Biomedical Engineering FAQ

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What is biomedical engineering?

Biomedical engineering is the application of engineering principles and technology to solve medical problems.

Is there a difference between biomedical engineering, medical engineering, biotechnology, and bioengineering?

  • Medical engineering is just another name for biomedical engineering. There is no difference between them.
  • Biotechnology is the use of living organisms to produce products. This can be as simple as using fermentation to make yogurt or as advanced as genetically modifying microorganisms to produce antibiotics or hormones. Biotechnology is much more rooted in biology than engineering.
  • Bioengineering's meaning is ambiguous and depends on who you ask. Some say it broadly refers to all applications of technology to biological systems, in contrast to biomedical engineering's focus on medicine and healthcare. This would mean that biomedical engineering is one type of bioengineering.

What do biomedical engineers do?

Biomedical engineers do many different kinds of work. To name just a few examples, biomedical engineers:

  • Develop devices used in surgery or implanted in the body, such as pacemakers or prostheses
  • Design electrical circuits to run medical equipment
  • Conduct research in genetic engineering, cellular engineering, and artificial organ model development
  • Ensure the safety and effectiveness of manufactured pharmaceutical products and medical devices
  • Provide technical support for biomedical equipment
  • Design and carry out clinical trials of biomedical devices
  • Develop technological solutions to help people recover from illness or injury

What do biomedical engineers study? Do they take biology classes?

Biomedical engineers study general engineering, of course, but many schools also recommend or require study in all the fundamental sciences (biology, chemistry, math and physics).

Biomedical engineering also includes the study of more advanced topics in biology and engineering, such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Bioinformatics
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomechanics
  • Biosensors and medical devices
  • Biosignals
  • Biotransport
  • Rehabilitation engineering
  • Systems physiology
  • Tissue engineering

Where do biomedical engineers work?

Due to the multidisciplinary nature of the field, a biomedical engineer may work in a team with doctors, physical therapists, nurses, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, and others in a number of different environments, including:

  • The clinical setting of a hospital, working with teams of doctors and nurses to design better medical devices
  • A manufacturing setting
  • In an experimental research setting, working with cutting-edge technologies in the laboratory of universities, educational institutes and medical institutes

Biomedical engineering is a multidisciplinary study that works in tandem with mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and life science disciplines to provide solutions to biomedical questions. Therefore biomedical engineers work with a wide range of specialists, from other engineers to scientists.

How much do biomedical engineers make? What is the job outlook for biomedical engineering?

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average annual salary for biomedical engineers is about $88,000. A career in biomedical engineering has a strong outlook in the U.S. economy. The number of biomedical engineering occupations in 2014 was 22,100. Employment of biomedical engineers is expected to increase by about 7 percent between 2016 and 2026.

As medical needs increase with the aging of the U.S. population, the demand for biomedical engineers who can provide solutions to healthcare problems is increasing.

Do I need a graduate degree to work in biomedical engineering?

A bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering is the minimum level of education required to work in the biomedical engineering field of industry and academia. Depending on your desired level of responsibility, a master's degree or doctorate may be required.

You may need to earn a master's degree, which usually takes one to two years to complete, if you want to:

  • Pursue a specific research area
  • Learn more about advanced technology or practical bio-applications
  • Gain specialized skills and knowledge in a specific area of biomedical engineering, such as clinical engineering