Entering the World of Biomedical Engineering

For any current high school or middle school students out there having seen one of the Iron Man movies or a Boston Robotics technology video, it’s not hard to become enamoured with building a next generation exoskeleton or companion robot. If you are looking to make that next step into considering a future creating new technology to improve the human medical experience here are a few tips to keep in mind

Theory or Practice?

Most students looking to enter the world of Biomedical Engineering will have their eyes set on becoming either a Biomedical Engineer or a Biomedical Engineering Technician. The next time you see an amazing prosthetic or MRI machine, behind the scenes there are people that design and build these machines and other people who install and maintain them. Although there is some overlap, Biomedical Engineers (BE) are the ones researching, analyzing, developing and designing these machines and Biomedical Engineering Technicians (BET) are the ones operating, servicing and maintaining these devices. 

Typically, if you enjoy designing solutions to big issues in medical fields, wish to incorporate information and research from multiple different disciplines, like to work within a team of many other engineering specialists and can manage the stress of keeping something on time, on budget and to specification, researching BE opportunities may be right for you. Otherwise if you like to spend most of your time using a particular technology with a wrench in your hand on an everyday basis, want to avoid some of the higher mathematics and theoretical science behind biotechnology and wish to enter the field faster, then a role as a BET may be more attractive.

Training and Career Readiness

Considering different paths to becoming a BE or BET also require different education, training and personal requirements. While both paths can lead to very fulfilling futures, there are many factors for incoming students to consider. 

  Biomedical Engineers Biomedical Engineer Technicians
Higher Education Typically Need at least a 4 year Bachelor of Science Degree
Highest degree is a doctoral degree
Typically need a 2 Year Associates Degree or 4 year Bachelor of Science Degree
Highest degree is typically a Master’s Degree
Job Prospects Abundant Worldwide Abundant Worldwide
Out of School Salary 68,000 USD/year 30-35,000 USD/year
Career Advancement More room for higher advancement and opportunity to transition to business, law, medicine and teaching. Typically less room for advancement unless paired with additional education or training
Sample Job Functions
  • Designing and constructing artificial organs and prosthetics
  • Designing systems to automate patient monitoring
  • Designing laser systems for eye surgery
  • Developing medical imaging systems
  • Operating and maintaining a kidney dialysis machine in a hospital
  • Installing MRI machines and instructing medical personnel to operate it
  • Keeping surgical equipment functioning during a high stakes surgery
  • Assigning arrhythmias while using a cardiac monitor

Adapted from Is there a Biomedical Engineer Inside of You? A Student’s Guide to Exploring Careers in Biomedical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering Technology

Where Can I Learn More?

There are multiple interest groups, industry associations and mentorship organizations that have been set up to learn more about entering this exciting field. While a google search will yield hundreds of different results, a few official organizations have been listed below for your own research purposes.

American Association of Healthcare Engineering

With more than 12,500 members, ASHE is the largest association devoted to professionals who design, build, maintain, and operate hospitals and other health care facilities. ASHE members include health care facility managers, engineers, architects, designers, constructors, infection control specialists, and others.

Biomedical Engineering Society

The Vision of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) is to serve as the world’s leading society of professionals devoted to developing and using engineering and technology to advance human health and well-being.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers Bioengineering Division

The Bioengineering Division of the ASME  is focused on the application of mechanical engineering knowledge, skills and principles from conception to the design, development, analysis and operation of biomechanical systems.

Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America

RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America, is the premier professional organization dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of people with disabilities through increasing access to technology solutions. 

Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society

IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) is the world’s largest international society of biomedical engineers. The organization’s 12,000 members reside in some 97 countries around the world. EMBS provides its members with access to the people, practices, information, ideas and opinions that are shaping one of the fastest growing fields in science.

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