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What Bioengineers and Biomedical Engineers Do About this section

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

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software.

Duties

Bioengineers and 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, maintain, or provide technical support for biomedical equipment
  • Collaborate with manufacturing staff on the safety and effectiveness of biomedical equipment
  • Train clinicians and others on the proper use of biomedical equipment
  • Work with scientists to research how engineering principles apply to biological systems
  • Develop statistical models or simulations using statistical or modeling software
  • Prepare procedures and write technical reports and research papers
  • Present research findings to a variety of audiences, including scientists, clinicians, managers, other engineers, and the public
  • Design or conduct followup experiments as needed

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers frequently work in research and development or quality assurance.

The work of bioengineers spans many fields. For example, although their expertise is in engineering and biology, they often design computer software to run complicated instruments, such as three-dimensional x-ray machines. Others use their knowledge of chemistry and biology to develop new drug therapies. Still others draw on math and statistics to understand signals transmitted by the brain or heart. Some are involved in sales.

Biomedical engineers focus on advances in technology and medicine to develop new devices and equipment for improving human health. For example, they might design 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, or develop materials to make replacement parts. They also design rehabilitative exercise equipment.

The following are examples of types of bioengineers and biomedical engineers:

Biochemical engineers focus on cell structures and microscopic systems to create products for bioremediation, biological waste treatment, and other uses.

Bioinstrumentation engineers use electronics, computer science, and measurement principles to develop tools for diagnosing and treating medical problems.

Biomaterials engineers study naturally occurring or laboratory-designed substances for use in medical devices or implants.

Biomechanics engineers study thermodynamics and other systems to solve biological or medical problems.

Clinical engineers apply medical technology to improve healthcare.

Genetic engineers alter the genetic makeup of organism using recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) technology, such as in developing vitamin-fortified food crops to prevent disease in humans.

Rehabilitation engineers develop devices that aid people who are recovering from or adapting to physical or cognitive impairments.

Systems physiologists use engineering tools to understand how biological systems function and respond to changes in their environment.

Other bioengineering occupations are described in separate profiles; see, for example, chemical engineers and agricultural engineers. Some people with training in biomedical engineering become postsecondary teachers.

Work Environment About this section

Bioengineers and medical engineers
Bioengineers and biomedical engineers work in laboratory and clinical settings.

Biomedical engineers held about 21,200 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of biomedical engineers were as follows:

Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing 17%
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 14
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing 9
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 8
Healthcare and social assistance 8

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers work on 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 might spend hours in a hospital to ensure that the device works as planned. If the device needs adjusting, the engineer might need to suggest alterations in the manufacturing process.

Work Schedules

Most bioengineers and biomedical engineers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Bioengineer or Biomedical Engineer About this section

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers
Bioengineers and biomedical engineers frequently work in research and development or in quality assurance.

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering, biomedical engineering, or a related engineering field. Some positions require a graduate degree.

Education

In high school, students interested in becoming bioengineers or biomedical engineers should take classes in sciences such as chemistry, physics, and biology. They should also study math, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. If available, classes in drafting, mechanical drawing, and computer programming are also useful.

At the bachelor’s degree level, prospective bioengineers should enter bioengineering or traditional engineering programs, such as mechanical and electrical. Students who pursue traditional engineering degrees may benefit from taking biological science courses.

Bachelor’s degree programs in bioengineering and biomedical engineering focus on engineering and biological sciences. These programs typically include laboratory- and classroom-based courses in biological sciences and subjects such as fluid and solid mechanics, circuit design, and biomaterials.

These programs also include substantial training in engineering design. As part of their study, students may have an opportunity to participate in co-ops or internships with hospitals and medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing companies. Bioengineering and biomedical engineering programs are accredited by ABET.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Bioengineers and biomedical engineers must assess the needs of patients and customers prior to designing products.

Communication skills. Because bioengineers and biomedical engineers sometimes work with patients and customers and frequently work on teams, they must be able to express themselves clearly in discussions. They also write reports and research papers.

Creativity. Bioengineers and biomedical engineers must be creative to come up with innovations in healthcare equipment and devices.

Math skills. Bioengineers and biomedical engineers use calculus and other advanced math and statistics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Problem-solving skills. Bioengineers and biomedical engineers typically deal with intricate biological systems. They must be able to work independently and with others to incorporate ideas into the complex problem-solving process.

Advancement

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers may increase their responsibilities as they gain experience or advanced degrees. To lead a research team, a bioengineer or biomedical engineer typically needs a graduate degree. Those who are interested in basic research may become medical scientists.

Some bioengineers attend medical or dental school to specialize in techniques such as using electric impulses in new ways to get muscles moving again. Others earn law degrees and work as patent attorneys. Still 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

Bioengineers and Biomedical Engineers

Median annual wages, May 2019

Engineers

$94,500

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers

$91,410

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for bioengineers and biomedical engineers was $91,410 in May 2019. 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 $55,280, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $148,210.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for biomedical engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing $105,720
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 92,230
Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing 89,400
Healthcare and social assistance 77,520
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 73,300

Most bioengineers and biomedical engineers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook About this section

Bioengineers and Biomedical Engineers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers

5%

Engineers

4%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Employment of bioengineers and biomedical engineers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers are expected to see employment growth because of increasing technologies and their applications to medical equipment and devices. Smartphone technology and three-dimensional printing are examples of technology being applied to biomedical advances.

As the baby-boom generation lives longer and stays active, the demand for bioengineers and biomedical devices and procedures, such as hip and knee replacements, is expected to increase. In addition, as the public awareness of medical advances continues, increasing numbers of people will seek biomedical solutions to their health problems from their physicians.

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers work with scientists, other medical researchers, and manufacturers to address a range of injuries and physical disabilities. The ability of these engineers to collaborate on activities with workers from other fields is enlarging the range of applications for biomedical engineering products and services.

Job Prospects

About 1,400 openings for bioengineers and biomedical engineers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment projections data for bioengineers and biomedical engineers, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers

17-2031 21,200 22,200 5 1,000 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For information about education and career resources for bioengineering, biomedical engineering, and general engineering, visit

American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering

American Society for Engineering Education

Biomedical Engineering Society

IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society

Technology Student Association

For information about accredited engineering programs, visit

ABET

CareerOneStop

For a career video on biomedical engineers, visit

Biomedical Engineers

O*NET

Biomedical Engineers

Video