How to become a biomedical engineer in the UK
Becoming a biomedical engineer requires a lot of focus and effort. It is one of the most sought after career paths worldwide. Not only is it a profession that is vital to our health service — designing the latest medical devices and equipment — it is one that will become increasingly relevant in the future. Especially as we become ever more efficient through technology.
Whilst job satisfaction is high in biomedical engineering, the entry level requirements are tough. Most professionals undertake further education before they enter either the NHS or the private sector. This isn’t a job that can often be done straight after a biomedical engineering degree.
But the rewards are impressive. As Forbes states, biomedical engineering is the “high-paying, low-stress STEM job you probably haven’t considered.”
As a biomedical engineer, you will apply design and engineering principles in the science and clinical space. From research and development, to design and implementation, you’ll be the driver behind the latest medical equipment innovation. Whether it be robotics, medical imaging devices or bionics, it is a profession that truly connects creative ideation with clinical knowledge.
Ultimately, to be successful in this career you need an in-depth knowledge of life science subjects, engineering and design, whilst also having a passion for positively impacting people’s lives.
What is an average biomedical engineering salary?
According to Payscale, the national average biomedical engineer salary in the U.K ranges between £18,299-£50,868, with the median salary being £28,679 (£29,173 in London). However, with greater experience comes greater money. And with the UK suffering a STEM skills shortage at the minute, total compensation is only going to increase — particularly in the private sector, which isn’t affected by static pay scales.
In our most recent 2018 SRG Salary Survey, we found that both biological sciences and engineering are in the top 5 most difficult skill sets to hire for. This means that in the future, a biomedical engineer will likely find their skillset incredibly valuable, with salaries likely to increase, especially in light of Brexit.
What qualifications do you need to be a biomedical engineer?
The minimum requirements to enter into a biomedical engineering career are a bachelor's degree — accredited by The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) or The Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).
Though most people will have graduated in biomedical engineering itself, there are some in the profession who have entered with a mechanical engineering or physics background.
Most people will also go on to further education, particularly those who want to work in the NHS, or in advanced research and development. The NHS requires you to complete the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP), which is salaried for three years, and is needed for all senior positions within the NHS. Entry requirements are a 2:1 in a relevant degree program.
Though positions are open in the private sector for those with a good 2:1 biomedical engineering degree, many professionals obtain a postgraduate MSc and PhD in the same subject.
Some research and development organisations now expect this, or at the very least they cherry pick the best of the talent before they consider those with a graduate degree alone. Especially for more senior positions.
How easy it to find a job?
STEM skills are in demand. Not just in the UK, but across the globe. Because of this, finding a role as a biomedical engineer shouldn’t be too difficult, provided you’ve got the relevant skills and experience.
This is the key here. If you put the work in, come from a solid academic background, and can express your expertise in interviews, you’re not going to find yourself out of work. And with STEM skills becoming ever more important in an increasingly technical, digital economy — which is ultimately built on creativity and engineering skills — finding roles in the future will be simpler than most career paths.
The life of a biomedical engineer
The great thing about choosing to be a biomedical engineer is that you can work in a number of environments. From hospitals to universities, health charities to research units, as a biomedical engineer your career prospects aren’t restricted to one particular sector. This gives you greater freedom and flexibility going forward, especially if you want to have a wide and varied career.
Likewise, you have the option of working in the private or public sector. There are obviously advantages and disadvantages to both, but what is important here is that you have a choice. If you are currently studying for a biomedical engineering degree, and are unsure what path you wish to go down, you should seek expert advice. Looking to shift your current career? Likewise, you should speak to the experts.
Though you can always shift lanes once you’ve spent time gaining professional experience, understanding where you want to go can help smoothen your journey to biomedical success.
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