Bioengineering Careers: Salary Info & Job Descriptions

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What are the pros and cons of a bioengineering career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if a career in bioengineering is right for you.
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Careers in Bioengineering

Bioengineering professionals use their design, development and research skills to solve problems in the medical science and biology fields. Use the table below to compare common careers in bioengineering, such as biomedical engineering, biochemistry and chemical engineering.

Biomedical Engineer Biochemist Chemical Engineer
Career Overview Biomedical engineers design equipment and systems to improve healthcare procedures.Biochemists study the chemical processes that occur in living organisms.Chemical engineers use scientific principles to design and produce materials.
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree in biomedical engineeringPhD in biochemistry or another scienceBachelor's degree in chemical and/or biomolecular engineering
Program Length Four years, full-timeEight to ten years, including undergraduate and graduate degreesFour years, full-time
Certification and Licensing N/AN/AProfessional Engineer license is available.
Experience Requirement Entry levelTwo to three years in a postdoctoral research position is commonly required for a full-time position.Entry level
Job Outlook (2014-2024) Much-faster-than-average growth (23%) compared to all occupations*Faster-than-average growth (8%) compared to all occupations*Slower-than-average growth (2%) compared to all occupations*
Mean Salary (2014) $91,760* $91,960 (for all biochemists and biophysicists) * $103,590*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineers work to improve medical care by designing machines, systems and devices. In this career, you'll create and maintain medical instruments, software and appliances, such as prosthetics and exercise equipment. Part of your job may include training medical personnel in the proper use of biomedical equipment. Many biomedical engineers specialize in a certain area, such as instrumentation, materials or rehabilitation. Work settings for this position vary. You may work in a hospital, research laboratory, university or manufacturing setting. Some biomedical engineers teach at colleges and universities.

Requirements

To become a biomedical engineer, you'll need a bachelor's degree. Biomedical engineering degree programs are science-based and consist of laboratory and classroom instruction. Coursework generally covers biological and cellular systems, physics, chemistry and calculus. Some professionals in this field pursue an undergraduate degree in another field of engineering and a master's degree in bioengineering.

In December 2012, job postings for biomedical engineers revealed that some employers sought the following:

  • In Pennsylvania, a forensic firm sought a biomedical/biomechanical engineer to investigate technical malfunctions for legal cases and insurance claims. Requirements included a master's degree, ten or more years of experience, strong communication skills and experience with electronic device failure.
  • In Rhode Island, a clinical engineering service provider sought a biomedical engineer/site coordinator with an associate's degree or higher and five to eight years of experience. Job duties included monitoring costs, inspecting equipment, reviewing vendor contracts and overseeing equipment inventory.
  • In Minnesota, a technology services company sought a biomedical engineer with a bachelor's degree to ensure quality control, implement process control systems and lead team members.

Standing Out

You can stand out as a biomedical engineer by joining the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) or another industry organization. Membership in the BMES allows you to stay abreast of trends in the industry and network within your field. You may also pursue advanced education in biomedical engineering. A variety of master's and PhD programs are available and may help you enter into leadership positions.

Biochemist

Biochemists study the chemical reactions that happen in living organisms, including growth, digestion and the effects of medications. In this position, you'll work in a lab. Job duties include designing and conducting experiments, analyzing data, writing reports and performing research. Many biochemists become postsecondary teachers of this subject.

Requirements

To become a biochemist, you'll need a PhD. A bachelor's degree in biochemistry, engineering or a science can prepare you for graduate coursework. PhD programs generally last four to six years and include classroom instruction, labs and research, and coursework covers topics in chemistry and research techniques. A comprehensive or qualifying exam and research proposal are typically required before writing and defending a thesis or dissertation.

In December 2012, some employers posted job listings looking for the following:

  • In Delaware, a healthcare supplier advertised for a biochemist to design experiments, analyze data, remedy customer complaints, lead teams and investigate materials/manufacturing processes. Applicants needed a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree or PhD was preferred.
  • In Atlanta, a science and technology company sought a biochemist to perform research, operate protein biomarker instrumentation, analyze samples, publish results and follow safety precautions. Applicants needed a PhD, at least three years of experience and strong communication skills.
  • In San Diego, a biotechnology company sought a biochemist/enzymologist with five or more years of experience and a relevant degree. Job duties included working on drug development and cancer projects, performing biochemical evaluations and taking scientific measurements.

Standing out

You can stand out as a biochemist by publishing your research in medical or scientific journals. You might also develop a specialization, such as protein and membrane biochemistry. Working in a postdoctoral research position after earning your PhD can help you accomplish both of these steps.

Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineers use scientific knowledge to develop and change chemicals and materials. They perform research, design experiments and troubleshoot problems related to the manufacturing of food, drugs and other components. In this career, you may work with hazardous materials and must abide by safe handling procedures to meet environmental and safety regulations. You may work in a specific area of chemical engineering, such as pharmaceuticals or plastics. Chemical engineers typically work in labs or offices.

Requirements

To become a chemical engineer, you'll need a bachelor's degree. Coursework for a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering consists of in-class and laboratory instruction, and courses cover topics like calculus, biochemistry, physics, instrumental analysis and fluid mechanics.

In December 2012, some employers sought the following from chemical engineers:

  • In Montana, a technology development company sought a chemical engineer with a PhD or master's degree, two years of experience and strong communication skills. Job duties included evaluating mixing processes, writing protocols and reports, developing new products and performing research.
  • In Chicago, a medical waste company advertised for a chemical engineer to design, operate and maintain equipment. Candidates needed a bachelor's degree and five years of experience.
  • A chemical company in Missouri sought a chemical engineer to track production, correct production problems, develop safety procedures and train machine operators. Applicants needed a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and ten or more years of experience in a chemical plant.

Standing out

You can stand out as a chemical engineer by obtaining voluntary state licensure. In fact, the BLS notes that, though not common for professionals in this field, licensure is recommended. You can earn a Professional Engineer (PE) license by earning your engineering degree, passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, gaining four years of work experience and passing the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Many states require continuing education to maintain PE licensure.

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