Biomedical Engineers

Biomedical engineers use their knowledge of medical science, biology, and engineering to improve health. Many biomedical engineers conduct research and work with medical scientists, chemists, and biologists to develop new devices, medical information systems, and health management and delivery systems intended to improve health. New devices can include prosthetic limbs or artificial organs. Biomedical engineers, for example, design magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, automating machines that deliver insulin, or devices that control body functions. Most biomedical engineers need to understand other engineering fields, such as mechanical engineering, in conjunction with biomedical training. The following are some biomedical engineering specialties: orthopedic, rehabilitation, medical imaging, biomechanics, biomaterials, and biomedical engineering.

Work Environment
Biomedical engineers hold over 15,000 jobs. They work in a wide range of settings and do many different things. Biomedical engineers may do therapeutic work in a hospital, or they may do research in a medical laboratory. Some engineers design products in manufacturing settings, and still others make business decisions in commercial offices.

The following table shows the industries which employ the most biomedical engineers, as well as the distribution of those engineers among those industries:

  • Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing – 23%
  • Scientific research and development services – 19%
  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing – 14%
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private – 11%
  • General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private – 7%

Biomedical engineers collaborate with teams of other professionals. They also work closely with patients. Depending on the needs of the patient, the team, or the situation, a biomedical engineer may work in any number of ways, in any number of places. For instance, a biomedical engineer might design a new piece of equipment to help patients with disabilities to walk again. In this situation, the engineer would need to work in a hospital, testing the equipment, working with patients, and conferring with other healthcare professionals. If the equipment doesn't work as expected, or if its design could be improved, the engineer would need to go back to the manufacturer and make whatever adjustments are necessary.

How to Become a Biomedical Engineer
A bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering is usually required for biomedical engineers. However, some engineers receive their bachelor's degree in another field, and then pursue a graduate degree in biomedical engineering later on. Some engineers are trained on-the-job, and do not have a degree in biomedical engineering.


Students who want to become a biomedical engineer should study physics, chemistry, and biology. It is also beneficial to take classes in calculus, computer programming, and drafting.

Undergraduate students of biomedical engineering study biological sciences and engineering. They study in classrooms as well as laboratories, and focus on subjects like biomaterials, solid and fluid mechanics, circuit design, and computer programming. Courses in biological sciences, such as physiology, are also required.

Students can also expect to spend a lot of their time studying engineering design. Some accredited programs offer internships or co-ops with hospitals or other medical settings. These internships offer the student a valuable opportunity to gain practical experience while completing their degree. University programs in biomedical engineering are evaluated by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Biomedical engineers who wish to lead a team of researchers must have a graduate degree. It is common for these engineers to attend medical or dental school, in order to better understand techniques and technologies used in the daily treatment of patients. Still others attend law school and become patent attorneys.

The median salary of a biomedical engineer is more than $81,000 a year. The median salary is the salary at which 50% of the workers earned more and 50% earned less. The lowest 10% of engineers earn less than $50,000 a year, and the highest 10% earn more than $126,000 a year.

The following table shows the industries which employ the most biomedical engineers, as well as the median salary of biomedical engineers in those industries:

  • Scientific research and development services – $88,330
  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing – $82,820
  • Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing – $81,150
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private – $68,070
  • General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private – $59,010

Biomedical engineers typically work 40 hours a week. However, overtime is common, depending on the needs of their situation.

Job Outlook
It's estimated that job prospects for biomedical engineers will grow by 62% in the next decade. This growth is much faster than usual, when compared to the average occupation. Biomedical engineers do not hold a large number of jobs, however, so this growth will only account for 9,700 new jobs over the next decade.

The baby-boom generation is staying active and healthy much later in life. As a result, there is an increased need for biomedical procedures (like knee and hip replacements), as well as biomedical devices and equipment. Also, as medical technology evolves, more and more people are taking advantage of biomedical services for themselves.

Biomedical engineers are very versatile. They perform a wide range of tasks in many varied settings. This versatility will likely result in more jobs and more opportunities for them.

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