Careers in Biomedical Engineering
A job in biomedical engineering (BME) means applying engineering principles and techniques to the medical field. A successful career uses the skills of engineering to improve healthcare diagnosis and treatment. The field can be thought of as chemical, electrical, optics and optical, and/or mechanical engineering depending on the application. There are many jobs in biomedical engineering improving and using medical devices, which are healthcare products. There are some career opportunities with drug companies, but pharmaceuticals and vaccines aren't considered medical devices.
Medical devices are regulated and classified in the US into three classes according to potential for harm and complexity. Research and development jobs exist for Class II devices (CAT scanners, MRIs, X-ray machines, powered wheelchairs, infusion pumps) and Class III devices (replacement heart valves, silicone gel-filled breast implants, implantable pacemaker). Physics jobs involving the use of imaging equipment fall in the area of medical physics.
An entry-level job might require a MS or PhD in biomedical engineering or an advanced degree in engineering or physics with a potential overlap with BME. As this field grows, more colleges are offering undergraduate and graduate programs in BME. The prestige of a degree in BME can depend on the prestige of the university's hospital and medical school. The Biomedical Engineering Society breaks the field into nine sub-fields: bioinstrumentation; biomaterials; biomechanics; cellular, tissue, and genetic engineering; clinical engineering; medical imaging; orthopedic bioengineering; rehabilitation engineering; and systems physiology.
Bioinstrumentation refers to the recording and displaying of information about a body. A job in biomaterials involves the materials used in bone plates, artificial ligaments and tendons, heart valves, contact lenses, and many other devices. Careers in biomechanics can focus on the inner workings of the cell or the mechanics of walking. A job as a clinical engineer requires managing the implementation of biomedical equipment. And an engineering job in medical imaging means doing research and development in a field that enables clinicians to directly or indirectly see things not visible in plain sight through ultrasound, magnetism, UV, X-rays, and other means.