Pros and Cons of Becoming a Medical Equipment Repairer
Although medical instrument technician is not listed as a job title by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it does document the very similar occupation of medical equipment repairer, which involves the installation, repair and maintenance of medical equipment. Read on to learn more of the pros and cons of a career as a medical equipment repairer.
|Pros of a Career as a Medical Equipment Repairer|
|Great job outlook (30% between 2012 and 2022)*|
|An associate's degree is usually enough for entry-level employment*|
|No licensing or certification requirements*|
|Opportunity to work with newest technologies*|
|May work in many settings*|
|Cons of a Career as a Medical Equipment Repairer|
|Potentially stressful work environment*|
|Possible exposure to health hazards or illnesses*|
|Extensive travel over long distances to make repairs*|
|Repairers may be on call during the day, at nights and on weekends*|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics*
Job Description and Duties
The maintenance, repair and installation of medical equipment entails a host of more specific job duties. These may include replacing missing parts, maintaining records of repair jobs, conducting tests on equipment, demonstrating how equipment works and cleaning medical instruments. You may also need to use a range of tools, such as bar-code readers, gas sterilizers, autoclaves and high vacuum sterilizers.
Job Prospects and Salary Info
The reported 30% growth rate by the BLS is more than twice the average for all occupations nationwide. One reason for this high growth is the projected increase in the number of individuals, particularly the elderly, who are expected to rely on medical equipment to function. As of 2014, the mean annual wage of repairers nationwide was about $49,000, according to the BLS. Individual salaries ranged from around $28,000 or less in the lowest 10th percentile to over $75,000 in the 90th percentile.
Career Paths and Specializations
Hospitals, electronic repair maintenance companies and commercial equipment wholesale companies employ the majority of medical equipment repairers. To work in these and other industries, you can choose to specialize in repairing one or more pieces of equipment, such as CAT scanners, defibrillators, operating tables and electric wheelchairs. The amount and extent of training may vary by the piece of equipment.
Career Skills and Requirements
To become a medical equipment repairer, you're typically expected to complete at least an associate's degree in a field such as biomedical technology. A bachelor's degree could be required depending on your area of specialization. If you only intend to work on less advanced medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and hospital beds, you might only need a certain amount of on-the-job training. Most of this training is done under the supervision of more experienced professionals. Although some employers prefer that you become certified, this is not a requirement.
You'll need to rely on a number of hard and soft skills to successfully complete your professional tasks. These generally include:
- Making efficient and optimal use of time
- Expending physical energy for extended periods of time and in awkward positions
- Adapting to a range of different technical requirements
- Merging effective hand-eye coordination with manual dexterity while making repairs
- Identifying and solving intricate mechanical problems
Job Postings from Real Employers
In January 2013 there were a variety of postings for medical equipment repairers. Many of the employers required only a high school diploma in addition to specific technological skills and work experience, but even this varied depending on the type of equipment successful candidates were required to work on.
In addition, many of the jobs listed duties that went beyond equipment repair, including processing documentation, responding to telephone calls and facilitating the rental of medical equipment. Below are some actual job postings for medical equipment repairers:
- A hospital in Chicago advertised for a medical equipment technician with at least a high school diploma or GED, basic electronics knowledge and a demonstrated ability to operate test equipment. The job placed particular emphasis on daily preventive maintenance and recurrent clinical inspections.
- A medical center in the Bronx, NY, looked for a biomedical equipment technician with at least an associate's degree comprising biomedical technology courses plus two years of professional experience in the field. Duties included maintaining anesthesiology equipment and providing assistance with procedural preparations. The successful candidate would also be responsible for ordering supplies.
- A medical center in Marinette, WI, advertised for an equipment technician with at least a high school diploma, sufficient math and writing skills, organizational capabilities and basic computer proficiency. The successful candidate would be required to maintain and repair a variety of patient-care equipment, such as portable oxygen tanks.
How to Stand Out
One of the most effective ways of distinguishing yourself among other candidates is by obtaining certification from a professional organization, such as the Association for Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). The AAMI offers three designations, which include Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET), Certified Laboratory Equipment Specialist (CLES) and Certified Radiology Equipment Specialists (CRES).
Candidates for certification are typically required to hold at least an associate's degree in a field such as biomedical technology and have two years of full-time professional experience in the field. Exceptions may be made if you have a sufficient combination of academic and work experience. Once the application fee is paid, you'll be required to pass an examination. In order to maintain certification, you'll need to accumulate a certain amount of activity points and keep a practice journal for a period of three years. In many cases, you can even find employers who will pay for you to become certified.
Other Careers to Consider
Computer, ATM and Office Machine Repairers
If you'd prefer a hands-on career in technology repair don't want to deal with the biohazards of medical equipment repair, you could consider becoming a computer, ATM and office machine repairer. As such, you'd install, maintain and repair a variety of equipment, such as computer hardware, electronic kiosks, office printers and computer monitors.
The BLS projected that national employment of these repairers will only grow by about 7% through 2020, which is rather sluggish compared to the 14% average rate for all occupations over this period of time. As of 2011, the mean annual wage of these repair professionals nationwide was about $38,000.
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
If you want to work in healthcare, but closer to the medical than the technological side, you might consider a career as a medical and clinical lab technologist or technician. In this career, you'd typically work in labs analyzing bodily fluids, collecting tissue and blood samples, and operating microscopes. There are some differences between technologists and technicians in this field. Technician jobs may only require an associate's degree or postsecondary training. However, to become a technologist, you'd need to obtain a bachelor's degree. You'd also have more complex tasks than a technician and might be responsible for supervising technicians. In some states, licensure is a requirement for both these professionals.
The BLS estimated the national employment of technologists would grow by about 11%, while technician jobs could increase 15% during the 2010-2020 decade. As of 2011, the mean annual wage for both of these professionals was about $39,000.