Pros and Cons of a Career as a Biomedical Engineering Technician
Biomedical engineering technicians, also known as medical equipment repairers or biomedical equipment repair technicians (BMET), install, maintain and repair medical equipment. Below are some pros and cons that might help you decide if becoming a BMET is a good career fit.
|Pros of a Career as a Biomedical Engineering Technician|
|Good job potential (30% growth between 2012-2022)*|
|Above-average salary (median annual earnings of about $46,000 in 2014)*|
|Associate's degree is sufficient for most jobs*|
|May be allowed some latitude and creativity in accomplishing goals**|
|Cons of a Career as a Biomedical Engineering Technician|
|May be on call for emergencies nights and weekends*|
|Work can be stressful due to the importance of medical equipment*|
|May have to travel to perform duties*|
|May have to work closely with sick patients*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com.
BMETs are responsible for the installation, repair and maintenance of medical equipment relating to patient care. As a BMET, you may be responsible for the calibration, modification and adaptation of a wide variety of medical equipment. Equipment might be as complicated as an x-ray machine or defibrillator or as basic as an adjustable hospital bed. As a hospital-based technician, you'll often be performing your duties around patients because repairs may be necessary for equipment that's still in use.
In order to keep step with emerging technologies, BMETs are often required to attend in-service training sessions. You'll also be expected to keep yourself up-to-date on modern medical equipment. Typically, you'll be required to keep accurate records on repairs and various maintenance steps you perform.
Salary and Job Projections
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment opportunities for biomedical engineering technicians are expected to increase 30% from 2012-2022. This increase may be due in part to a growing senior population. In 2014, the BLS stated that these professionals earned a median annual salary of about $46,000.
The most common method of entry into the field of biomedical engineering technology is by way of an associate's degree program in biomedical engineering technology. Depending on the employer or specialization, a bachelor's degree may be preferred or required. Engineering or technology courses might include biomedical instrumentation, digital electronics, equipment design, computer applications and physiology systems. You'll also typically be required to complete a practicum or internship.
In addition to a grasp of medical terminology and medical equipment, there are some physical and mental qualities that may be beneficial to the performance of your duties as a BMET. Among them are the following:
- Mechanical skills
- Manual dexterity
- Time management
- Troubleshooting skills
Job Postings from Real Employers
Many employers are looking for biomedical engineering technicians who are not specialists in just one type of equipment. In addition to at least an associate's degree, you'll find that many jobs call for a certain amount of work experience. Some jobs may require you to perform certain administrative duties in addition to your technical duties. Certification by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) may be required. Have a look at the following actual job postings made during May 2012:
- A corporation in Alabama is looking for a general biomedical technician with experience in dental x-ray machine repair, sterilization machine repair and blood pressure monitor maintenance, as well as test, measurement and diagnostic equipment knowledge. The applicant must hold an associate's degree, have three years of work experience and be AAMI-certified.
- A medical equipment sales, service and repair firm in California seeks applicants for a position as an inspector and repairer to work on and off-site on a wide variety of medical equipment. An applicant must hold an associate's degree. Military experience is preferred, as is AAMI certification. The applicant must have good communication skills, keep up with current trends and be physically fit.
- A California facility wants to hire a biomedical technician who has 5-7 years of work experience and holds at least an associate's degree. Applicants who hold a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering will be given preference. Applicants should be familiar with the underlying physiological principles of the safe operation and application of biomedical equipment, including defibrillator analyzers, oscilloscopes, frequency counters and electrosurgical analyzers.
- A New York medical equipment repair and maintenance firm is looking for field service biomedical technicians. Applicants should hold at least an associate's degree and have two years of qualifying work experience. Work will take place in nursing homes and clinics. Since duties may include those of sales representative, applicants should be outgoing, knowledgeable and personable.
How Do I Stand out in the Field?
With the projected national demand for BMETs to be much greater than average, employment opportunities should be plentiful for qualified professionals. According to the BLS, rural areas commonly have less qualified BMETs, so you may consider relocation for better job prospects. You might distinguish yourself further by earning a bachelor's degree in the field, which can be preferred by some employers and can lead to advancement.
Certification is voluntary for BMETs, but can demonstrate your theoretical and practical training and may make a positive impression on potential employers. Through the AAMI, you can earn the certified biomedical equipment technician (CBET) credential after successfully passing an examination.
Alternative Career Paths
Computer, ATM and Office Machine Repairer
If you want to work in mechanical repair but you aren't particularly interested in the medical field, you might want to consider a career as a technician who repairs computers, ATMs or office machines. You may be able to secure an entry-level position with only a high school education, though a certificate or associate degree in electronics could be advantageous for learning the required skills of the job.
The BLS projected that employment opportunities for computer, ATM and office machine repairers are expected to increase seven percent from 2010-2020. This is somewhat slower than the national average for all occupations. In 2010, the BLS determined the median annual salary for computer, ATM and office machine repairers to be about $37,000.
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician
If it's the medical side of technology that interests you, you might consider a career as a medical or clinical lab technologist or technician. Technologists generally need a bachelor's degree, while becoming a technician only calls for a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree. Technologists and technicians work in labs or hospitals to collect specimens and perform tests on body fluids and tissues. Some states may require certification and licensure for such positions.
The BLS expects that, from 2010-2020, job opportunities for medical and clinical lab technologists and technicians will increase 11% and 15% respectively. The need for laboratory tests and procedures is predicted to rise as the senior population grows. In 2011, the BLS determined the median annual wages for technologists and technicians to be $57,000 and $37,000, respectively.