A man rests his hand on a robotic arm

A biomedical engineer could...


Create a flexible artificial disc to replace a damaged cervical disc, relieving chronic neck pain. X-ray image of a misaligned disc in a persons neck Invent a better aortic valve replacement so that heart patients can return to active lifestyles sooner. An artificial aortic valve held by tweezers
Help a child with cerebral palsy walk by creating an internal medication pump for anti-muscle-spasm drugs. A child with crutches walking next to a woman Develop safe and accurate ultrasound technology to help doctors monitor babies in utero. Ultrasound image of a baby in utero
Find out more...

Key Facts & Information

Overview Shakespeare described humans as a "piece of work," and others have called the body "the most beautiful machine," but like any machine, sometimes body parts need repairs or servicing when the body cannot take care of the problems itself. That's where biomedical engineers come in. They use engineering to solve problems in medicine, such as creating replacement body parts, drug-delivery systems, medical instruments, and test equipment. Their work helps restore health and function, and improves the quality of life for people who are sick or injured.
Key Requirements Creative, analytical, self-motivated, responsible, with excellent communication skills and an interest in helping people by solving new and complex problems
Minimum Degree Bachelor's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Biology, chemistry, physics, geometry, algebra, calculus; if available, physiology, biotechnology, statistics
Median Salary
Biomedical Engineer
  $85,620
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
  $49,630
Min Wage
  $15,080
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Much Faster than Average (21% or more) In Demand!
Interview
  • Meet Katie Hilpisch, a Senior Biomedical Engineer at Medtronic who is helping to find medical therapies for patients with heart problems.
  • Read this article to meet Lori Laird, a biomedical engineer who develops new tools for surgeons.
  • Check out these videos from the American Institute for Medical and Biomedical Engineering to meet inspiring bioengineers who are tackling real-world problems.
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

Training, Other Qualifications

A biomedical engineering student should first plan to become a good engineer, who then acquires a working understanding of life sciences and terminology, according to the Biomedical Engineering Society website. Good communication skills are also important, because biomedical engineers provide a vital link to professionals with different backgrounds.

Education and Training

In college, prospective biomedical engineers usually select engineering as a field of study, and then choose a discipline concentration within engineering. Some students will major in biomedical engineering, while others might major in chemical, electrical, or mechanical engineering with a specialty in biomedical engineering. Many students continue their education in graduate school, where they obtain valuable biomedical research experience at the master's or doctoral level.

When entering the job market, the graduate should be able to point to well-defined engineering skills for application to the biomedical field, with a project or in-the-field experience in biomedical engineering. Some biomedical engineers also have advanced training in other fields. For example, many biomedical engineers also have a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, thereby combining an understanding of advanced technology with direct patient care or clinical research.

Other Qualifications

Because biomedical engineers often act as a liaison between other types of engineers and physicians, they should have good communication skills. They also should enjoy working independently, as well as in groups. Biomedical engineers often have broad or diverse interests, covering both engineering and the biological sciences, and enjoy the challenge of thinking up creative or clever solutions to complex medical problems.

Nature of the Work

Biomedical engineers develop devices and procedures that solve medical and health-related problems by combining their knowledge of biology and medicine with engineering principles and practices. Many do research with medical scientists to develop and evaluate systems and products, such as artificial organs, prostheses (artificial devices that replace missing body parts), instrumentation, medical information systems, and health-management and care-delivery systems.

Biomedical engineers also might design devices used in various medical procedures; imaging systems, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); and devices for automating insulin injections or controlling body functions. Most engineers in this specialty need a solid background in another engineering specialty, such as mechanical or electronics engineering, in addition to specialized biomedical training. Some specialties within biomedical engineering are biomaterials, biomechanics, medical imaging, rehabilitation engineering, and orthopedic engineering.

In industry, they might create designs where an in-depth understanding of living systems and of technology is essential. They might be involved in performance testing of new or proposed products. Government positions often involve product testing and safety, as well as establishing safety standards for devices. In the hospital, biomedical engineers might provide advice on the selection and use of medical equipment and supervise its performance testing and maintenance.

They might also build customized devices for special healthcare or research needs. In research institutions, biomedical engineers supervise laboratories and equipment and participate in, or direct, research activities in collaboration with other researchers with such backgrounds as medicine, physiology, and nursing. Some biomedical engineers are technical advisors for marketing departments of companies, and some are in management positions.

Work Environment

Biomedical engineers are employed in education, industry, hospitals, research facilities of educational and medical institutions, and government regulatory agencies. They often serve a coordinating or interfacing function, using their background in both the engineering and medical fields.

They generally work indoors in environmentally controlled conditions, must be very exact and highly accurate in performing their jobs, are often required to wear protective or safety equipment, and require the use of their hands to handle and control objects, tools, or controls.

On the Job

  • Evaluate the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of biomedical equipment.
  • Install, adjust, maintain, and/or repair biomedical equipment.
  • Advise hospital administrators on the planning, acquisition, and use of medical equipment.
  • Advise and assist in the application of instrumentation in clinical environments.
  • Research new materials to be used for products, such as implanted artificial organs.
  • Develop models or computer simulations of human biobehavioral systems to obtain data for measuring or controlling life processes.
  • Design and develop medical diagnostic and clinical instrumentation, equipment, and procedures, using the principles of engineering and biobehavioral sciences.
  • Conduct research, along with life scientists, chemists, and medical scientists, on the engineering aspects of the biological systems of humans and animals.
  • Teach biomedical engineering or disseminate knowledge about field through writing or consulting.
  • Design and deliver technology to assist people with disabilities.
  • Diagnose and interpret bioelectric data, using signal processing techniques.
  • Adapt or design computer hardware or software for medical science uses.
  • Analyze new medical procedures to forecast likely outcomes.
  • Develop new applications for energy sources, such as using nuclear power for biomedical implants.

Source: BLS

Companies That Hire Biomedical Engineers

Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...

Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Have you ever heard or read about GMO? GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. Scientists can deliberately modify the DNA of organisms, such as bacteria or plants, to change their properties for a specific purpose. For example, crops can be modified to become more drought- or pest-resistant. Genetic engineering is a very powerful tool in biotechnology that has already found many different applications in agriculture, medicine, and industry. In this project, you will engineer a… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
People have a variety of reasons to use heart rate monitors. For example, patients in a hospital might have stationary, bedside equipment monitor their heart rate and alert medical staff in case of an emergency. Somebody going for a run might wear a portable heart rate monitor to keep track of their workout intensity. Heart rate monitors are not all the same—their appearance and function will vary depending on the intended use. In this project you will design, build, and program your own… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
The human body is an impressive piece of machinery, and your hands are no exception. With some training, they can perform delicate and complex tasks like manipulating pens and tools to create art. At the same time, hands have the strength and durability to hold a person's own body weight up on steep rocks. Unfortunately, there is a rapidly growing demand for hand replacements. But fortunately, scientists have studied human anatomy and biology and created human-like hands used as artificial… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Can you imagine a glowing loaf of bread? You might not be able to make the whole loaf glow, but you can get baker's yeast to fluoresce! The way to do this is to modify the genetic information of the yeast organism. The technology that is used to do this is called genetic engineering. With genetic engineering, you can insert a fluorescent protein gene from a jellyfish into yeast cells, so they start glowing under blue light! Do this project to see for yourself! Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Imagine how cool it would be to build a robot hand that could grasp a ball or pick up a toy. In this robotics engineering project, you will learn how to use drinking straws, sewing thread, and a little glue to make a remarkably lifelike and useful robot hand. What will you design your robot hand to do? Pick up a can? Move around a ping pong ball? It is up to you! With these starting instructions, you can design any type of hand. You will simulate human finger anatomy as the basis for a… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Many scientists are currently very excited about CRISPR, as it has the potential to revolutionize gene editing. But what exactly is CRISPR and what does it do? CRISPR is a novel tool in gene editing that allows the modification of genetic DNA at specific target sites in many different organisms. Researchers have high hopes that this technology can, one day, cure genetic diseases, as mutated DNA sequences can easily be corrected. In this project, you will use CRISPR to mutate a DNA sequence… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Do you hate shots? Do you complain about paper cuts? Imagine if you had to give yourself shots a couple of times a day, as well as prick your finger, on purpose, even more frequently. Of course, if you have diabetes you do not have to imagine this; it is your reality. People who have diabetes usually need to keep close track of how much sugar is in their blood (called their blood glucose levels) by testing a drop of blood from a finger prick. If there is too much sugar in their blood, some… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Doctors use many complicated tools to check the health of patients. But you can make some medical tools at home—like a stethoscope! A doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to a patient's heart. In this science project, you will make three of your own homemade stethoscopes and figure out which stethoscope design works best and why. Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Imagine you are on a trip and see something interesting that you want to share with your friends. What do you do? You take a picture with your cell phone and e-mail it to them, of course. But did you realize that the same technology can be used to save lives? Using their cell phones modified as inexpensive microscopes, medical personnel can look at blood smears to help diagnose diseases like malaria and cholera. In this photography science project you will build a simple and inexpensive cell… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Why is your grandmother always wondering if you are drinking enough milk? Our bones are made out of calcium, a mineral found in milk, and drinking milk can lead to strong healthy bones. What about other animals? What are their bones made of? What kind of bones do they have? Are there animals without bones? Are endoskeletons and exoskeletons made out of the same materials? Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Imagine how cool it would be to have your own motorized robot hand. Well, stop imagining and turn that daydream into reality! Start out by designing and building a robot hand. The Science Buddies project Grasping With Straws: Make a Robot Hand Using Drinking Straws shows you a simple way to make a robot hand with drinking straws, or you can design a robot hand from any other materials you think are suitable. Your hand design will need sewing threads, or some other mechanism, for motors to… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
People often call cardiovascular disease a "silent killer." This disease sneaks up and causes damage, but patients don't realize it—until serious symptoms start. That is why physicians recommend keeping your cardiovascular system healthy. A healthy cardiovascular system gives us the energy and the stamina to do all of the things that we want to accomplish, such as do our best in school and perform well in sports. But what makes a cardiovascular system unhealthy, and what are the… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Are you interested in things like prosthetic limbs and artificial joints that can help people with disease or injury to lead a normal life? Or maybe you're interested in sports medicine or physical therapy? Either way, this project could be a good match for you. Find out how the tension on the knee joint changes as a function of angle by building a simple mechanical model. Read more

Ask Questions

Do you have a specific question about a career as a Biomedical Engineer that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.

Additional Information

Sources

Additional Support

Special thanks to Medtronic for providing images on this page. Image copyrights and trademarks are held by or on behalf of Medtronic, Inc and are used with permission.

Free science fair projects.