Bioengineer or Biomedical Engineer
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Salary Range: $80,000 or more
Average Hourly: $44.53
Education: Bachelor's degree
Number of Jobs: 19,300
Jobs Added to 2029: 1,100
Growth: As fast as average
Go here to see salary and job data specific to the United Kingdom.
What Bioengineers and Biomedical Engineers Do
Bioengineers and biomedical engineers typically do the following:
- Design equipment and devices, such as artificial internal organs, replacements for body parts, and machines for diagnosing medical problems
- Install, maintain, or provide technical support for biomedical equipment
- Collaborate with manufacturing staff on the safety and effectiveness of biomedical equipment
- Train clinicians and others on the proper use of biomedical equipment
- Work with scientists to research how engineering principles apply to biological systems
- Develop statistical models or simulations using statistical or modeling software
- Prepare procedures and write technical reports and research papers
- Present research findings to a variety of audiences, including scientists, clinicians, managers, other engineers, and the public
- Design or conduct followup experiments as needed
Bioengineers and biomedical engineers frequently work in research and development or quality assurance.
The work of bioengineers spans many fields. For example, although their expertise is in engineering and biology, they often design computer software to run complicated instruments, such as three-dimensional x-ray machines. Others use their knowledge of chemistry and biology to develop new drug therapies. Still others draw on math and statistics to understand signals transmitted by the brain or heart. Some are involved in sales.
Biomedical engineers focus on advances in technology and medicine to develop new devices and equipment for improving human health. For example, they might design software to run medical equipment or computer simulations to test new drug therapies. In addition, they design and build artificial body parts, such as hip and knee joints, or develop materials to make replacement parts. They also design rehabilitative exercise equipment.
The following are examples of types of bioengineers and biomedical engineers:
Biochemical engineers focus on cell structures and microscopic systems to create products for bioremediation, biological waste treatment, and other uses.
Bioinstrumentation engineers use electronics, computer science, and measurement principles to develop tools for diagnosing and treating medical problems.
Biomaterials engineers study naturally occurring or laboratory-designed substances for use in medical devices or implants.
Biomechanics engineers study thermodynamics and other systems to solve biological or medical problems.
Clinical engineers apply medical technology to improve healthcare.
Genetic engineers alter the genetic makeup of organism using recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) technology, such as in developing vitamin-fortified food crops to prevent disease in humans.
Rehabilitation engineers develop devices that aid people who are recovering from or adapting to physical or cognitive impairments.
Systems physiologists use engineering tools to understand how biological systems function and respond to changes in their environment.
Other bioengineering occupations are described in separate profiles; see, for example, chemical engineers and agricultural engineers. Some people with training in biomedical engineering become postsecondary teachers.
|Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing||16%|
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||16|
|Healthcare and social assistance||9|
|Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing||8|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||7|
Bioengineers and biomedical engineers work on teams with scientists, healthcare workers, or other engineers. Where and how they work depends on the project. For example, a biomedical engineer who has developed a new device might spend hours in a hospital to ensure that the device works as planned. If the device needs adjusting, the engineer might need to suggest alterations in the manufacturing process.
Most bioengineers and biomedical engineers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.
Employment of bioengineers and biomedical engineers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
About 1,400 openings for bioengineers and biomedical engineers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
How to Become a Bioengineer or Biomedical Engineer
In high school, students interested in becoming bioengineers or biomedical engineers should take classes in sciences such as chemistry, physics, and biology. They should also study math, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. If available, classes in drafting, mechanical drawing, and computer programming are also useful.
At the bachelor’s degree level, prospective bioengineers should enter bioengineering or traditional engineering programs, such as mechanical and electrical. Students who pursue traditional engineering degrees may benefit from taking biological science courses.
Bachelor’s degree programs in bioengineering and biomedical engineering focus on engineering and biological sciences. These programs typically include laboratory- and classroom-based courses in biological sciences and subjects such as fluid and solid mechanics, circuit design, and biomaterials.
These programs also include substantial training in engineering design. As part of their study, students may have an opportunity to participate in co-ops or internships with hospitals and medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing companies. Bioengineering and biomedical engineering programs are accredited by ABET.
Analytical skills. Bioengineers and biomedical engineers must assess the needs of patients and customers prior to designing products.
Communication skills. Because bioengineers and biomedical engineers sometimes work with patients and customers and frequently work on teams, they must be able to express themselves clearly in discussions. They also write reports and research papers.
Creativity. Bioengineers and biomedical engineers must be creative to come up with innovations in healthcare equipment and devices.
Math skills. Bioengineers and biomedical engineers use calculus and other advanced math and statistics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Problem-solving skills. Bioengineers and biomedical engineers typically deal with intricate biological systems. They must be able to work independently and with others to incorporate ideas into the complex problem-solving process.
Bioengineers and biomedical engineers may increase their responsibilities as they gain experience or advanced degrees. To lead a research team, a bioengineer or biomedical engineer typically needs a graduate degree. Those who are interested in basic research may become medical scientists.
Some bioengineers attend medical or dental school to specialize in techniques such as using electric impulses in new ways to get muscles moving again. Others earn law degrees and work as patent attorneys. Still others pursue a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) and move into managerial positions. For more information, see the profiles on lawyers and architectural and engineering managers.