Biomedical Engineering Technology Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Info

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What kind of job can you get with a degree in biomedical engineering technology? Find out program requirements, online options and info on courses and biomedical engineering technology programs.
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Biomedical Engineering Technology: Associate and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

Biomedical engineering technology (BET) is most often offered as an associate program focused on the repair and support of instruments used in the medical field. Some schools have started to offer bachelor's degrees in BET. These programs should not be confused with biomedical engineering, which is a full four- or five-year engineering program that encompasses the design of such equipment and other devices, including those meant to be implanted in the body.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for biomedical engineering technologists were expected to grow 31% in the years 2010-2020, a rate well above the average for all industries. This growth was predicted to be driven by an aging population that will require more medical care, as well as an increase in the use of complex technology in medical settings.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who seek positions repairing or supporting biomedical equipment in a medical environment Individuals seeking a more advanced degree to work with or design equipment for a medical environment
Common Career Path (with approximate median annual salary) Biomedical equipment technologist ($49,000)*
with possible additional specialization as:
- biomedical equipment technician
- radiology equipment specialist
- laboratory equipment specialist
Same as associate degree
Time to Completion Two years full time Four years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 18-25 courses
- Internship may be required
- Roughly 36-40 courses
- Some programs may require capstone or other substantial projects
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Courses available Courses available

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate in Biomedical Engineering Technology

Degree programs in biomedical engineering technology (BET) are designed to prepare students for a career in the repair of medical equipment. Students learn how to test, calibrate, support and repair technology used in medical settings. These technologies range from CAT scan and X-ray machines to voice-controlled operating tables, patient monitors, electrocardiograms, electric wheelchairs and defibrillators.

An associate degree in biomedical engineering technology is the basic degree required by many medical organizations for individuals seeking careers repairing and supporting biomedical equipment. These roles also require that you understand the regulations and standards that govern the use of these technologies, as well as the ability to communicate effectively with other medical personnel. As an expert in the technology, you may be called in to demonstrate the proper use of equipment and serve on committees making decisions regarding technology deployment.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Qualified repair technicians should be able to benefit from expected growth in the industry
  • Technicians may find work not just in hospitals, but in the practices of a whole range of healthcare professionals, including eye doctors and dentists
  • Some BET associate degree programs may lead, on completion, into bachelor's degree programs

Cons

  • Because medical technology is constantly changing and developing, biomedical engineering technologists will need to work to keep abreast of new developments in the field
  • Some positions as a BET may require an bachelor's degree, depending on the technology serviced
  • This associate degree is targeted only to one specific career outcome

Courses and Requirements

In order to complete an associate degree in biomedical engineering technology, students will need to develop a firm grasp on the applications of the technologies. Further, they will need a basic understanding of the medical setting and must be confident in their ability to accurately and effectively work as part of a team that supports diagnostic technologies.

Specific coursework in programs focuses on familiarizing students with the function and repair of medical technologies, as well as the basic physical and radiological science that supports it. Courses may cover such topics as:

  • Medical equipment repair
  • Anatomy for engineering technology
  • Biomedical chemistry
  • Analog and digital electronics
  • Computer networking in medical settings

Online Degree and Course Options

At this time, there are no accredited programs that allow students to earn an associate degree in BET completely online. Nonetheless, there are programs that allow for some of the coursework to be completed online, which may be helpful for those who want to balance this training with current employment.

Stand Out with This Degree

If you are looking to stand out with a degree in biomedical engineering technology, you may want to consider seeking voluntary certification for biomedical equipment technicians (CBET) to become a certified biomedical equipment technician (BMET). Depending on specialization, some students may also seek out the certification for radiology equipment specialists (CRES) or laboratory equipment specialists (CLES). Training, experience and testing are required for these certifications.

Although certification is voluntary, it may be required by some employers. Part of the requirements for these certifications may involve an associate degree in the field, but training requirements may also be filled by practical experience or specific military training. These certifications are administered by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation.

Bachelor's in Biomedical Engineering Technology

While at this time there are only a few biomedical engineering technology bachelor's degree programs that focus on the maintenance and repair of biomedical equipment, these may provide an opportunity for a more in-depth study of the topics necessary for developing a BET career. Program requirements can vary quite a bit, with some focusing on the job duties of support and repair, while others delve deeper into understanding the technologies on all levels.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A bachelor's degree may provide a competitive advantage over associate degree holders in the job market
  • You may be able to complete a bachelor's degree program while developing work experience in the field
  • A bachelor's degree program may provide more background for understanding medical technology, helping you in making informed decisions about equipment rollout and implementation

Cons

  • The additional time required by a bachelor's program in BET can delay entry into the workforce
  • Earning a bachelor's degree in BET does not open any additional career options, and graduates will be competing for the same positions as those with associate degrees
  • These programs are relatively rare, and may require relocation

Courses and Requirements

In some BET bachelor's programs, the courses and requirements may include a rigorous study of mathematics and the physical sciences, including biology, chemistry and physics. These requirements vary from program to program, so you might want to research programs carefully. Science topics that are of special interest in medical settings, such as anatomy and physiology, are also addressed, as are technology-focused topics such as medical technologies, biomedical imaging technology, biomeasurements and medical instrumentation. Some programs will also dig more deeply into engineering areas, with such topics as quality assurance and materials analysis.

Online Degree Options

Although no BET bachelor's programs are available completely through online delivery, some programs offer online classes to accommodate working professionals in their career development. As online course availability may vary, you may want to both research the program yourself and communicate directly with its representatives in determining if the program is suitable to your needs.

Stand Out with This Degree

In order to stand out with this degree, you may seek to take part in internships that will help you develop hands-on skills and work experience. This can help reduce the amount of on-the-job training needed when you start a new position. In these settings, you may also find chances to develop relationships with researchers, institutions or companies associated with the field. These opportunities to gain work experience may be found through academic programs, through summer internships or through relationships with mentoring professors.

Degree Alternatives

If you are interested in developing biomedical devices and instruments, you may want to consider a degree in biomedical engineering. The BLS predicted that biomedical engineers can expect 62% growth in positions in the years 2010-2020, although this number partly reflects the relatively small number of biomedical engineers currently employed. The median for biomedical engineer salaries was approximately $84,000 per year as of 2011, per BLS reports.

Job opportunities for those who complete engineering bachelor's degree programs should be more robust than that for those who complete BET programs, as they will be able to compete for the same positions in addition to jobs in research and development. However, these full engineering programs are both rigorous and competitive, with a time-to-completion and expense that are significantly higher than that for the BET associate programs.

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