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From the 1930s to the 1960s the discipline of engineering was basically divided into three sub-fields--civil, mechanical and electrical engineering--but that basic division has been somewhat subsumed today by a proliferation of new fields of engineering, including biomedical engineering. Because the career range of biomedical engineers varies, the time it takes to become one also will vary, but generally you'll need a minimum of four years to complete the basic requirements for becoming a biomedical engineer.
Undergraduate Education of a Biomedical Engineer
All biomedical engineers have at least a bachelor's degree in engineering. An engineering degree usually takes four or five years to complete. Since the late 1990s several universities have developed specialized biomedical engineering programs, but before that most biomedical engineers had to custom design their own educational backgrounds. This has resulted in biomedical engineers having widely varying backgrounds, some starting with degrees in engineering and learning the biological aspects later, and others coming from a biochemistry or medicine background and adding on the engineering.
Graduate Education of a Biomedical Engineer
Most biomedical engineers will have some further education beyond a bachelor's degree. Since biomedical engineering combines various scientific disciplines, some biomedical engineers will actually have two--or more--undergraduate degrees, and some choose to pursue graduate degrees outside of their original field as their research interests develop. While it is possible to find a job working as a biomedical engineer with just an undergraduate degree, not having graduate credentials will limit your possibilities for independent research and slow down your career track. Therefore, while the minimum time to become a biomedical engineer is four years, if you choose to pursue graduate education it can be a total of six to eight years before you get your professional career under way.
Work of a Biomedical Engineer
Biomedical engineers use their knowledge of engineering, biology and biomechanics to design, test and develop artificial organs, prostheses, medical devices and instruments as well as health-related information systems. Biomedical engineers often work closely with doctors in both the development and testing phases of new products.
Median Annual Salary of a Biomedical Engineer
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2009 the median annual salary of a biomedical engineer in the United States was $78,860. The lowest 10 percent had an annual salary of $49,480, and the highest 10 percent had an annual salary of $123,270.
Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.