Biomedical Engineers

Summary

biomedical engineers image
Biomedical engineers design and create equipment and devices used in healthcare.
Quick Facts: Biomedical Engineers
2015 Median Pay $86,220 per year
$41.45 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 22,100
Job Outlook, 2014-24 23% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 5,100

What Biomedical Engineers Do

Biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with medical and biological sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software used in healthcare.

Work Environment

Biomedical engineers work in manufacturing, universities, hospitals, research facilities of companies and educational and medical institutions, and government regulatory agencies. They usually work full time.

How to Become a Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering or bioengineering from an accredited program in order to enter the occupation. Alternatively, they can get a bachelor’s degree in a different field of engineering and then either choose biological science electives or get a graduate degree in biomedical engineering.

Pay

The median annual wage for biomedical engineers was $86,220 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of biomedical engineers is projected to grow 23 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growing technology and its application to medical equipment and devices, along with an aging population, will increase demand for the work of biomedical engineers.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for biomedical engineers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of biomedical engineers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about biomedical engineers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Biomedical Engineers Do About this section

Biomedical engineers
Biomedical engineers install, maintain, or provide technical support for biomedical equipment.

Biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with medical and biological sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software used in healthcare.

Duties

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, 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 equipment
  • Work with life scientists, chemists, and medical scientists to research the engineering aspects of the biological systems of humans and animals
  • 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; bring together knowledge from many technical sources to develop new procedures; or conduct research needed to solve clinical problems.

They often serve a coordinating function, using their background in both engineering and medicine. For example, they may create products for which an indepth understanding of living systems and technology is essential. They frequently work in research and development or in 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 mathematics and statistics to build models to understand the signals transmitted by the brain or heart.

The following are examples of specialty areas within the field of biomedical engineering:

Bioinstrumentation uses electronics, computer science, and measurement principles to develop devices used in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

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 with 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.

Some people with training in biomedical engineering become professors. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

Work Environment About this section

Biomedical engineers
Biomedical engineers work in laboratory and clinical settings.

Biomedical engineers held about 22,100 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most biomedical engineers were as follows:

Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing 23%
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 16
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 12
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing 8
Hospitals; state, local, and private 8

Biomedical engineers work in a variety of settings. Some work in hospitals, where therapy occurs, and others work in laboratories, doing research. Still others work in manufacturing settings, where they design biomedical engineering products. Yet other biomedical engineers work in commercial offices, where they make or support business decisions.

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 in order to improve the design.

Work Schedules

Biomedical engineers usually work full time on a normal schedule. However, as with employees in almost any engineering occupation, biomedical engineers occasionally may have to work additional hours to meet the needs of patients, managers, colleagues, and clients.

How to Become a Biomedical Engineer About this section

Biomedical engineers
Biomedical engineers frequently work in research and development or in quality assurance.

Biomedical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering or bioengineering from an accredited program in order to enter the occupation. Alternatively, they can get a bachelor’s degree in a different field of engineering and then either choose biological science electives or get a graduate degree in biomedical engineering.

Education

Prospective biomedical engineering or bioengineering students 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-based courses, in addition to 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.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Biomedical engineers must be able to analyze the needs of patients and customers to design appropriate solutions.

Communication skills. Because biomedical engineers sometimes work with patients and frequently work on teams, they must be able to express themselves clearly. They must seek others’ ideas and incorporate those ideas into the problem-solving process.

Creativity. Biomedical engineers must be creative to come up with innovative and integrative advances in healthcare equipment and devices.

Math skills. Biomedical engineers use the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in mathematics, as well as statistics, for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Problem-solving skills. Biomedical engineers typically deal with and solve problems in complex biological systems.

Advancement

Biomedical engineers typically receive greater responsibility through experience and more education. To lead a research team, a biomedical engineer generally needs a graduate degree. Some biomedical engineers attend medical or dental school to specialize in applications at the forefront of patient care, such as using electric impulses in new ways to get muscles moving again. Some earn law degrees and work as patent attorneys. 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.

Pay About this section

Biomedical Engineers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Engineers

$90,060

Biomedical engineers

$86,220

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for biomedical engineers was $86,220 in May 2015. 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 $51,480, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $139,520.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for biomedical engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences $97,100
Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing 91,030
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing 85,610
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 81,750
Hospitals; state, local, and private 72,950

Biomedical engineers usually work full time on a normal schedule. However, as with employees in almost any engineering occupation, biomedical engineers occasionally may have to work additional hours to meet project deadlines.

Job Outlook About this section

Biomedical Engineers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Biomedical engineers

23%

Total, all occupations

7%

Engineers

4%

 

Employment of biomedical engineers is projected to grow 23 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Biomedical engineers likely will see more demand because of growing technology and its application to medical equipment and devices. Smartphone technology and three-dimensional printing are examples of technology being applied to biomedical advances.

As the aging baby-boom generation lives longer and stays active, the demand for biomedical devices and procedures, such as hip and knee replacements is expected to increase. In addition, as the public has become more aware of medical advances, increasing numbers of people are seeking biomedical solutions to their health problems from their physicians.

Biomedical engineers work with scientists, other medical researchers, and manufacturers to address a wide range of injuries and physical disabilities. Their ability to work in different activities with workers from other fields is enlarging the range of applications for biomedical engineering products and services.

Job Prospects

Rapid advances in technology will continue to change what biomedical engineers do and continue to create new areas for them to work in. Thus, the expanding range of activities in which biomedical engineers are engaged should translate into very favorable job prospects. In addition, the aging of the population and retirement of a substantial percentage of biomedical engineers is likely to help create job openings between 2014 and 2024.

Employment projections data for biomedical engineers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Biomedical engineers

17-2031 22,100 27,200 23 5,100 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of biomedical engineers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Architectural and engineering managers

Architectural and Engineering Managers

Architectural and engineering managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities in architectural and engineering companies.

Bachelor's degree $132,800
Biochemists and biophysicists

Biochemists and Biophysicists

Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes, such as cell development, growth, heredity, and disease.

Doctoral or professional degree $82,150
Chemical engineers

Chemical Engineers

Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems that involve the production or use of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and many other products. They design processes and equipment for large-scale manufacturing, plan and test production methods and byproducts treatment, and direct facility operations.

Bachelor's degree $97,360
Electrical and electronics engineers

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, and power generation equipment. Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, such as broadcast and communications systems—from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPSs).

Bachelor's degree $95,230
Mechanical engineers

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

Bachelor's degree $83,590
Physicians and surgeons

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

Doctoral or professional degree This wage is equal to or greater than $187,200 per year.
Sales engineers

Sales Engineers

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.

Bachelor's degree $97,650
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Biomedical Engineers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm (visited July 29, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

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Work Environment

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Pay

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State & Area Data

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Contacts for More Information

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2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.