How to Become a Biomedical Engineer (Duties, Salary & Steps)

Everything you need to know.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How to become a biomedical engineer

Curious about how to become a biomedical engineer? It can seem like a complex career goal, but this article aims to simplify things.

Whether you’re in high school dreaming of your future or a seasoned professional looking to make a career switch, this article is for you.

We’ll cover what the career of a medical engineer involves, what they earn, and how to embark on this exciting career path. Read on!

What is a biomedical engineer?

Biomedical engineers combine their medical knowledge and engineering skills to improve healthcare services. This is where medical innovation starts: developing new medical devices, advancing tissue engineering, and enhancing medical imaging abilities.

The role creatively uses engineering principles to address challenges in the medical and biological field of study, having a major impact on overall medical research and patient care.

What does a biomedical engineer do?

The role of biomedical engineer is critical in innovative healthcare. The following are some of their responsibilities:

  • Design life-saving medical equipment and devices
  • Develop software for biomedical applications and systems
  • Conduct research in tissue engineering, helping advance regenerative medicine
  • Improve medical imaging technology to provide more accurate diagnoses
  • Create artificial organs to extend and improve quality of life
  • Work with medical professionals to create solutions for complex health conditions

What is their workplace like?

After graduation, students in biomedical engineering should first determine which path they want to take, as there are many options.

You could work in a lab setting, working on tissue engineering research or developing the future of imaging technology. Perhaps you prefer the fast pace of working in a hospital with doctors, finding ways to improve patient care through the use of advanced medical devices.

Because of the dynamic nature, the workplace environment can be very different for each path. However, you will always be surrounded by cutting-edge technology development, from growing tissues in a lab to aid in regenerative healthcare or a manufacturing site creating medical equipment.

What hours do they work?

Well, it’s not the typical 9-to-5, but the work schedule can vary depending on the path you take as well.

In academic or research settings, hours may be flexible. However, in an industry position, you can expect more “normal” work hours, with late night or weekend work being common to hit deadlines.

You should consider if you prefer more steady hours, flexibility or a balance when looking at your career goals as a biomedical engineer.

What do biomedical engineers earn?

Regarding pay, biomedical engineers are top earners in the engineering sector.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage averages $108,060, or $51.95 per hour. The salary reflects the specialized skill and extensive knowledge required. The pay is higher than the national average of any occupation.

However, the earning potential for being a biomedical engineer will depend greatly on location, specific role and experience within the field. Entry-level positions pay around $63,420 a year, whereas seasoned tissue engineering positions can rake in nearly $160,000 annually.

These numbers show how lucrative the career of a biomedical engineer is, making it both ethically and financially rewarding for students considering a biomedical engineering degree or a professional looking to change careers in a constantly evolving and dynamic field.

Here are some more insights into biomedical engineer salaries:

Biomedical Engineer Salary

What is the job market like?

According to the BLS, the job market has an expected 5% growth in employment for biomedical engineers by 2032. The rate increase is more than that of other occupations, which suggests a major expansion. In addition, there’s an expected 1,200 job openings per year between 2023 and 2032.

The risk of losing jobs to automation is a common concern, but it is not expected to impact biomedical engineers significantly.

Statistics state there is a 3.7% chance of automation, according to Replaced by Robot!?, which ranks the job at #120 out of 702 professions. The low risk is attributed to the complex nature of the field.

What do you need to become a biomedical engineer?

Biomedical engineers commonly work within research labs, quality assurance or medical device manufacturing. Very strong skills in advanced math are required, along with an in-depth understanding of sciences.

Typically, a bachelor’s degree or higher is required in a related field of study. Degrees to consider would be biomedical science, biological engineering, or electronic engineering. However, working in this field will require lifelong learning.

Should you become a biomedical engineer?

A biomedical engineer can be a good career path for those with an interest in medicine, math and healthcare. If you’re a creative person and you’re good with critical thinking, it could be the career for you.

You can be at the frontlines of improving healthcare treatments, but this career also requires hard work and overcoming constant challenges, and in-depth experience in one field may not be valuable in another part of the industry.

A career test is another way to make your decision. At CareerHunter, you can easily find out which career options best align with your personal interests and skills.

How to become a biomedical engineer

The following steps will help guide you into starting a career in biomedical engineering:

1. Focus on the right subjects at school

It’s important that you have amazing math skills and enjoy learning about science. These are the two basic fundamentals associated with becoming a biomedical engineer. If you’re passionate about this career path, focus your attention on these during high school. Enroll in classes such as chemistry, biology, AP math and physics.

Join science clubs, take part in science fairs, and take workshops or summer programs when available. All of these things will help increase your understanding of the field, and give insight.

Additionally, it will help you know if becoming a biomedical engineer is truly what you want to do. When it comes to college applications, having these activities on record will show your passion for the rewarding industry.

2. Obtain a bachelor’s degree

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree will be the next step, either in biomedical engineering or a related program that combines engineering principles and biological science. The essential areas of study will be on medical device design, tissue engineering and computer science, which are all important aspects of the sector you would be going into.

Not all programs are created equal. Ensure that the program you choose is accredited. Future employers will look to see if your education was acquired through a credible institution. During your schooling, continue taking part in related projects and research that offer hands-on experience. In addition to enhancing your learning, it looks good that you have some experience straight out of college.

3. Complete an internship

As mentioned, having experience already will help get your foot in the door. Taking an internship is the best way to do this. The entire purpose of internship or co-op programs is to give you entry-level experience so you’ll be familiar with how things work in a real-world position.

You will learn the daily responsibilities while gaining your knowledge in the classroom. Plus, internships really boost your résumé, making you stand out against the competition when applying for job openings.

4. Take advanced classes

By now, you should know which field of biomedical engineering you want to go with. By taking on advanced classes targeting the specialized area of your choice, you can learn more. For example, a deeper understanding of working with tissues.

Many of the highest-earning biomedical engineers pursued a master’s degree or a PhD for the extensive knowledge and research opportunities they offer. The higher your education, the more advanced roles you can obtain.

5. Stay abreast of the latest developments

The field of biomedical engineering is always advancing and changing; therefore, it’s important to remain updated about the latest innovations. It should become a habit to attend seminars, read industry journals, and take part in conferences and workshops related to your specialty.

Not only do these things help you maintain knowledge of current and upcoming developments in medical device technology, but they also help build networking opportunities. Continuous learning will keep your skills sharp, opening doors for future possibilities within your career path.

Remember: there will always be competition, and continued learning ensures that you stay at the front of new technological advancements.

6. Build your network

Networking is important for biomedical engineers for personal and professional growth. It allows you to collaborate with other professionals within the industry. These relationships can benefit not just your knowledge in the field, but also aid as connections in the future.

Networking can be done in various ways, but each has its purpose. For example, a conference is sponsored by societies and offers the chance to network with colleagues directly. Regardless of how you choose to network, it can open doors.

7. Get certified

Biomedical engineering often requires specialized training in the field you choose to pursue, including a Certified Phlebotomy Technician or a Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician. These certifications are there to demonstrate your commitment to your career.

Plus, listing these achievements on your résumé will look great and help you get more advanced roles and, in turn, a higher salary. It’s best to look for credible programs that have been recognized by industry leaders, which helps to ensure that the certifications have a huge impact on your professional development.

8. Explore your options

One thing that you should consider is the different job opportunities that are available due to the variety of career paths to pick from.

Don’t limit yourself to a single area, and instead explore the different roles, such as those at a manufacturing company, research facilities or even at a hospital. When you think about each possibility, then you can pinpoint where your skills and interests are best. This will guide your professional and personal career development.

9. Build long-term career growth

Workshops are the easiest way to build long-term knowledge and career growth.

Attend workshops related to your specialty or, if you’re considering a career change, the area you’ll be going to. Any role in healthcare will benefit from lifelong learning to remain relevant and competitive. Just keep your long-term career goals in mind when choosing which workshops to take on.

10. Keep learning

As with any sector dependent on innovation and advancing technologies, biological systems will always be changing.

The biomedical field requires constantly adapting new technologies and methodologies. The more you can learn and be aware of, the wider your outlook will be, and the more you can encourage innovation within your work and those around you.

If you want to be the one making breakthroughs in healthcare, staying at the forefront of your specialty is the most important factor to having a career as a biomedical engineer. Even the slightest bit of outdated knowledge or data can have major setbacks when it comes to creating innovative devices, treatments or even cures.

Final thoughts

Pursuing a career in biomedical engineering can be fun and exciting, but it’s filled with lifelong learning and personal and professional growth. From obtaining your high school diploma with a focus on math and science to obtaining advanced degrees, each step forward builds a stronger foundation and understanding for this dynamic field.

Networking and staying updated on the latest industry advancements, paired with continuous skill development will be the key to long-term success. Finally, keep in mind that the field provides many career opportunities, so exploring what’s out there is important throughout your career.

With dedication and passion, biomedical engineering can be a very rewarding career.

Are you thinking about becoming a biomedical engineer? Got any questions about this exciting career? Let us know in the comments section below.

Originally published on April 13, 2014.