What Does a Biomedical Engineer Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shoes a biomedical engineer working multiple tasks in a lab. Text reads: "A day in the life of a biomedical engineer: design, develop, and test all aspects of medical/surgical instruments. Analyze failure, corrective and preventative action to respond to customer complaints. Report research findings through scientific publications, oral presentations, and formal documents. Demonstrate operation of equipment to medical personnel. Work with cross-functional teams to test prototypes. Median annual salary: $88,550"

Image by Evan Polenghi © The Balance 2019

Biomedical engineers design prosthetic limbs and artificial organs, as well as the material that is used to manufacture them. They develop the software that's used to run medical equipment. Like those working in other engineering disciplines, they use their knowledge of science and math, but they combine this with a background in medicine. Some of the areas in which they might specialize include bioinstrumentation, biomaterials, biomechanics, genetic engineering, and medical imaging.

About 21,300 biomedical engineers were employed in the U.S. in 2016.

Biomedical Engineer Duties & Responsibilities

Biomedical engineers' responsibilities can depend on their specialties, but some common duties include:

  • Design, develop, and test all aspects of medical/surgical components, equipment, and instruments.
  • Work with cross-functional teams to test prototypes.
  • Analyze failure, corrective and preventive action to respond to customer complaints.
  • Perform independent research.
  • Install, adjust, maintain, repair, or provide technical support for biomedical equipment.
  • Report research findings through scientific publication, oral presentation, and formal documents with regard to industry contracts and funded grant proposals.
  • Demonstrate and explain correct operation of equipment to medical personnel.

Biomedical Engineer Salary

Biomedical engineers are well-compensated professionals.

  • Median Annual Salary: $88,550 ($42.57/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $144,350 ($69.40/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $51,890 (24.95/hour)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Education, Training & Certification

This occupation requires education and accreditation.

  • Education: You'll need at least a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering. Your coursework should combine engineering and biological sciences. A graduate degree can be extremely helpful and improve your chances of employment.
  • Internship: Many colleges and universities provide internships with hospitals and medical device manufacturers, and this can be an excellent source of experience and training.
  • Accreditation: Choose an educational program that's accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) Choose an organization that gives its stamp of approval to associate, bachelor's, and master's degree programs in engineering, engineering technology, applied science, and computing.

Biomedical Engineer Skills & Competencies

Biomedical engineers need certain skills and personal characteristics in addition to the technical skills they acquire in the classroom:

  • Critical-thinking skills: You should have the ability to compare and contrast your options and choose the most viable one so you can solve problems and make decisions. You should be capable of prioritizing tasks and providing a timely schedule of completion.
  • Communication skills: Working as a member of a multi-disciplinary team requires excellent listening and speaking skills. Speaking skills are also critical for presenting your research findings.
  • Writing skills: You'll have to publish your research findings in professional journals, and you'll have to write test reports.
  • Computer skills: You should be computer literate and possess the ability to easily learn new simulations software easily.

Job Outlook

According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is a "Bright Outlook" occupation. Employment is expected to grow somewhat faster than the average for all occupations from 2016 through 2026, at about 7%. The services of biomedical engineers are increasingly in demand as the Baby Boomer generation ages.

Work Environment

Employers include medical equipment and supplies manufacturers, hospitals, and research laboratories. Your work environment will likely depend on which you choose and the nature of any given project you're involved with. You might find yourself at a hospital or in a manufacturing plant. In most cases, you'll be working with a team of others, including healthcare workers and scientists.

Work Schedule

Jobs are typically full time during regular business hours, but urgent projects can demand extra hours. Approximately 20% of biomedical engineers routinely work more than 40 hours a week.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Some similar jobs and their median annual pay include: 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018