Everything you need to know about becoming a biomedical engineer

Biomedical Engineer

A biomedical engineer works at the intersection of tech and human biology, using their problem-solving skills to save lives

The idea of a ‘designer human’, or combining cutting-edge tech like robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) with biology, is a popular sci-fi topic – but now it’s also literally a career path you can choose. Love tech and problem-solving? Want to work in healthcare? It’s perfect!

Biomedical engineers develop and design medical equipment, devices, computer systems and software that other medical practitioners then use to improve human health and wellbeing.

For this career, STEM subjects biology and engineering are key. Then you’ll need a university degree, like an undergrad in science or engineering, and a specific postgrad qualification – or you could combine your interest in healthcare and engineering with a double degree. There are loads of options.

The Australian Government’s Job Outlook website states that biomedical engineering is a career path with “strong” future growth. The technology and healthcare sectors are producing super-exciting innovations right now, generating epic career potential.

To-do list

These tasks are just some of the things a biomedical engineer might do on the job:

  • Make surgical equipment and tools for medical practitioners
  • Install and test medical equipment
  • Examine, maintain and repair equipment
  • Quality-assurance checks
  • Electrical safety checks
  • Train medical staff in the use of equipment and give technical advice
  • Design and develop implants for use during operations, such as artificial joints or titanium plates to replace sections of bone in head injuries.

Field day

The pathways for a biomedical engineer are super-broad and diverse! You could work in any one of these specialist fields.

Biomechanical engineering
Apply mechanical engineering principles to biological systems to develop, design or repair medical products, such as artificial organs and prosthetic limbs.

Cell and tissue engineering
Create materials and structures to repair or build human tissue.

Clinical engineering
Research, develop and maintain instruments and equipment to help practitioners like doctors and nurses.

Rehabilitation engineering
Develop technological solutions and equipment to aid people with disabilities or recovering from disease or injury.

Medical imaging
Develop and use tech to capture images of the human body – inside and out – to help diagnose disease and injury.

Soft robotics
Combine cutting-edge tech and materials science to develop robots made of ‘soft’ or malleable materials (which are safer around humans!).

Systems physiology
Apply engineering principles to understand how whole systems within living organisms function and respond to changes in their environment.

Who’s hiring?

A hospital is an obvious place where a biomedical engineer might work, but not the only one! Here are some big employers of biomedical engineers in Australia, according to the University of Melbourne:

  • Agilent Technologies
  • Bio21 Institute
  • Bionics Institute
  • Chemtronics
  • Cochlear
  • Compumedics
  • CSI
  • Australian Defence Force
  • Device Technologies Australia
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • ResMed
  • Sanofi
  • Therapeutic Goods Administration

Equity scorecard

Government statistics show that despite about half of all human bodies being female, women currently make up only 15% of all biomedical engineers! This sector could do with
a serious gender rebalance.

Start your career here

Engineering + Medical Study

  • Bachelor of Medical Sciences/Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), Macquarie University
  • Bachelor of Biomedicine/ Master of Biomedical Engineering, University of Melbourne
  • Bachelor of Medical Engineering (Honours), University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Medical), QUT
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)/Master of Biomedical Engineering, UNSW

Engineering + Medical Jobs

  • Biomedical engineer: $55K–$91K
  • Medical technologist: $51K–$104K
  • Prosthetist: $46K–$107K

Salaries according to payscale.com

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Engineering 2022. Find out more about STEM + health careers here.

Gemma Chilton

Author: Gemma Chilton

Gemma is the Managing Editor of Careers with STEM magazine. She has previously worked as Digital Managing Editor at Australian Geographic and a staff writer at Cosmos science magazine.

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