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Biomedical Technician (BMET) Education, Schools, and Career Overview

To accommodate the demand for improved quality of life and longer life expectancy, the medical community is constantly researching and introducing new medical technologies that effectively create superior cutting edge instruments and devices to assist in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of countless medical conditions. Not surprisingly, there is a large number of health care, medical, and engineering professionals needed to work collectively in the research, development, manufacturing, maintenance and administration of such innovative technologies and tools. As a result, what were once considered highly specialized occupations are now quickly growing and gaining enough definition to become independent disciplines. An example of one of these emerging fields is biomedical engineering.

As the name suggests, a biomedical engineer is a professional that infuses knowledge derived from biological, medical, engineering, and technology sciences to research, and create, electronic and mechanical apparatuses designed to improve and promote health for patients. Biomedical engineering technicians, sometimes known as BMETs, are responsible for installing and maintaining medical devices for health care service providers, and training medical staff in the use of these machines. Although these are among the major functions taught in biomedical technician schools, the distinction may blur at times between the specific tasks performed by these tech-savvy professionals and the more research- and development-oriented biomedical engineers.

Some of the specific work activities that are typically associated with biomedical engineers and biomedical engineering technicians, according to the Biomedical Engineering Society, include:

-       Developing and researching the benefits and functioning of artificial organs

-       Automated patient monitoring

-       Sports medicine

-       Blood chemistry sensors

-       Biomechanics of injury and wound healing

-       Advanced therapeutic and surgical devices

-       Application of expert systems and artificial intelligence to clinical decision-making

-       Biomaterials design

-       Medical imaging systems

-       Design of optimal clinical laboratories

-       Computer modeling of physiologic systems.

Biomedical Technician Specializations

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are the regulating forces behind innovative medical devices, dividing them into eight different categories:

  • Pediatric medical devices
  • Home health and consumer devices
  • Surgery and life support devices
  • Dental devices
  • General hospital devices and supplies
  • Cosmetic devices
  • Implants and prosthesis
  • In vitro diagnostics

Just as biomedical engineering itself was once identified as a subfield, there are nearly a dozen interdisciplinary subfields associated with the broader field of biomedical engineering. Currently, the Biomedical Engineering Society has recognized these specialized areas of biomedical engineering:

  • Orthopedic bioengineering
  • Bioinstrumentation
  • Medical imaging
  • Systems physiology
  • Biomaterials
  • Clinical engineering
  • Biomechanics
  • Rehabilitation engineering
  • Cellular, tissue, and genetic engineering

Biomedical equipment technicians often operate under a number of different but similar sounding titles including biomedical technician, biomedical engineering technologist, biomedical technician, biomedical engineering technician, biomedical electronics technician, and medical equipment technician.

How to Become a Biomedical Technician

Biomedical engineers typically hold Ph.D.s or Master of Science degrees and are responsible for researching, designing, and developing medical devices such as pacemakers, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, artificial organs and limbs, dialysis machines, corrective lenses, ocular prosthetics, infusion pumps, and cochlear implants. Biomedical equipment technicians generally hold associate of science or Bachelor of Science degrees and are largely dedicated to installing testing, adjusting, and maintaining these devices.

Given the rather delicate and sophisticated nature of the occupation, those interested in pursuing biomedical technician jobs should attempt to amass as much preliminary knowledge as possible in all facets of science, mathematics, engineering, and medical technology. Furthermore, because the field of biomedical engineering is not an isolated profession but is constantly converging and exchanging influences with outside fields, biomedical engineering techs often interact with a wide-range of physicians, teachers, researchers, environmentalists, designers, lawyers, scientists, technicians, manufacturers, government officials, and other engineering professionals to maximize productivity. Because of this strong reliance on teamwork, BMETs are also advised to hold solid backgrounds in humanities, social sciences, and communication.

Biomedical technician degree programs

To start, students that want a sound introduction to biomedical engineering technology without the expense and commitment of four-year degree programs should consider enrolling in career academies, technical institutes, or private universities that award diplomas, certificates, and associate degrees in biomedical equipment technology, biomedical engineering technology, or any subject that combines engineering with medical aspects.

Some of the most common degrees are: Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering, Master of Science in Engineering-Biomedical Engineering, and Master of Engineering in Biomedical Engineering. Yet these are not the only valuable degrees available to biomedical engineering graduate students. Other possible degree choices include Master of Science in Bioengineering, Bioscience, Life Science and Technology, Biotechnology, Human Factors Engineering, Engineering in Physical Science and Medicine, and Biomedical Materials Engineering Science.

Since clinical training is an integral part of education, biomedical engineering technician schools almost always conclude with practical training through required internships in clinical settings. Programs usually starts by introducing students to more general courses in engineering and biology and progresses into more focused aspects of the field. Some examples of courses found in Bachelor of Biomedical Engineering Technician programs include:

  • Medical equipment problem solving
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Fundamentals of electricity
  • Electronics
  • Medical equipment function and operation
  • Public safety in the healthcare facility
  • Solid-state device

Students that graduate with a bachelor degree in biomedical engineering technology can explore various different pathways to a successful career. Since BMET training programs require numerous courses in science, technology, many students use their bachelors in order to qualify to enter into biomedical engineering programs to work in the research and development side of the field. 

There are many benefits for professionals that earn advanced degrees. Most biomedical engineering positions, even entry-level positions, often favor or even require employees with graduate or doctorate degrees in biomedical engineering. Biomedical technicians engineers that hold a master or doctorate degree frequently increase their marketability and salary earning potentials.

Biomedical technician schools

Since biomedical engineering is a relatively modern field, biomedical technician schools have been quite few and far between in the past fifty years. However, as this profession continues to grow, more biomedical technician schools are popping up and introducing programs in biomedical engineering technology-related disciplines.

When attempting to locate an ideal biomedical equipment technician school, students are encouraged to start by looking at schools that offer programs and departments that are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology (ABET), as these programs are the most highly esteemed within the biomedical engineering community. However, this does not imply that students should disregard other BMET training programs that are accredited by other recognized accrediting agencies.

If a program in biomedical equipment technology is available at your school of choice, inquire about details of the program. For instance, are the professors also professionals in the field? How many students have previously graduated from this program? How long has this program been in effect? How many graduates of the program find careers in biomedical equipment technology? Does this program work in close proximity to others biomedical engineering technician schools within the university like the “School of Arts and Sciences” or the “School of Technology”? By researching the answers to these important questions, students are more likely to discover a BMET program that accommodates their individual needs and goals. 

Biomedical technician license and certification

The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) is one organization that offers certification for BMETS, which isn't always required but is highly recommended. Certification from the AAMI is available in three different areas: Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET), Certified Radiology Equipment Specialists (CRES) and Certified Laboratory Equipment Specialist (CLEB).

The International Certification Commission for Clinical Engineering and Biomedical Technology (ICC) works in association with the United States Certification Commission (USCC) and the Board of Examiners for Biomedical Equipment Technicians to administer an examination that tests the theoretical and practical knowledge of biomedical professionals. Those that successfully pass examination are granted official certification and may use the title of “certified biomedical equipment technician” or CBET. However, before a BMET can be considered for examination and certification they must fulfill certain eligibility requirements.

There are three different ways that allow biomedical engineers to sit for BMET certification examination.

  • Complete an academic program in a biomedical discipline that results in an associate’s degree along with two years of full-time work experience in a biomedical technician job.
  • Earn an associate’s degree in electronics technology along with three years of full-time work experience practicing as a BMET
  • Have four years of full-time work experience practicing as a BMET

Professionals can download an “Application for Examination for Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician, Radiology Equipment Specialist, and Laboratory Equipment Specialist” from the ICC website. This application will request a BMET’s personal identifying information, current employment information, work experience history, and prior education achievements. This completed application must be submitted to the ICC’s Professional Testing Corporation at least six weeks before actual examination and there is typically a fee for the application.

The BMET exams cover five major subject areas: anatomy and physiology; public safety in the healthcare facility; fundamentals of electricity, electronics, and solid-state device; medical equipment function and operation; and medical equipment problem solving. The ICC does not provide review courses or study guides for examinees.

BMET certification must be renewed on a triennial basis (every three years) at which time CMETs must show proof of completing at least fifteen hours of continuing education points in biomedical-related activities. To accrue points, BMETs can attend educational seminars, conferences, and meetings that have occupational relevance or they can participate in speaking, reading, and writing activities through a professional biomedical association. Failure to complete continuing education requirements for renewal or will result in certification revocation or suspension.

Career advancement for biomedical techs

Biomedical technicians and engineers with extensive and diverse work experience may appear more attractive to prospective employers and may be able to earn higher salaries. BMETS can also consider other health care careers that might provide them with more pay, such as a registered nurse, or even consider a degree in engineering if they enjoy the fixing and repairing responsibilities of their career.

Some BMETs can also find career prospects by branching out into management, marketing, education, and sales within the field by exploring higher-level biomedical technician degrees. Also, BMETs may wish to seek certification to demonstrate that they have the competence and ability needed to work in the field and can also increase their competitiveness when it comes to finding a job.

Biomedical Tech Career Outlook and Salary Information

As with any position, pay can vary for biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs), based on the geographical location and industry of employment that a professional is working in.

CareerAnnual Mean WageBottom 10% Annual WageTop 10% Annual Wage
Medical Equipment Repairers$52,260$29,570$80,460
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

In general, look for potential growth in the biomedical technician job market due to aging populations, advances in medical technology, and heightened public awareness regarding health issues. There is an escalating demand for more cost-effective medical treatments, superior medical devices and equipment, in effect making BMETs increasingly valuable to public health. 

CareerTotal EmploymentProjected Job Growth Rate
Medical Equipment Repairers43,6705.3%
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Professional Resources for Biomedical Engineering

Professional associations can also supply biomedical engineering techs with job placement assistance, continuing education activities, professional networking opportunities, and up-to-date information on occupational trends. Some major professional associations include:

  • Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES)
  • American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE)
  • Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA)
  • Society for Biomaterials (SFB)
  • Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI).

Sources:

  1. Medical Equipment Repairers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes499062.htm
  2. Medical Equipment Repairers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/medical-equipment-repairers.htm#tab-6

Biomedical Technician Schools