Biomedical engineers apply biological and biomechanical principles to the development of new medical devices and systems that aim to foster a higher standard of patient care. Biomedical engineering innovations cover a wide range of functions, and the workers who create them work in a variety of settings in the public as well as the private sector.
Here's a list of on-the-job responsibilities that campus-based and online biomedical engineering schools train students to handle:
- Designing biomedical devices such as artificial organs and other replacement body parts
- Developing, installing, evaluating, and maintaining biomedical and diagnostic equipment
- Working with biologists, chemists and medical scientists to conduct and gather research
- Presenting research findings to health care managers, executives, scientists and other engineers
Most biomedical engineers work for medical equipment and supplies manufacturing companies, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Smaller but still significant percentages were employed at research and development firms, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals.
> Check out a related resource for online schools in engineering.
How much do biomedical engineers make?
The mean annual biomedical engineer salary was $91,230 in 2015, according to the BLS, which works out to an average wage of nearly $44 per hour. The bottom 10 percent of earners in the field were reported as making $51,480 or less in that same data set, while top 10 percent of biomedical engineers took home $139,520 or more.
Several factors come into play when determining any individual biomedical engineer's salary. Experience and education can carry considerable weight with employers, in that those with more schooling or a longer tenure in the profession may command greater compensation, and your chosen industry or the region where you're employed can have a surprising amount of influence on the baseline pay expectation for engineers at any stage of their career.
Here's a table that shows the range of biomedical engineer salary averages across the country, along with some BLS data on total employment and a 2015 cost-of-living rank for the state as calculated by the Council for Community and Economic Research:
|State||Mean annual biomedical engineer salary, 2015||Total active biomedical engineering jobs, 2015||Affordability rank, 2015|
And here are similar figures, reflecting the range of biomedical engineer salaries in a few different industries:
|Industry||Mean annual biomedical engineer salary, 2015||Total active biomedical engineering jobs, 2015|
|Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing||$96,870||4,780|
|Scientific research and development services||$104,490||3,930|
|Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing||$88,950||2,290|
|General medical and surgical hospitals||$75,530||1,780|
|Electromedical, measuring and other instruments manufacturing||$88,950||2,290|
|Offices of physicians||$101,190||170|
What does it take to become a biomedical engineer?
A bachelor's degree is an absolute requirement for candidates seeking biomedical engineering jobs — fully 100 percent of biomedical engineers surveyed by the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) in 2015 had earned at least a bachelor's degree, with 55 percent of respondents also holding a master's or doctorate. Entry-level roles in the field are accessible to graduates with just a undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering, but those seeking senior positions or leadership roles are typically expected to have taken their education to at least the master's level.
High-value skills for biomedical engineers include critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, data collection, dataset analysis, reading comprehension, mathematical fluency, scientific thinking and an understanding of various clinical environments. Creativity, while dismissed as unnecessary by some in the engineering disciplines, can also be a prime asset for engineers working on difficult issues in the field.