Tissue engineers work with synthetic and biological tissues to recreate tissues needed by medical patients. A bachelor's degree in chemistry or biology or a related subject is good enough for tissue engineers to start work, but a graduate degree will provide more opportunities for advanced positions. Licensure for these specialists is not required.
Tissue engineering professionals fall under the broader field of biomedical engineering. They grow tissues in labs to replace or repair body parts and organs. Students might need to earn an advanced degree and have at least four years of work experience to take the licensing exam in order to become professional engineers.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree in biology or related field for entry-level|
|Other Requirements||Master's or doctoral degree common|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)||4% for biomedical engineers*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$88,550 annually for biomedical engineers*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Salary Information for Tissue Engineering Professionals
Tissue engineering is a specific kind of biomedical engineering. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2018 that biomedical engineers earned a mean annual wage of $88,550 (www.bls.gov). The medical equipment and supply manufacturing industry employed the highest number of biomedical engineers, followed by pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing. Those who worked in computer systems design and related services averaged $120,190, according to the BLS.
Career Information for Tissue Engineering Professionals
Tissue engineers design and manufacture tissues to replace failing or malfunctioning body parts. Working at the cellular and molecular levels, they can use a combination of biological and synthetic materials to engineer replacement or regenerative tissues for people with heart, epidermal, lung, or other organ-related issues. Tissue engineers can work in a number of disciplines, settings, and industries, such as prosthetic or cardiovascular research, hospital laboratories, or academia.
Aspiring tissue engineers can earn degrees in such areas as biology, chemistry, engineering, or other related field. They typically need at least a bachelor's degree to work in entry-level research or laboratory jobs. According to the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBS), graduate training is common for biomedical engineers, allowing them to seek advanced careers in research or academia (www.embs.org). Additionally, EMBS stated that a master's or doctoral degree in business could provide solid training for those interested in managing a lab in a company or hospital. Additionally, the Society reported that graduates also pursue medical or law degrees.
ABET, Inc, the accreditation board for engineering and technology programs, approves undergraduate and graduate biomedical engineering programs that meet specific standards. Undergraduates can expect to take courses in computers, electronics, human physiology, biomechanics, and tissue engineering technologies. Many schools also require completion of a senior design project.
Graduate programs in biomedical engineering offer elective courses and specialized curricula for those interested in tissue engineering. Studies include mechanical components and structural functions of biological materials, design processes for artificial tissues and organs, tissue durability and sustainability, and problems within the field of tissue engineering.
Internships and Professional Networks
Universities often post internship opportunities for engineering students, and some programs require completion of an internship to graduate. Students might also have the option of a work co-op, allowing them to take off one or more semesters to perform paid work for an engineer.
Tissue engineers are not only part of the biomedical field, but also a component of the broader engineering network. The success of their research projects is partly contingent on communication with other specialists. Professional networks, such as the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative or the Society for Biomaterials, offer tissue engineers membership, education, career development, and opportunities to participate in the larger engineering community.
Though tissue engineers do not need to be licensed to work in the field, earning a Professional Engineer (PE) license might improve employment opportunities, especially for those interested in supervisory positions. Fundamental licensure generally requires completion of an accredited degree program. After four years of engineering experience, professionals can then earn full licensure by taking an advanced exam. States typically only require licensure for engineers that provide public services.
Tissue engineers often get an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree in biomedical engineering or at least in a related field. At the graduate level, courses specific to tissue engineering are available. A professional engineer license is also an option for those who want to improve their job prospects in this rapidly-growing field, but it is not required to work.