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Career Definition for Medical Device Engineers
Trained engineers interested in working on the cutting edge of medical technology should consider a career in medical device engineering, a branch of biomedical engineering dedicated to researching and designing medical equipment and machinery. Medical device engineers develop a wide range of healthcare devices that aid in improving medical treatment, including artificial organs, limb prosthetics, pacemakers, hearing implants, MRI machines, ultrasound equipment and x-ray imaging devices. Usually employed by medical equipment and supplies manufacturers, medical device engineers enjoy excellent job prospects in a challenging and rewarding field, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
|Education||Master's degree or Ph.D.|
|Job Skills||Researching and analyzing, knowledge of FDA regulations|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$86,220 (for all biomedical engineers)|
|Career Outlook (2014-2024)*||23% (for all biomedical engineers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Candidates for a medical device engineering career must first complete a 4-year bachelor's degree program in engineering accredited by ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Because the field of biomedical engineering requires graduate education in most cases, according to the BLS, students serious about pursuing medical device engineering jobs should then earn a master's degree or Ph.D. in biomedical engineering or another applicable engineering specialty, such as mechanical or electrical engineering. Resources such as the Biomedical Engineering Career Alliance or the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) can help students in choosing the right graduate program and guiding their medical device engineering career paths.
Though licensure is not required of engineers in the United States, the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is recommended for engineers who have completed their undergraduate work; the exam is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). After earning their graduate degrees, medical device engineers may meet their state's requirements to take 'part two,' the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Passing this exam results in Professional Engineer (PE) certification; however, no specialty exam for biomedical engineering currently exists, so medical device engineers may become certified in another relevant engineering specialty. Aside from professional certification, medical device engineers should be skilled researchers and analytical thinkers who are well versed in Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for medical devices and products.
According to the BLS, biomedical engineers, including medical device engineers, will see one of the fastest rates of growth in all engineering occupations in the near future, with a 23% increase in jobs expected from 2014-2024. Demand for more technologically advanced, sophisticated medical equipment is rising, and manufacturers will rely on the expertise of medical device engineers to meet it. The lowest-paid 10% of biomedical engineers earned $51,480 or less in 2015, while the highest-paid 10% earned $139,520 or more that year. The opportunity to contribute positively to the medical and healthcare future can be a source of satisfaction in this profession.
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For those with an interest in designing and modifying electrical equipment for communications, automotive, power generation and other industries, becoming an electrical engineer may be a good career option. Electrical engineers study how electricity powers up devices and look for ways to solve performance issues, boost efficiency and provide greater customer satisfaction. They also find solutions by designing new products, and they take part in overseeing testing procedures and manufacturing activities. To work in this profession, a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering or related field is required. Some engineers also choose to pursue a Professional Engineer license that will provide a competitive advantage in the job market.
The BLS expects slow growth in this field, with only a 1% increase between 2014 and 2024. The decline of manufacturing in the U.S. is primarily responsible for this prediction. In 2015, the BLS determined that these professionals earned a median income of $93,010.
Medical Equipment Repairer
If a career testing, troubleshooting and repairing medical devices sounds appealing, consider becoming a medical equipment repairer. Also referred to as biomedical equipment technicians, these equipment repairers go beyond simple fixes and perform duties such as calibrating new machines and educating users on how to use devices. They are knowledgeable about new technologies and keep detailed records of all maintenance and repair activities. Earning an associate degree in biomedical technology or engineering is how many gain employment, but education is usually dependent on the type of equipment repaired. For instance, wheelchair repairers may only need on-the-job training, while imaging machine repair techs may have to earn a bachelor's degree.
Based on 2015 data from the BLS, medical equipment repairers received $46,340 in annual median wages. Repairers should anticipate a 6% increase in job opportunities during the 2014-2024 decade.