recognized by employers and other institutions.
  • Program Content: Review the curriculum of the online program to ensure that it covers the necessary topics and provides a comprehensive education in biomedical engineering. Look for programs that offer courses in areas such as biomaterials, biomechanics, medical imaging, and medical device design.
  • Hands-on Components: Biomedical engineering often involves hands-on laboratory work and practical experiences. While online programs may offer virtual labs or simulations, it is important to verify if the program provides opportunities for hands-on experiences through internship partnerships, co-ops, or in-person laboratory sessions.

Do note that some aspects of biomedical engineering education, such as laboratory work and hands-on experiences, may be more challenging to replicate in an online setting. However, online programs are constantly evolving, and advancements in technology are improving the quality and effectiveness of online education.

What are some web resources to learn skills to become a Biomedical Engineer?

To learn skills and gather knowledge to become a biomedical engineer, there are several web resources you can explore. Here are some recommendations:

  • Biomedical Engineering courses by MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) OpenCourseWare provides free access to materials from actual MIT courses. You can access lecture notes, assignments, and sometimes even video lectures for biomedical engineering courses offered by MIT.
  • BioMedical Engineering OnLine: This open-access journal publishes peer-reviewed articles on all aspects of biomedical engineering. Exploring their articles can help you stay updated on the latest research and developments in the field.
  • Biomedical Engineering Society: The official website of the Biomedical Engineering Society offers resources, publications, and news related to the field. It’s a valuable source for networking, accessing career resources, and learning about conferences and events in the biomedical engineering community.

Practical Experience

What are internship opportunities for a Biomedical Engineer?

As a biomedical engineer, there are several internship opportunities available to gain practical experience in the field. Here are some common internship positions that biomedical engineering students or graduates can consider:

  • Research Intern: Many universities, research institutions, and medical device companies offer research internships where you can work on cutting-edge projects related to biomedical engineering. These internships involve assisting with experiments, data analysis, literature reviews, and contributing to research publications.
  • Medical Device Intern: Medical device companies often provide internships to biomedical engineering students to work on developing, testing, and improving medical devices. This often involves designing prototypes, conducting product testing, analyzing data, and collaborating with cross-functional teams.
  • Clinical Engineering Intern: Hospitals and healthcare facilities may have internship programs in clinical engineering departments. These internships involve working with medical equipment, troubleshooting technical issues, performing maintenance and calibration, and assisting with the implementation of new technologies.
  • Biomechanics Intern: Research institutions or companies offering biomechanics internships focus on the analysis of human movement and its application in fields such as sports science, rehabilitation, and ergonomics. Interns may participate in motion capture, data analysis, experimental design, and developing computational models.
  • Regulatory Affairs Intern: Pharmaceutical and medical device companies often have internships in their regulatory affairs departments. These internships involve assisting with the preparation and submission of regulatory documents, ensuring compliance with regulations and standards, and observing the regulatory approval process.
  • Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC): QA/QC internships provide an opportunity to work on ensuring the quality and safety of medical devices, equipment, or pharmaceutical products. Interns may help with quality testing, process validation, documentation, and compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Biomedical Imaging Intern: Internships in biomedical imaging focus on medical imaging technologies such as MRI, CT, ultrasound, or optical imaging. Interns may be involved in image acquisition, processing, analysis, and algorithm development.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Biomedical Engineer?

Here are some skills you’re likely to pick up in your development as a biomedical engineer:

  • Engineering Fundamentals: You will develop a solid foundation in core engineering principles, such as mathematics, physics, and materials science. These skills will help you understand and apply engineering concepts in the context of biomedical applications.
  • Biology and Anatomy: Biomedical engineering involves working with living systems, so you will gain a strong understanding of biology and human anatomy. This knowledge will allow you to design and develop medical devices and technologies that interface with biological tissues and organs.
  • Medical Imaging: You will learn about various medical imaging techniques, such as X-ray, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT). You will understand the fundamental physics behind these imaging modalities and how to analyze and interpret medical images for diagnostic purposes.
  • Biomechanics: Biomechanics focuses on the study of forces and their effects on the human body. You will learn how to analyze the mechanics of biological systems, including muscles, bones, and joints, and apply this knowledge to design orthopedic implants, prosthetics, and assistive devices.
  • Biomaterials: Biomaterials are substances that interact with biological systems, and they play a crucial role in many biomedical applications. You will gain expertise in selecting and designing biomaterials for medical devices, implants, and tissue engineering constructs, considering their compatibility, mechanical properties, and biocompatibility.
  • Medical Device Design: Biomedical engineers often design and develop medical devices and equipment. You will learn the principles of designing, prototyping, and testing these devices, to ensure they meet safety, performance, and regulatory standards.
  • Signal Processing and Instrumentation: You will learn important signal-processing techniques to analyze and interpret physiological signals, such as electrocardiograms (ECG), electroencephalograms (EEG), and electromyograms (EMG). This knowledge is vital for designing and developing medical monitoring and diagnostic devices.
  • Systems Physiology: Understanding how different body systems function is crucial in biomedical engineering. You will learn about the cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems, among others, and how to apply engineering principles to analyze and model their behavior.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Biomedical engineers must adhere to strict regulations and standards in the development of medical devices and technologies. You will gain an understanding of these regulatory frameworks, such as the FDA guidelines in the United States, and learn how to ensure compliance throughout the design and manufacturing processes.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Biomedical Engineer?

The work-life balance of a biomedical engineer depends on several factors, such as the specific job role, industry, employer, and individual preferences. However, in general, biomedical engineers strive for a balanced approach to their work and personal lives.

Here are some aspects to consider regarding the work-life balance of a biomedical engineer:

  • Work Hours: Biomedical engineers typically work full-time, which generally amounts to 40 hours per week. However, certain projects or deadlines may require additional hours. The specific work schedule can vary depending on the employer and industry.
  • Flexibility: Some healthcare employers offer flexible work arrangements, such as flexible hours or telecommuting options for biomedical engineers. This promotes better work-life balance for biomedical engineers, allowing them to manage their personal commitments more effectively despite working a hectic schedule.
  • Research and Development: Biomedical engineers involved in research and development may have varying work hours, especially during critical project phases. These professionals may need to dedicate additional time to experimental work, data analysis, or designing prototypes.
  • Stress Levels: While biomedical engineering can be rewarding, it can also involve high-pressure situations, especially during project deadlines or when working with critical medical devices.

What’s the Career Outlook for Biomedical Engineer?

The projection for jobs in biomedical engineering looks promising! The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics expects a 10 percent growth from 2021 to 2031. This is much faster than the other occupations. The number indicates there’ll be more job opportunities, but this need for engineers also means you’ll be able to find more meaningful work in a smaller field.

What are the Job Opportunities for Biomedical Engineers?

Biomedical engineering is a rapidly growing field with diverse job opportunities across various sectors. Therefore, biomedical engineers are increasingly in demand. Here are some common jobs and company types offering decent opportunities for biomedical engineers:

  • Medical Device Manufacturers: Many biomedical engineers work in the medical device industry, designing, developing, and improving medical equipment and devices. But, there are equally companies involved in the design, development, manufacturing, and distribution of medical devices that hire these biomedical engineers. Their main work will involve creating new prosthetics, diagnostic tools, imaging systems, and surgical instruments.
  • Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Companies: Biomedical engineers are critical to the development of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology products, being heavily involved in the research, development, and improvement of medicines. They may also participate in designing drug delivery systems, tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, or creating medical imaging technologies for drug development and testing.
  • Hospitals and Healthcare Institutions: Hospitals and healthcare facilities employ biomedical engineers to support and maintain medical equipment, ensure proper functioning, and assist with the implementation of new technologies. Hospital biomedical engineers collaborate with allied health professionals to optimize the use of medical equipment, ensuring its proper functioning, and providing technical support for complex devices.
  • Research and Development: Many biomedical engineers are employed at academic institutions, laboratories, research institutions (public and private), and government agencies, to conduct research, experiments, and studies related to medical technology advancements. These biomedical engineers focus on advancing medical technologies, experimental design, conducting experiments, analyzing data, and contributing to scientific publications.
  • Government and Regulatory Agencies: Some biomedical engineers work for regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other government bodies, ensuring that medical devices and technologies comply with safety and quality standards.
  • Academia: Biomedical engineers can pursue careers in academia, teaching and conducting research at universities or colleges. They may supervise student projects, publish research papers, and contribute to the advancement of the field through teaching and mentorship.
  • Startups and Entrepreneurship: Biomedical engineers with an entrepreneurial mindset can start their own companies or join startup ventures. This allows them to innovate and commercialize new technologies, products, or services in the healthcare and medical device sectors. Startups often require biomedical engineers to drive product development, conduct research, secure funding, and navigate the regulatory landscape.

These are just a few examples of the career opportunities available to biomedical engineers. The field is broad and interdisciplinary, offering a wide range of career paths that combine engineering principles with healthcare and life sciences.

Should I Become a Biomedical Engineer?

There’s a good chance you’re well-suited for this role if you have a mix of mathematical, analytical, and conceptual thinking, and a dash of creativity to top things off. Besides, you’ll be leaving your footprints in the sands of human history by contributing to the development of significant biomedical technology.

The rising demand for biomedical engineers makes the field a resilient career choice. Being an evolving discipline also makes it attractive as a long-term career path if you enjoy installing, adjusting, and repairing biomedical equipment, as well as designing and building devices and equipment.

Biomedical engineering has gained much traction over the last few years. If you have the requisite science background and an attraction to applying engineering concepts to life problems or specific biological systems, this could be a suitable profession for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Biomedical Engineering?

Biomedical engineering is the discipline where engineering design, synthesis, and analysis principles are applied for medical benefits.


Do Biomedical Engineers go to med school?

No, biomedical engineers do not attend medical school. Instead, they are required to obtain a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in disciplines such as biology, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, or related fields.

How long does it take to become a Biomedical Engineer?

On average, it takes four years of study and two years of experience to become a biomedical engineer. You’ll earn a bachelor’s degree and either get two years of work experience or earn a master’s degree.


Is it hard to become a Biomedical Engineer?

Biomedical engineering is not hard if you have a flair for the natural sciences. However, you need a mix of passion, dedication, and hard work.


Is Biomedical Engineering a good career choice?

Yes, biomedical engineering is a good career choice in the health industry. There are plenty of opportunities and salaries are usually competitive.


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Jessica Wallace

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