Were you aware that engineers are being used more and more frequently within the healthcare industry?
In fact, engineers are the driving force behind the most innovative advancements within healthcare in recent years.
If you are interested in engineering and would like to be involved in healthcare too, medical engineering would be the perfect career choice.
Engineering in the traditional sense has been seen as a male dominated environment, however medical engineering has attracted an equal ratio of females to males. Strong links have been made between medical schools and government research facilities, providing lots of opportunity for all.
A career choice of medical engineering will place you at the very forefront of pioneering technology to improve the health and prognosis of the population.
Medical engineering is an exciting, fast-moving career choice, which covers a large array of speciality areas within the healthcare industry. Medical engineering combines professional engineering skills with knowledge of the human body in order to develop diagnostic and treatment technology.
Medical engineering is often referred to as bioengineering or biomedical engineering and is the fastest growing area in the field of engineering. If you have a strong scientific background with a talent for engineering there are many degree courses available to combine the two disciplines. Once qualified and experienced in the sector, there are many opportunities to further your career by embarking on a postgraduate course, this could lead to your role changing to one of a teacher or lecturer, msn education jobs could also lead to a large increase in salary. A degree in medical engineering or bioengineering also offers you the opportunity to follow a career in medicine. Medical engineering offers an abundance of opportunity to diversify.
What does a medical engineer do?
The job profile of a medical engineer is varied depending on which area you choose to specialize in. The role requires the engineer to apply engineering principles to healthcare.
So your role will involve researching, designing or developing medical products to be used in areas such as artificial limb and organ creation.
Another area you could be involved in, is the design of computerized technology in surgical procedures.
Robots are now being frequently developed for use in the operating theatre for surgical and diagnostic procedures, robotic technology is now being incorporated into limb replacement too.
On a day-to-day basis, your tasks may include:
- Carrying out research to find solutions to clinical problems. This will include collecting data, organizing questionnaires and interviewing medical staff and patients in order to gather information.
- Using computer software to design, test and develop new equipment and programmes. You will develop prototypes and make the necessary adaptations following testing the usage.
- Working within a multidisciplinary team and members of the public and their families.
- Working closely with manufacturers of products to discuss cost effectiveness, design and if the product is efficient.
- Assessing the products capabilities and suggest modifications reflecting feedback from medical professionals and patients.
- Organising and implementing clinical trials relating to product development.
- Attending conferences to present new product ranges. Presenting to an audience at all levels including medical professionals, manufacturers and product users.
- Ensuring your own knowledge is constantly being updated so that you are aware of all technological advances relating to the field you are working in.
- Cooperating with GP’s and other healthcare professionals using products within the community to advise on how to use new products and equipment.
- Maintaining and testing clinical equipment used within the hospital and community.
- Training staff on how to use equipment.
- Ensuring equipment is being used safely by medical staff and patients and making sure safety checks are being routinely carried out.
Who will you be employed by?
The largest employer of medical engineers are health authorities.
Most of your work will be carried out within a clinical environment.
You may also gain employment with product manufacturers and research facilities. If you work for a manufacturer you may be involved in sales and demonstrating the capabilities of the product.
What qualifications do you need?
To be successful in applying for an entry level medical engineering job, a bachelor’s degree in engineering, physics, chemistry or biology is normally required. More prestigious jobs normally require you to possess a master’s degree or a PHD in medical engineering.
It depends on where in the world you live as to the availability of medical engineering courses for example in the UK many undergraduate and postgraduate courses are offered.
The course content varies considerably and because the course is teaching a combination of two different sectors: healthcare and engineering.
You will find that some courses focus more on the technical and mechanical technology whereas others will be more biased towards biomedical sciences such as biology and physics. This is because medical engineering covers such a broad range of activities.
Research carefully and choose the course that reflects your interests. For the course to be able to teach effective skills, it is important that the university works in partnership with a medical school and teaching hospital, so that you can gain clinical experience.
Final year projects will be more accurate and easily completed when you can reflect theory to practice.
In addition to academic qualifications, medical engineers also need to have good interpersonal skills and be effective communicators.
During your role you will be working within a multidisciplinary team, so being a good team player is essential, as is the ability to talk at all levels when communicating with the general public.
Career prospects for medical engineers
Qualified medical engineers are in high demand and for that reason career prospects are excellent and varied. Manufacturers employ medical engineers to design, develop and manufacture new medical technology. Advancements in technology are being made at a fast rate and medical engineers are at the helm of new and innovative products, machinery and robotic technology.
In addition to working directly with manufacturers medical engineers have the option to work within hospitals. It is in the clinical environment where you would be involved in introducing new technology to medical practitioners. It would be your role to ensure equipment is implemented correctly and is maintained. If you wish to further your career so that you can teach people how to use equipment correctly, there are courses to enable you to do this.
Other sectors that employ the expertise of medical engineers are research facilities run by the government. The purpose of these facilities is to drive innovation and growth in the healthcare industry. The government works very closely with universities to gain academic input at the highest level.
It is also possible to gain employment as a technical advisor related to marketing new products.
Medical engineering allows you the opportunity to get involved with many exciting projects. The area of hip and limb replacement surgery has taken great steps in recent years and the first bionic arm has been developed. The limbs are getting more realistic and there is the possibility of patients being able to control movement in their limbs via the attachment of muscles and tendons in the future.
Who knows what developments will be possible in the future? We already have the technology to restore hearing and headway is currently taking place to restore lost vision caused by retinal damage.
Choosing medical engineering as a career means that your expertise will benefit millions of people across the world. You will be involved in developing new technology to assist in quality of life, better diagnosis of disease and accuracy in undertaking procedures.
How much does a medical engineer earn?
In the US medical engineers earn around $51,000 to start and up to $134,000. The average salary being around $81,000.
In the UK, NHS technicians earn a salary of around £21,000 – £28,000. At a specialist level, or as a team leader your salary will range between £26,000 and £41,000 a higher salary can be reached if you get to head of department level.
Similar levels are reached within the private sector, depending on levels of experience and expertise.
As there is a worldwide shortage of qualified medical engineers you should have no problem finding employment once your training is finished. You will be able to specialize as you find your preferred area of interest and career progression prospects are good.
As medical engineers need to stay current in their knowledge there will be opportunity for worldwide travel to attend international conferences. Networking with other medical engineers is also important, so that valuable knowledge can be shared and developed within the healthcare industry.
Many engineers find themselves working in traditional engineering roles such as within the construction industry, but the fact that you can combine engineering skills with healthcare advancements has opened up the whole engineering industry.
Working in healthcare used to be solely the realm of healthcare workers, medical staff and allied health workers.
Nowadays engineers have a great impact on the health of our nation.