Online associate degree programs in biomedical electronics technology are available, but relatively rare due to the nature of the career. All programs in this field are offered in a hybrid format, requiring students to complete some labs and courses on campus. The online courses allow students to complete the work on their own schedule through guided study and discussion forums. Students should have completed high school or have a GED to be accepted into these programs and some may require students to have graduated in the top half of their high school class.
For students who are interested in completing totally online programs, there are online bachelor's programs available from some for-profit institutions in the related field of biomedical engineering technology.
Biomedical Technician Associate Degree
An associate degree in biomedical electronics is the most common academic credential held by biomedical electronics technicians (BMETs). Students are trained in the design, construction and maintenance of electronic circuits in addition to the theory, principles, proper operation, application, maintenance and repair of biomedical equipment. Program applicants are required to hold a high school diploma or its equivalent. In many cases, they must have graduated in the upper half of their secondary school class. For students who are looking for options available entirely online, they may consider pursuing an online bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering technology.
Program Information and Requirements
The program leading to an associate degree typically takes two years to complete. All courses are transferable toward a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering Technology. Additional courses, amounting to another two years of study, are required to earn the baccalaureate degree.
To enroll in online classes, students must have a computer with Internet access and a sufficient PC or Mac operating system, such as Windows. In many cases, the online portion of the program is conducted by a combination of guided study--using texts and guides hosted on platforms such as Blackboard--as well as discussion rooms or message boards. Students may be required to check in online a certain number of times per week.
All degree programs pertaining to biomedical technology contain a certain amount of required on-campus courses. There are, however, a limited number of subject-specific courses that are available online, a few of which are outlined below.
Students are typically required to have a fundamental knowledge of electronics before pursuing this course. It covers diagnostic medical equipment as well as related subjects such as patient safety, sensors and psychological signals.
This is a course in anatomy, biology, physiology--and the attendant medical terminology--as applicable to biomedical technicians. Specific hospital-environment communication skills are emphasized to enhance the effectiveness of and cooperation between healthcare professionals as members of a team.
Students are expected to have some knowledge of electronics before they are instructed in the fundamentals of diagnostic radiography equipment. This class delves into subjects such as image formation, X-ray generation and film processing.
Codes and Regulations
This course explains the regulations that govern the operation of medical equipment in a clinical environment, with an eye toward patient safety. In particular, it looks at agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
Special Patient Populations
Students learn the use of clinical equipment to best care for special needs patients, which may be substantially different than traditional protocol. Special populations include trauma cases, surgical patients, cardiac intensive care patients and neonates.
With the predicted increase in an older population over the next decade, the demand for medical care--and the equipment used to provide it--are expected to rise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected that employment opportunities for medical equipment repairers will increase by 6%, about as fast as the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, the BLS reported a median annual salary of $46,340 for medical equipment repairers. In addition to working in hospitals, biomedical technicians may find employment with electronic equipment companies, medical equipment repair firms or independent medical practitioners, such as veterinarians, dental professionals or gynecologists.
Continuing Education Information
Advancement in the field of medical equipment repair is dependent upon experience, education and the ability to keep current with advances in technology. Some students build upon their associate degrees and enhance their attractiveness to potential employers by pursuing a bachelor's degree. Certification is another factor that aids career advancement.
Although not required legally, certification by an organization such as the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) indicates theoretical and practical competence on the part of a BMET. Qualified individuals who hold at least an associate degree and have completed the specified number of years of full-time work experience as a BMET can sit for the certification examination. Conducted at approved testing centers, the 4-hour exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions. An individual can qualify as a Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET), Certified Radiology Equipment Specialist (CRES) or Certified Laboratory Equipment Specialist (CLES).
Hospitals often pay for their in-house equipment technicians to become certified. Certification is renewable every three years, providing that the individual accumulates 15 professional activity credits over the 3-year period. Activity credits are acquired by attending educational meetings or conferences, researching and writing articles related to the field, reading appropriate technological literature or participating in various equipment training sessions or manufacturers' classes.
Students can find some hybrid associate programs that will prepare them for certification in the BMET field by teaching them skills in radiology, codes and regulations, and medical electronics. There are also totally online bachelor's degrees in biomedical engineering technology.