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What Is Biomedical Engineering?

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By Johnny Bevers

Biomedical Engineering (sometimes abbreviated as “BME”) is a relatively new, but quickly growing field that combines the fields of engineering, medicine and biology in order to provide solutions to a variety of medical problems.  Essentially, biomedical engineers use engineering principles in a medical context.  So, they might be involved in designing prosthetic limbs, or the material for them; testing artificial knee or elbow joints; designing pharmaceuticals; developing heart implants and much, much more.  Indeed, almost anything that is put into the body for medical purposes is the result of the design, development, research and testing of biomedical engineers.

What Is The Difference Between Biomedical and Bio-mechanical Engineering?

Bio-mechanical engineering is generally considered to be a subset of biomedical engineering, although it can be studied in some institutions as a major.  It is a research-heavy field that focuses on the mechanical aspects of the human body and how the medicine can develop applications related to these mechanical functions.  Biomedical engineers do all this, but are also involved in designing, developing and testing less mechanically orientated medical devices.

What Should Your Salary Expectations Be As A Biomedical Engineer?


Salary expectations are very good for new graduates looking to enter this budding field. As a biomedical engineer with a 4yr bachelors’ degree you can expect a salary of approximately 60,000 dollars for an entry level job. The average (median salary) is approximately 77,000 dollars per year. With more time on the job and with further degrees, biomedical engineers can look forwards to receiving salaries of 100,000 dollars and more.

The highest salaries for entry level biomedical engineers tend to be located on the west coast, in particular California.  Conversely, with more experience and education, biomedical engineers can expect to earn more on the east coast.  The absolute best place in terms of average salary, if you can stand the cold, is Alaska — where salaries climb well into the six figure range.

What Personality Type Makes A Good Biomedical Engineer?

biomedical-engineering students

If you enjoy helping people then that is an excellent start, but unfortunately this admirable quality is not quite enough to become a good biomedical engineer.  Biomedical engineers invariably have a strong background in, and understanding of, science and its basic principles, in particular those of biology and chemistry but also of math and physics. In addition they are generally extremely analytical and enjoy problem solving. As they generally work as part of a team, they must also be good listeners and communicators.  In addition, increasingly, a strong ability in the computer skills is highly desirable.  You should also remember that as part of your education and of your job you may be required to spend at least some time in operating rooms so if you are a bit squeamish, this may not be the career for you!

If you possess the above qualities, then you might consider a career in this field, but first you will need to complete the correct bachelor’s and / or master’s degree program to become certified and/or credentialed.

What Education Is Needed To Become Biomedical Engineer?

To become a biomedical engineer, it is generally necessary to have at least a four year bachelor’s degree in engineering.  It is best if this degree is in biomedical engineering, but it could also be in mechanical engineering or one of the other engineering specialties.  To further your career and to land more senior positions it may be necessary to acquire a master’s degree or even a PhD. Again these degrees should be biomedical engineering or a related engineering field.  If you need decide to do a master’s degree and / or PhD then as long as these were in biomedical engineering, your bachelor degree could be in a different, but related field such as biology or chemistry.

Classes you can expect to attend on a biomedical degree include: cellular biology, molecular biology, microbiology, human physiology, biochemistry; clinical biochemistry, histology, drug development and medical development.

Biomedical Engineering Schools

Bio_Medical_Hand reports that the top ten schools for studying biomedical engineering are:  John Hopkins University, The Georgia Institute of Technology, The University of California, Duke University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, The University of Pennsylvania, The University of Washington and Rice University.  These top-notch schools charge between 35,000 dollars and 45,000 dollars in tuition fees per year.  Most of these universities also offer at least a partial on-line option which may help to drive costs down somewhat.

If you were accepted at and chose to study at, say, John Hopkins or indeed any of the other schools on this list you could expect to receive a superlative education in biomedical engineering. You would be instructed by the very best professors in their field and could expect to command a good comparative salary for an entry level position in the field.

After completing, at the very least, a bachelors degree in biomedical engineering, it time to begin to search for work.

Job Demand And Outlook For Biomedical Science And Engineering Type Jobs

Job demand is high currently and even expected to grow over the next eight or so years.  This is why it is currently very possible to enter the field at a relatively high level with just a bachelor’s degree. However, it must be remembered that this is a relatively new and small industry, and so any large influx of newly graduated biomedical engineers might change job demand dramatically.

Location is also an important element to consider and may well affect your job prospects if you are not prepared to relocate. Entry level job prospects are highly concentrated in California and Minnesota, so these are the best places to search for an entry level position. There are still jobs outside these states but nowhere near as many.

Wherever in the country you decide to work, the actual job you do will depend on the institution and the position you hold.

Where Do Biomedical Engineers Work And What Do They Do?

honda_walker biomedical engineering

Biomedical engineers work in a variety of different institutions including hospitals or healthcare facilities.  However, due to how new this field is, most work is in research facilities or laboratories.  These research facilities may be in universities, hospitals or in industrial institutions.  Their roles are many and depend on the exact position held and on the institution in which the biomedical engineer works. They might be conducting needs-analysis, purchasing equipment, maintaining equipment consulting or lecturing.  However, as previously stated, most biomedical engineers will be working in research: designing, developing and testing new medical devices, pieces of technology and pharmaceuticals such as defibrillators; pacemakers; artificial joints; imaging machines; equipment used for neural engineering; bio-materials; artificial kidneys and other organs; software; and other medical devices.

Now seems to be an excellent time to consider a career in biomedical engineering if you possess the necessary attributes.  Not only is the industry booming, but it is also one that offers relatively high pay for entry level jobs. You will also be involved in the practical application of cutting-edge technology and may well have the opportunity to work on the prototypes of life saving medical instruments and implants.  However, a note of caution must be sounded. Although projections of future job opportunities are “high” percentage-wise, this is a very small field – currently there are less than 20,000 people working as biomedical engineers – and so if another 10,000 or so people become qualified to work in this field by the time you become qualified, job prospects could easily become reduced.

Below is a video of professor Saltzman of Yale University introducing the concepts and applications of biomedical engineering.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the read and watch.  Thanks everybody!

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