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Biomedical Engineer: Career Definition, Job Outlook, and Education Requirements

Research what it takes to become a biomedical engineer. Learn about job duties, job outlook, salary, and education requirements to find out if this is the right career for you.

What Do Biomedical Engineers Do?

Biomedical engineers research and develop new medical technologies. They accomplish this by combining engineering and biological principles to create new devices and software. Biomedical engineers will also install, adjust, maintain and/or repair equipment, as well as training individuals in how to use it.

These professionals work with scientists in a variety of fields to research various engineering aspects of living things. Their findings may be documented in papers and reports for the public, engineers, health professionals, other scientists and more. Biomedical engineers may choose to specialize in a particular area, such as biomechanics, clinical engineering or biomaterials. The table below outlines the general requirements for a biomedical engineer.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Engineering, biological science
Key Skills Analytical, communication, listening, math and problem-solving skills
Job Growth (2018-2028) 4%*
Mean Annual Salary (2018) $95,090*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is the Career Definition of a Biomedical Engineer?

Biomedical engineers create more efficient processes and improved technology to promote the health, comfort and safety of medical patients. Their research is instrumental in the development of health systems such as artificial prostheses and body organs. They also design health management, medical information and imaging systems that ultimately help people. Many biomedical engineers work in teams, or with manufacturing or technology companies. Biomedical engineers may specialize in areas such as cellular and molecular engineering, rehabilitation engineering, orthopedic engineering and biomechanics.

What is the Job Outlook?

Approximately 18,970 biomedical engineers were employed in the United States in 2018. Most of these professionals worked in the areas of medical manufacturing, pharmaceutical and medicine development and in research. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that the biomedical engineering field would grow about 4% between 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov). This was about as fast as the average growth for all occupations.

The BLS also reported that while employment in many engineering fields might slow down, biomedical engineers would have increased job growth due to the constant need for improving medical technologies and practices. Biomedical engineers who worked in medical equipment manufacturing earned average annual incomes of $93,560 in 2018. Their counterparts who worked in scientific research earned about $101,140.

What Education Requirements Should I Attain?

As reported by the BLS, a bachelor's degree is a requirement for entry-level engineering positions. A master's degree will be necessary if you'd like to work on more advanced research projects or teach at a community college or technical school. Some colleges and universities may hire those who hold a master's degree. However, most prefer those with doctoral degrees for tenure-track faculty positions. A doctoral degree may also prepare you to lead and manage a major research and development project. For that level of research, you should plan to major in chemical, mechanical or electrical engineering and specialize in biomedical engineering.

If, for instance, you major in chemical engineering, your undergraduate program of study should include courses such as calculus, materials science, chemical engineering laboratory, biochemical engineering and physics. A graduate degree in biomedical engineering will offer courses such as biomedical devices, mechanobiology, biosystems analysis, cell engineering, biomedical optics and cardiovascular bioengineering. A master's program may also require completion of a thesis project. A doctoral program will require a dissertation and may also include doctoral examinations.

Preferably, you should enroll in an engineering program that has been accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Graduating from such a program will be required if your work will directly affect the public, and you will have to obtain a license from your state. Along with your degree from an accredited school, you'll need a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering examination, followed by about four years of work experience. Then you must pass the Principles of Practice Engineering examination, after which you'll be granted a Professional Engineer (PE) designation. Your state may require that you take continuation education classes to retain your license.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several related positions in engineering that require a bachelor's degree, some of which are chemical engineers, sales engineers and mechanical engineers. Chemical engineers use chemistry, biology, math and physics to help solve issues in the production or use of substances like medications or fuel. Sales engineers sell technological products to businesses. They must know how the product works and understand all parts of the product. Mechanical engineers can do a variety of things, including designing and testing engines and machines.