Bioengineers use engineering principles to help solve medical problems. Bioengineers interact with a variety of medical professionals — biologists, physicians, biochemists, therapists and physiologists — to design, develop and manufacture instruments and devices, or to develop procedures to remedy clinical problems. Common medical advancements attributed to bioengineering include prosthetic limbs, miniature cardiac devices, dialysis machines and therapeutic equipment.
A biomedical engineer evaluates and develops solutions that improve the quality of life for patients. Combining their knowledge of engineering with biology, anatomy, physiology and physics, bioengineers create devices and systems to improve the treatment and care of patients with chronic or acute medical problems, design products to replace or enhance body parts, and develop machines for diagnosing or treating medical problems. They also install, adjust or provide technical support for biomedical equipment and evaluate the safety, efficiency and effectiveness of this equipment.
A bachelor’s degree in bioengineering, biomedical engineering, electrical engineering or mechanical engineering is a necessity. These programs provide students with a foundation in engineering principles, physics, chemistry and math. In addition, students complete extensive course work in biology, chemistry, biomaterials, systems physiology, electrical systems, mechatronics and biomedical systems. Students may choose to specialize their studies by selecting a concentration in biomedical devices, biomechanics and rehabilitation, or bioinformatics.
Depending on what they do, bioengineers can be found working in a variety of settings, from hospitals and medical equipment manufacturers to pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers, research and development organizations, and colleges and universities. In hospitals they may work directly with both patients and medical professionals to determine how best a device or system may work. In manufacturing settings, they work with specialized equipment to design biomedical engineering products.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, biomedical engineering is expected to grow about seven percent a year between 2016 and 2026. This means the growth in biomedical engineering jobs will be about as fast for the average growth of all occupations tracked by BLS. The aging baby boomer population along with a rapid increase in technological advances are expected to contribute to the growth of demand for professionals in this job category.
The median annual salary for biomedical engineers was $88,040 in 2017. Those in the lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,070, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $142,610. Median wages for those in private sector research were more than $95,000, while university workers in this area earned considerably less, with a median wage of about $62,000.