Salary of a Biomedical Engineer With a Master's vs. a PhD

by Dana Severson

Biomedical engineers work in an interdisciplinary field of research, in which they use life sciences, such as biology and medicine, in conjunction with engineering principles to solve health care problems. They may develop new diagnostic equipment, therapeutic treatments or methods of tracking patients’ progress. Salaries can reach six-figures, especially with advanced degrees.

Salary Ranges

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, biomedical engineers brought home an average of $91,200 a year, as of 2012. This was an increase of just over 3 percent from the previous year, when salaries averaged $88,360 annually. As of 2011, biomedical engineers entering the field with a master’s degree started at anywhere form $48,000 to $70,000 a year, reports the Walter H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. Those with Ph.Ds. fared much better, earning $80,000 to $100,000 to start. With a bachelor’s degree, starting salaries fell between $45,000 and $65,000 a year.

Local Variances

In addition to level of degree, earnings vary by location. For example, biomedical engineers in Colorado earned some of the highest wages in the nation, at an average of $104,550 a year. This was an increase of over 29 percent from 2011, when salaries averaged at $80,800. Those in California also fared better than most, bringing home an average of $101,570, while biomedical engineers in Massachusetts averaged $96,070 annually. The same, however, can’t be said for biomedical engineers in Oklahoma, who reported an average wage of $58,380, with the bottom 10 percent earning less than $41,210 a year.

Contributing Factors

The variance in salaries isn’t just the result of educational attainment -- though this factor does play a role. With more advanced degrees, biomedical engineers tend to work in higher-level positions that often come with greater responsibilities. For example, those with a master’s degree in the field might lead a research team, notes the BLS. With a Ph.D., a graduate may end up teaching at a college or university.

Career Outlook

The BLS expects employment for biomedical engineers to be more than favorable. Between 2010 and 2020, growth in the industry should reach 62 percent, which works out to nearly 10,000 new jobs over the course of a decade. Expect additional opportunities to develop as biomedical engineers retire or leave the field.

About the Author

Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.

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