Biomedical engineering is one of the country's fastest growing industries. While biomedical engineers work with the same principals as many other engineers, and even share the same certification in the National Society of Professional Engineer's (NSPE) Practice of Engineering license, the field is vastly different from any other type of engineering. Biomedical engineers provide medical and health-related breakthroughs by combining biology and medicine with engineering principals and practices. While an associate degree can usually provide entry into the field, the most common degree requirement is a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering or engineering with an emphasis in a related field. Top level jobs, or jobs with elite companies, may even require you to possess a master's degree or higher on the subject.
"Biomedical engineers are often physicians and licensed engineers at the top of the field," said Lawrence Jacobson, the executive director with the NSPE. "Entry-level biomedical engineers work for a large complicated company who usually absorbs the risk, meaning the company puts its name on the line rather than the individual."
Getting Biomedical Engineering Licensure and Certification
While biomedical engineers are not required to obtain certification or licensure particular to the field, the National Society of Professional Engineer's (NSPE) Practice of Engineering (PE) is essential for any engineer wanting to work long-term in the industry. A PE has become an essential tool for engineers because many end up working for government agencies, educational institutions, and private industries, most of which require a PE for employment.
Biomedical engineers are often physicians and licensed engineers at the top of the field.
Lawrence JacobsonExecutive Director of the National Society of Professional Engineer
But before earning a PE license, you must first become an engineer intern. Also offered by the NSPE, graduates or students in the final year of a state-approved engineering program must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. This eight-hour exam tests your knowledge of engineering principles and the actual discipline you studied. Passing the exam provides you with the status of Engineer Intern or Engineer-In-Training. After obtaining your EI or EIT status, you must accumulate four years of qualified work experience. Work experience should come from a major branch of engineering (including biomedical), be supervised by qualified engineers, and be challenging enough to develop personal responsibility and help prospective engineers progress into higher levels of responsibility. Keep in mind that in most states, completing the state-level PE exam is enough to gain licensure, but some states may require additional work to be completed before awarding the license.
Maintaining Biomedical Engineering Licensure and Certification
If you plan on staying in the field for the long haul, you must maintain your PE. Most states require that PE holders improve their skills through continuing education courses and other professional development. In most cases, this translates to 30 hours of continuing education every two years, although several states have different requirements.
"Licensure stands on two legs, ethics and continuing education," Jacobson said. "Ethics requires absolute integrity. It does no good to license an engineer if they are not going to be honest. On the other side, if you can't keep up with the profession through continuing education, then you no longer qualify to maintain the license."
The NSPE offers a helpful state-by-state guide for professionals to understand the requirements for maintaining their licensure. One great way to continue your education is by taking online courses in pursuit of an advanced degree. This will not only count towards earning a degree, but can also be used as continuing education credits. In addition, the NSPE provides continuing education help for busy PE holders through 90-minute webinars, which are regularly offered on their website. We also recommend joining the Biomedical Engineering Society, where you can become a member, receive news on scientific research, find opportunities to publish your work, and access other materials that can be useful in earning continuing education credits.