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Biomedical Engineer Job description

Biomedical engineers apply engineering principles and materials technology to healthcare. This can include researching, designing and developing medical products, such as joint replacements or robotic surgical instruments; designing or modifying equipment for clients with special needs in a rehabilitation setting; or managing the use of clinical equipment in hospitals and the community.

Biomedical engineers can be employed by health services, medical equipment manufacturers and research departments/institutes.

Job titles can vary depending on the exact nature of the work. As well as biomedical engineer you are likely to come across bioengineer; design engineer; and clinical scientist (in a hospital setting/clinical situation).

Typical work activities

Work activities vary, depending on where you work and the seniority of the post, but typically involve:

  • using computer software and mathematical models to design, develop and test new materials, devices and equipment. This can involve programming electronics; building and evaluating prototypes; troubleshooting problems; and rethinking the design until it works correctly;
  • liaising with technicians and manufacturers to ensure the feasibility of a product in terms of design and economic viability;
  • conducting research to solve clinical problems using a variety of means to collate the necessary information, including questionnaires, interviews and group conferences;
  • liaising closely with other medical professionals, such as doctors and therapists as well as with end-users (patients and their carers);
  • discussing and solving problems with manufacturing, quality, purchasing and marketing departments;
  • assessing the potential wider market for products or modifications suggested by health professionals or others;
  • arranging clinical trials of medical products;
  • approaching marketing and other industry companies to sell the product;
  • writing reports and attending conferences and exhibitions to present your work and latest designs to a range of technical and non-technical audiences;
  • meeting with senior health service staff or other managers to exchange findings;
  • dealing with technical queries from hospitals and GPs and giving advice on new equipment;
  • testing and maintaining clinical equipment;
  • training technical or clinical staff;
  • investigating safety-related incidents;
  • keeping up to date with new developments in the field, nationally and internationally.

Salary and conditions

  • The current pay for a trainee in The National Health Service (NHS) is between £20,225 and £26,123, depending on location, rising up to £32,653 with further experience (salary data collected Nov 08).
  • Range of typical salaries for biomedical engineers working as state registered clinical scientists in the NHS: £28,000 – £36,000 (salary data collected Nov 08).
  • More senior biomedical engineers in the NHS can earn up to £45,000 but may be paid on the same scale as consultants and can earn up to £90,000 (salary data collected Nov 08).
  • The above figures relate to clinical scientists working in the NHS and are only a guide as actual pay rates may vary depending on the employer and location. Those working in or near London receive an additional allowance. Salaries in the private sector may be higher.
  • Working hours are mainly nine to five-thirty, with local variations. Those involved in research often work in a flexible environment and longer hours may be necessary at certain stages of a project. On practical grounds, safety and maintenance work on hospital equipment is likely to be performed out of hours.
  • The workplace may be an office, laboratory, workshop, hospital, clinic or more likely a combination of the above.
  • Self-employment is unlikely, although there may be scope to work as a consulting engineer or a contractor to a hospital. However, you would need to have a good network of contacts due to the collaborative nature of the work; biomedical engineers rarely work alone.
  • As with most jobs in the engineering field, women are the minority, but only very slightly, and the number of women entering the field is increasing. It can be close to 50% male:female in the NHS and in universities.
  • Jobs are quite widely available across the UK, particularly in NHS trusts. Flexibility in preferred geographical location may be necessary both to obtain an initial training post and when seeking to move to a higher grade.
  • Local travel within the working day may be required, for example where the job involves the regional management and maintenance of medical equipment in hospitals, GP surgeries and patients’ homes. Travel to meetings, conferences or exhibitions both in the UK and abroad is also possible. Some jobs in the private sector may involve extensive travel to introduce products and clinical trials to hospitals.
  • NHS employees are less likely to travel abroad than private sector or research staff, who are more commonly involved in international collaboration.

Source: Prospects, www.prospects.ac.uk

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