Biomedical engineering is the application of engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology. This field seeks to close the gap between engineering and medicine: It combines the design and problem solving skills of engineering with medical and biological sciences to improve healthcare diagnosis, monitoring and therapy.
Biomedical engineering has only recently emerged as its own discipline, compared to many other engineering fields. Such an evolution is common as a new field transitions from being aninterdisciplinary specialization among already-established fields, to being considered a field in itself. Much of the work in biomedical engineering consists of research and development, spanning a broad array of sub-fields. Prominent biomedical engineering applications include the development of biocompatible prostheses, various diagnostic and therapeuticmedical devices ranging from clinical equipment to micro-implants, common imaging equipment such as MRIs and EEGs, biotechnologies such as regenerative tissue growth, and pharmaceutical drugs and bio-pharmaceuticals.
Biomedical engineers are behind innovations such as artificial limbs, edible sensors, and sophisticated monitors used
during surgery. These workers combine biology and medicine with engineering to develop machines and processes. Using
their engineering knowledge, biomedical engineers develop devices and procedures to solve medical and health-related
problems and to research the biological systems of humans and animals. For example, they may design laser systems for
use in corrective eye surgery or develop artificial organs, imaging systems, and devices for regulating insulin.
Specialties within biomedical engineering include biomaterials, biomechanics, medical imaging, rehabilitation, and orthopedic engineering.
A bachelor’s degree in either biomedical engineering or a closely related specialty, such as mechanical or electronic engineering, is required for almost all entry-level biomedical engineering jobs. Students take core engineering classes first, followed by coursework in the biomedical engineering specialty. Some programs offer many different concentrations; others offer a limited number. Prospective students should investigate curricula and accreditations before selecting a program.
Graduate training is necessary for most biomedical engineering faculty positions and many research and development programs.
Biomedical engineers are employed in a variety of settings, from hospitals to research facilities to industry, depending on their specialization. In hospitals, they may design equipment for patients who have severe burns or who are paralyzed, developing systems to monitor their condition. In research facilities, biomedical engineers supervise or participate in projects to develop equipment, pharmaceuticals, or cures for disease. And in industry, they may be involved in performance testing of new products or may advise companies on proper safety standards for medical machinery.
Manufacturing industries employed 30 percent of all biomedical engineers, primarily in the medical instruments and supplies industries. Some biomedical engineers worked for health services; others worked as contractors for government agencies or as independent consultants.
Median annual earnings of biomedical engineers are around $85,000.