If you have a knack for engineering and possess excellent technical skills, a rewarding career choice that you may consider is that of a clinical engineer.
Clinical engineers, also known as biomedical engineers or bio-engineers, are professionals trained in designing, developing and maintaining the medical equipment used for monitoring, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation or research.
As a clinical engineer, you may be expected to perform various tasks such as:
- Testing medical equipment and carrying out quality assurance checks to ensure efficiency and safety
- Developing artificial limbs that can be attached to the patient’s own tissue
- Building new artificial joints, active implants and equipment from different materials
- Designing equipment to enhance the use of new medical techniques
- Maintenance of medical equipment
Working Hours and Conditions
Your working hours are normally 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. The working hours may vary depending upon the type of employment. There may be opportunities for part-time work as well.
You may spend certain working hours in a clinic and the remaining in an engineering workshop. You may also have to travel for conferences and meetings as well. In research or industry, you are usually based in a laboratory.
Around £25,000 a year
State registered clinical engineers
£25,783 to £34,530 a year
£30,764 to £40,558 a year
To be eligible to work as a clinical engineer, it is required that you hold a degree in Physics or a related science subject. To get admission onto a relevant degree course, you usually need five GCSEs (A-C) including English, Mathematics and at least two sciences and at least Three A levels which must include Mathematics and Physics.
Once you have completed your degree, you may:
- apply for private jobs and work your way towards earning the status of a chartered engineer
- work as a clinical engineer in the NHS, by taking a special training course known as the Scientist Training Programme (STP)
Also, there are opportunities available to enter this area of healthcare science at undergraduate level through NHS Practitioner Training Program (PTP). To be eligible for PTP, you need a good range of A-C grade GCSEs plus a minimum of two A levels or equivalent including a science subject.
After your degree, you may pursue a postgraduate scientist degree course via the NHS Scientist Training Program (STP). The duration of this work-based training qualification is three years.
Once you complete the STP, you are eligible to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
For greater professional success it helps if you hold the status of a chartered engineer. To apply for a chartered engineer status, you may consider registering yourself with one of the professional bodies listed below:
- Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM)
- Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)
- The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)
You may pursue further study for qualifications such as a PhD or join the NHS Higher Specialist Scientific Training Program (HSST).
Skills and Interests Needed
To become a successful clinical engineer, it is vital that you demonstrate:
- Technical know-how
- Good problem solving skills
- Impeccable communication skills
- Great inter-personal skills
- Efficiency in using engineering methods
- Sensitivity to patients’ needs
- Be able to prioritize work
- Be able to work in a team
- Budgeting skills
- Stay abreast of latest happenings in medical research
As a clinical engineer, you may find easy employment with hospitals, universities, research establishments such as the Medical Research Council, and medical equipment manufacturers. You may also opt for teaching positions along with research in universities.
After gaining significant experience in the industry as a chartered engineer, you get numerous opportunities to advance to management roles. You may also choose to be self-employed in future and work on a consultancy basis.
This is a highly technical job and it may lead to a lot of frustration and job dissatisfaction. As such you should only choose this career if you are passionate about it and possess the necessary attributes.
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