How Does Future Employment Look for Biomedical Engineers?

by Luanne Kelchner

Biomedical engineering uses the principles of engineering to resolve medical problems. Biomedical engineers design cutting-edge equipment and devices that have the potential to save lives and improve a patient’s quality of life. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available in the field to train aspiring engineers for a career in the field. Degree programs also allow students to focus their studies on a specialized area of the field, such as biomechanics or bioinstrumentation.

Biomedical Engineer Job Description

Biomedical engineers design products such as artificial organs and medical diagnostic equipment. The engineer installs and maintains the equipment in hospitals and doctor's offices. She provides technical support to hospital and medical staff who must use the equipment and devices. Some professionals in the field work in research and development, while others focus on quality. Biomedical engineer also collaborate with medical professionals to develop solutions to health care problems.

Employment and Salaries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 18,810 biomedical engineers were employed in the U.S. as of May 2012. The highest number of jobs, 4,830, were with medical equipment and supplies manufacturers. Companies that provide scientific research and development services ranked second with 3,540 jobs. The median annual salary for biomedical engineers in 2012 was $86,960. The bottom 10 percent earned $52,600 or less, while those in the upper 10 percent earned $139,450 or more. The scientific research and development services industry paid the highest mean annual salary of $100,780 in 2012. Physician's offices also paid a high mean salary of $100,270 a year. Among the states, California had the most number of jobs for biomedical engineers, followed by Massachusetts, Texas and Pennsylvania.

Job Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment for biomedical engineers to grow by 62 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is much faster than the 14 percent projected growth rate for all occupations. The high rate of growth for professionals in the field is largely due to the aging population, which will increase demand for the devices and equipment biomedical engineers design. The 62 percent growth rate represents 9,700 new jobs in the decade between 2010 and 2020. Biomedical engineers must remain up-to-date on the latest technologies in the field to enhance their job prospects.

Advancement Opportunities

There are opportunities to advance in the field for biomedical engineers with graduate degrees. Graduate programs in biomedical engineering give the professional engineer an opportunity to focus his studies in a specific subset of the field. According to the BLS, some biomedical engineers obtain a graduate degree in another field to enhance employment opportunities. For example, some engineers seeking advancement obtain medical or dental degrees to enhance the skills they bring to patient care.