Biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with medical sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software.
What they do
Biomedical engineers typically do the following:
- Design biomedical equipment and devices, such as artificial internal organs, replacements for body parts, and machines for diagnosing medical problems
- Install, adjust, maintain, repair, or provide technical support for biomedical equipment
- Evaluate the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of biomedical equipment
- Train clinicians and other personnel on the proper use of biomedical equipment
- Research the engineering aspects of the biological systems of humans and animals with life scientists, chemists, and medical scientists
- Prepare procedures, write technical reports, publish research papers, and make recommendations based on their research findings
- Present research findings to scientists, nonscientist executives, clinicians, hospital management, engineers, other colleagues, and the public
Biomedical engineers design instruments, devices, and software used in healthcare; develop new procedures using knowledge from many technical sources; or conduct research needed to solve clinical problems. They frequently work in research and development or quality assurance.
Biomedical engineers design electrical circuits, 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. In some cases, they develop the materials needed to make the replacement body parts. They also design rehabilitative exercise equipment.
The work of these engineers spans many professional fields. For example, although their expertise is based in engineering and biology, they often design computer software to run complicated instruments, such as three-dimensional x-ray machines. Alternatively, many of these engineers use their knowledge of chemistry and biology to develop new drug therapies. Others draw heavily on math and statistics to build models to understand the signals transmitted by the brain or heart. Some may be involved in sales.
The following are examples of specialty areas within the field of biomedical engineering:
Bioinstrumentation uses electronics, computer science, and measurement principles to develop instruments used in the diagnosis and treatment of medical problems.
Biomaterials is the study of naturally occurring or laboratory-designed materials that are used in medical devices or as implantation materials.
Biomechanics involves the study of mechanics, such as thermodynamics, to solve biological or medical problems.
Clinical engineering applies medical technology to optimize healthcare delivery.
Rehabilitation engineering is the study of engineering and computer science to develop devices that assist individuals recovering from or adapting to physical and cognitive impairments.
Systems physiology uses engineering tools to understand how systems within living organisms, from bacteria to humans, function and respond to changes in their environment.
Biomedical engineers work in 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 designed to help a person with a disability to walk again might have to spend hours in a hospital to determine whether the device works as planned. If the engineer finds a way to improve the device, he or she might have to return to the manufacturer to help alter the manufacturing process to improve the design.
How to become a Biomedical Engineer
Biomedical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering or bioengineering, or in a related engineering field. Some positions may require a graduate degree.
Biomedical engineering and traditional engineering programs, such as mechanical and electrical, are typically good preparation for entering biomedical engineering jobs. Students who pursue traditional engineering programs at the bachelor’s level may benefit from taking biological science courses.
Students interested in becoming biomedical engineers should take high school science courses, such as chemistry, physics, and biology. They should also take math courses, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. Courses in drafting or mechanical drawing and in computer programming are also useful.
Bachelor’s degree programs in biomedical engineering and bioengineering focus on engineering and biological sciences. Programs include laboratory- and classroom-based courses, in subjects such as fluid and solid mechanics, computer programming, circuit design, and biomaterials. Other required courses may include biological sciences, such as physiology.
Accredited programs also include substantial training in engineering design. Many programs include co-ops or internships, often with hospitals and medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, to provide students with practical applications as part of their study. Biomedical engineering and bioengineering programs are accredited by ABET
The median annual wage for biomedical engineers was $91,410 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $55,280, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $148,210.
Employment of biomedical engineers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
Biomedical engineers likely will see employment growth because of increasing possibilities brought by new technologies and increasing applications to medical equipment and devices. Smartphone technology and three-dimensional printing are examples of technology being applied to biomedical advances.
Similar Job Titles
Biomedical Electronics Technician, Biomedical Engineer, Biomedical Engineering Director, Biomedical Engineering Technician, Biomedical Equipment Technician (BMET), Biomedical Manager, Biomedical Technician, Engineer, Product Development Director, Research Engineer, Bio-mechanical Engineer, Biochemical Engineer, Genetic Engineer
Logistics Engineer, Chemical Engineer, Biochemical Engineer, Photonics Engineer, Manufacturing Engineering Technologist
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics
- American Chemical Society
- American Institute of Chemical Engineers
- American Society for Healthcare Engineering
- Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation
- Biomedical Engineering Society
- IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society
- National Fire Protection Association
Magazines and Publications
- Journal of Bio-mechanical Engineering (ASME)
- Biomedical Engineering Online
- The Biomedical Scientist
- Tech Nation Magazine
- Medical Device News Magazine
Biomedical Engineers develop technologies that help improve the quality of people’s health, or their ability to manage disabilities – and may even save their lives. The field combines biology and medicine with engineering and mechanics— a combination that leads to amazing results. Imaging systems that allow doctors to “see” inside a patient’s organs... artificial limbs, organs, and joints... lasers for surgery... devices that automate insulin injections… computer simulations to test new drug therapies… Biomedical engineers designed all of these, and also keep them running. Making sure their designs operate safely and correctly is a large part of their job. These engineers can expect to spend many hours, even years, on a specific project in a cycle of researching, developing, testing, and trying again. Among the qualities needed are patience, problem-solving, and the ability to handle complex calculations. Most jobs are found in research laboratories, hospitals, and manufacturing. To enter the field, you will need a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering or bioengineering. Some people enter the field with a bachelor’s degree in another field of engineering coupled with biological science electives, or they earn a graduate degree in biomedical engineering. Whatever their path to the profession, biomedical engineers share a passion for making a patient’s life longer...and easier.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org