What does a biomedical engineer do? (With career tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Engineering refers to a branch of science that integrates science and mathematics to solve issues and build solutions that benefit the general population. Biomedical engineering refers to a subset of this discipline that focuses on human wellbeing. You can excel as a biomedical engineer if you hold good maths and scientific abilities and an interest in developing innovative medical equipment and procedures. In this article, we answer the question 'What does a biomedical engineer do?' highlight some of the key skills required to succeed as a biomedical engineer and explain how to become one.

What is a biomedical engineer?

Engineering is a creative discipline. Engineering work includes everything from designing skyscrapers and vehicles to aeroplanes and sonar. Biomedical engineering focuses on developing breakthroughs that improve human health at all levels. In biomedical engineering, elements of mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, mathematics, and engineering are intertwined with human biology to promote human health.

A biomedical engineer studies and creates answers to biological and medical problems to improve the quality and efficacy of patient treatment. Biomedical engineers are in higher demand than ever before, especially due to the overall trend towards the everyday use of technology and equipment in all parts of life.

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What does a biomedical engineer do?

Biomedical engineering refers to a branch of engineering that blends engineering ideas and design concepts with biology and medicine. This branch of research aims to enhance both diagnostic and therapeutic health care by bridging the gap across medicine and engineering. Artificial organs, surgical robots, renal dialysis, ECGs, and therapeutic biologicals make up just a few examples of life-changing concepts and technologies developed using biological knowledge mixed with engineering principles to solve medical requirements.

A biomedical engineer's responsibility also includes maintaining existing surgical devices in hospitals and keeping them up to date and compliant with industry standards. This involves testing equipment regularly.

What is a biomedical engineer's workplace like?

A biomedical engineer works in many different environments. Some work in hospitals as therapists, while others work in research facilities. Others work in biomedical engineering product development in industrial environments. In addition, many engineers work in commercial establishments, making or supporting business choices. The requirements of others typically dictate where biomedical engineers work. A biomedical engineer, for example, who built a piece of technology to enable a person with a physical disability to walk again may require spending several hours in a hospital to see if the equipment works as intended.

Speciality areas in biomedical engineering

Biomedical engineers contribute to the development of medical equipment, tools and technology. They apply their knowledge to the development of equipment and processes for the health sector. Speciality areas in biomedical engineering include the following:

1. Bioinstrumentation

Bioinstrumentation refers to a branch of biomedical engineering that's still developing. Most of the advances in bioinstrumentation have occurred in the last two decades. This field focuses on medical treatment and bridges the gap between engineering and medicine. It develops devices and mechanics used in the management and therapy of physical illnesses and biological systems using electronics and measuring concepts.

2. Biomaterials

Biomaterials refer to a field that spans medicine, chemistry and materials science. Biomaterials come from nature, or they're synthesised in the laboratory with metallic components or composite materials. You can also apply biomaterials in clinical uses, such as for aortic valves.

3. Biomechanics

Biomechanics refers to the study of mechanics in the structure and motion of living systems. It includes the science of how muscles and ligaments work together to create movement in a person. Biomechanics encompasses not only the structure of muscles and bones but also the dynamics of blood flow and other biological activities.

How to become a biomedical engineer?

An undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering or a related subject is necessary to become a biomedical engineer. A master's or doctorate qualification is also common. Here are the steps to follow to become a biomedical engineer:

1. Undergraduate education

A bachelor's degree, recognised by The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), remains the minimal prerequisite for a job in biomedical engineering. Though the majority of biomedical engineers hold a degree in biomedical engineering, others come into the field from a physics background. Most people in this field continue their education, especially those who wish to work in the public sector or in specialised research and innovation positions.

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2. A strong mathematical background

Biology, chemistry, geometry and trigonometry are some of the advanced maths and science subjects that people interested in becoming biomedical engineers could study at the second level. They could also take computer science or coding classes. This helps in making you more marketable to a potential employer in the future.

3. Postgraduate education

Individuals with a postgraduate degree in biomedical engineering have better employment options and income earning potential. Statistical methods, mathematical modelling, molecular biology and tissue engineering make up some of the topics frequently included in graduate programmes. Some students may choose to specialise in a particular field, such as biomolecular engineering or medical optics.

4. Register with the HCPC

To work as a medical scientist, you need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). If you've completed an HCPC-approved class, you're instantly eligible to apply for enrolment. You pay a registration fee to set up your account with the HSPC, and this fee is reduced by half if you graduated from an authorised course at a university over the previous two years.

Skills required to succeed as a biomedical engineer

Abilities in biomedical science may help you to obtain the career you desire. While skills in scientific investigation and analysis are crucial, private-sector companies also prize personnel who are excellent communicators and are driven to keep abreast of market trends. The skills required to succeed as a biomedical engineer include the following:

1. Project management skills

Even if project management isn't part of their day-to-day responsibilities, biomedical engineers benefit from developing a variety of project management skills. Collaboration, prioritisation and team leadership are essential skills for project management. Good time management skills also can be helpful when a team is running many experiments at the same time or arranging experiments to use laboratory equipment on a specific day.

Another important project management skill involves the allocation of resources. Teams may also successfully balance the quantity of work that each team member undertakes—too much work leads to burnout, while insufficient work drains the budget.

2. Communication skills

Communication is one of the most critical job skills for biomedical engineers. People feel more comfortable communicating complicated biological topics to a variety of audiences through written and spoken communication. In biomedical engineering, conversational communication is an important skill. Researchers operate in groups, especially in corporate settings, and frequently interact with other business divisions, so teamwork is crucial.

Biomedical engineers may give lectures about their work to key stakeholders and academics outside of their place of work. This necessitates the ability to interact with an audience and to successfully respond to enquiries in formal or perhaps informal situations, such as in networking events.

3. Persistence

Since research requires effort, persistence is an essential trait in biomedical engineering. Investigations may not work on the first go and problem-solving abilities help engineers in determining the challenges and what new processes or approaches they may try next. It's important for the research and work to continue in the event of malfunctioning equipment, a lack of funds or missed deadlines.

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Career outlook for a biomedical engineer

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) talents remain in high demand throughout the world. As a result, if you possess the necessary abilities and experience, securing a job as a biomedical engineer may not be too challenging. A strong academic background and a good sense of articulating your knowledge in interviews may be vital to securing a job.

The benefits of working as a biomedical engineer include operating in a variety of settings. As a biomedical engineer, you may work in many different places, including hospitals, other health care settings and research facilities. This provides you with more freedom and flexibility, which is important if you want a diverse career. Similarly, you're able to choose between working in the commercial or public sector.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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