Clinical or biomedical engineers design and develop a wide range of medical equipment and devices such as x-ray machines, scanners and miniature cameras or mobility aids such as artificial limbs and wheelchairs. They can also work in the fields of nuclear medicine, and vascular measurement. They may work in research and manufacture or in health care delivery, combining their knowledge of technology, materials and human anatomy.
You could be:
- using computer software and mathematical modelling to design and develop medical equipment, devices and materials
- working with a wide range of equipment and devices including pacemakers, scanners, lasers, kidney dialysis machines, artificial joints, miniature cameras for medical use, speech synthesisers, ultrasound and x-ray machines
- calibrating, maintaining and repairing a wide range of complex equipment to the required standard
- developing complex devices such as heart valves or equipment for keyhole or robotic surgery
- researching new materials for making artificial limbs (prosthetics) or developing new microprocessors to control them
- working with patients on individual items such as sophisticated wheelchairs for those with complex needs
- advising on and arranging clinical trials for new products, to make sure they are suitable for their purpose
- liaising with other medical staff, medical sales representatives and equipment manufacturers
- keeping records of safety checks and repairs on equipment, and writing reports.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
- where you work
- whether you work for the NHS or a private company.
Salaries for trainee clinical or biomedical engineers in the NHS start on Band 6, £26,830 to £35,933 a year. Senior engineers are on Band 7, £32,013 to £42,205 a year. The current pay scales are from April 2017. Salaries in the private sector may be higher.
- Depending on your job, you would work in a laboratory or workshop.
- You might sometimes work in a clinic or ward in a hospital.
- You might have to travel, possibly overseas.
- Working hours are regular if you work in research or development, but in hospital you might sometimes have to be on call.
- You might have to work with radiation or high voltage equipment.
- Some lifting and carrying of heavy medical equipment may be involved.
- You might wear protective clothing.
Workforce Employment Status
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- You need a good honours degree in an appropriate subject such as physics or engineering. Degrees in Biotechnology, Biochemistry or Microbiology are also acceptable.
- The Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde offer a BEng Hons and MEng in Biomedical Engineering. The University of Dundee also offers the BEng Hons Biomedical Engineering.
- For entry to a degree you need 4-5 Highers, usually including Maths and Physics plus National 5 English.
- If you want to gain chartered engineer status, your degree should be accredited by an engineering institute, such as the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) or the Engineering Council.
- If you have a degree in a suitable engineering, health care or life sciences subject, you could take a specialist postgraduate course in biomedical engineering.
- If you work as a clinical or biomedical scientist you must register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Entry is competitive. Most career opportunities are in the National Health Service (NHS). There are also jobs in private sector health care, in the health care industries, universities, manufacturing companies and in teaching and research.
Workforce Education Levels (UK)
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Job Outlook Scotland
Percentage of workforce registered as unemployed (Scotland)
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Job Outlook Scotland and UK
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What Does it Take?
You need to have:
- an interest in science and technology and its application to health care
- an analytical, methodical and logical approach
- excellent IT skills
- excellent manual dexterity in using fine tools and materials
- a willingness to keep up to date with new developments.
You need to be able to:
- find creative solutions to practical problems
- work alone and as part of a team, with doctors technicians, paramedics and patients
- be patient and concentrate for long periods of time
- work under pressure
- communicate well with colleagues and patients from all backgrounds.
- Most entrants work in the NHS.
- If you have an honours degree (2:1 or above) in a relevant subject you may be eligible to apply to train as a clinical scientist with the National Health Service (NHS). This three-year Scientist Training Programme (STP) combines various clinical placements with academic study in a specialist area and usually leads to an MSc or specialist postgraduate diploma and registration with the HCPC. Training is through the National School of Healthcare Science (NSHCS). Vacancies are usually advertised on the NHS Scotland Recruitment and NHS Education for Scotland websites.
- After gaining your degree and some work experience, you can register with the Engineering Council as a professional engineer – either the Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng).
- For IEng you need to have either a recognised Bachelor’s degree or recognised HNC or HND plus further study to Bachelor’s degree level.
- For CEng you need to have a recognised Bachelor’s degree with Honours plus a recognised Masters degree (or equivalent), or a recognised integrated Master of Engineering (MEng) degree.
- With further training you might move to a senior post in management.
- Your degree subject and specialism may affect the progression routes you can follow.
- You might move into teaching and research work.
- You might become self-employed, as a consultant engineer, although this is not easy.
- It can help if you are able to move around the country.
- If you work in research or manufacturing there may be opportunities to work abroad.
- NHS Scotland generally advertise training posts early in the New Year and recruit up to the September start. There are usually around 20 posts in various clinical science disciplines available.
- The Engineering Council sets and maintains the standards of the engineering profession in the UK.
- The Tomorrow’s Engineers website has more information on careers in engineering.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
Tel: 0300 500 4472
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is the UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards of professional training, performance and conduct in the following health care professions: Arts Therapists; Audiologist; Biomedical Scientist; Chiropodist and Podiatrist; Clinical Scientist; Dietician; Occupational Therapist; Operating Department Practitioner; Orthoptist; Paramedic; Physiotherapist; Practitioner Psychologist; Prosthetist and Orthotist; Radiographer; Speech and Language Therapist. (The HCPC may regulate other healthcare professions in the future.) The HCPC website contains a register of all approved courses in the above professions.
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