What Does a Biomedical Engineer Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

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Have you ever wondered who designs prosthetic limbs, EMT equipment, or 3D-printed replacement organs? It is the biomedical engineer. Biomedical engineering represents one forward-thinking branch of healthcare in the United States. If you are interested in healthcare, as well as inventing new ways to help the human body overcome injury and disease, you're likely to enjoy this profession.

Biomedical Engineer Duties & Responsibilities

Biomedical engineers work in a wide variety of healthcare contexts, from research labs to hospitals. As a general rule, they all have the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Creating and maintaining the tools for medical professionals to provide advanced care to their patients
  • Designing equipment to help surgeons operate on patients more effectively and less intrusively
  • Modifying devices such as artificial limbs, organs and other body parts for patients
  • Programming software to enable medical delivery systems to function more effectively
  • Advising leaders in the healthcare industry about advances in biomedical engineering
  • Building and testing prototypes to create major breakthroughs in medical equipment

Biomedical engineers design and build solutions to problems that exist in biology and medicine. Their goal is to improve the quality and effectiveness of patient care. They design equipment, explore new procedures, and use software to simulate new test drugs. 

As a biomedical engineer, you must be able to analyze complex medical and technical documents, while also maintaining strong communication and technical writing skills.

Biomedical Engineer Salary

Because each new advance often saves lives and reduces medical costs, you will be handsomely paid for your work.

  • Median Annual Salary: $88,550
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $144,350
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $51,890

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Education, Training, & Certification

A full understanding of mathematics and physics is required for those wishing to enter biomedical engineering. The field is “hands on” and you will be expected to be able to apply knowledge in a short time, more so than in mere research.

  • Education: A bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering is required for employment. Additionally, biomedical engineers can focus on the following different areas: Biomedical Electronics, Bioinstrumentation, Biomaterials, Biomechanics, Bionics, Cellular Tissue and Genetic Engineering, Clinical Engineering, Medical Imaging, Orthopaedic Bioengineering, Rehabilitation Engineering, Systems Physiology, Bionanotechnology, and Neural Engineering. Many engineers pursue graduate coursework in the discipline to enhance their knowledge and skills.
  • Certification: While there are no standard licenses or certifications required by federal or state governments (or industry organizations), each employer will have its own standards wherein the biomedical engineer must exercise proficiency.
  • Training: They must complete hands-on engineering projects in laboratory classes, as well as meet internship requirements.

Biomedical Engineer Skills & Competencies

As mentioned above, biomedical engineering is a “hands on” profession. You will need to be proficient in product design, as well as be able to think logically when problemsolving. Here are some of the top skills required of biomedical engineers:

  • Equipment Repair: Biomedical engineers frequently repair and modify existing equipment.
  • Evaluation: They must train healthcare professionals regarding the appropriate use of equipment and evaluate safety issues related to equipment use.
  • Research: Biomedical engineers are often involved with research projects to find new solutions to medical problems. They work in hospitals, and for colleges, medical products manufacturers and biotechnology companies.
  • Innovation: They think outside the box. This includes conceiving solutions that bear no resemblance to any existing solution. It also includes finding ways to improve current solutions.
  • Analytical Skills: Biomedical engineers must be able to breakdown a problem or a prototype in their minds and understand its parts. They must be able to see patterns and use both deductive and inductive reasoning to take action quickly on potential solutions.
  • Computer Skills: Most make heavy use of design software, including programming for 3D printers.

Job Outlook

From now until 2026 the profession is expected to grow at an average annualized rate of 7%. It is an intellectually demanding field, and as technology develops, leaders in medicine will be looking to biomedical engineers to keep healthcare on the cutting edge.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Work Environment

Biomedical engineers work in many capacities. Some work on a university or medical center research staff. Others work at hospitals or for private healthcare engineering firms.

Many more biomedical engineers put their inventiveness to use as an entrepreneur, by launching their own startup. Entrepreneurial biomedical engineers work with patents and investors to make individual breakthroughs in the healthcare industry.

Work Schedule

While many biomedical engineers work a traditional 9-5 schedule, most are passionate about what they do and work overtime. For those that work at hospitals, their schedule may be highly irregular. Lastly, entrepreneurial biomedical engineers do get to set their own schedule; however, landing the next patent and/or investor often requires an extremely high volume of work on the front end.

How to Get the Job

Write a Cover Letter and Resume: Make sure to highlight your education in your resume and cover letter, as well as your role in biomedical projects. It can also be advantageous to secure a letter of recommendation from a professor or supervisor from a project in which you took part.

Apply: You can find open biomedical engineering jobs on job boards and company websites. You might find some of the best opportunities by networking with peers in your industry.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Both engineering and healthcare careers are quite broad with many occupational opportunities. Here are a few similar jobs and their median salaries.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018