Working in the biomedical engineering and healthcare technology sector

Find out what it’s like to work in biomedical engineering or healthcare technology: entry requirements, career paths and salaries.

  A stethoscope on a circuit board Biomedical engineering and healthcare technology is a thriving sector and one of the most rapidly growing areas of the UK’s “knowledge-based economy”.

Working in this sector is as varied as any other engineering industry, plus you get a feel good factor to boot, as your work might be helping someone fight illness or even save lives!

Work available within bioengineering and healthcare technology

The kind of work available to engineers is vast, ranging from traditional healthcare technician roles through to crossovers with other engineering industries.

“Traditionally there have always been many roles for technicians in the National Health Service (NHS), whether it be dealing with analysis of lab samples through to supporting the maintenance and operations of technical equipment in operating theatres, hospital wards and doctors surgeries,” highlights past IET president Mike Short.

“As [the sector develops] it’s likely to have a much bigger skills market, particularly with the growing use of digital technologies for healthcare,” he continues. “My specialisation is connected healthcare - online healthcare advice, distance healthcare monitoring etc… We’re seeing a bigger crossover between the way health is offered in care terms and the evidence gathering that can be done with connected instruments and the field for telecare, alarms etc. So data mining and data gathering activities are likely to grow in the future.

“We're also seeing a growth in wearable devices, things to measure blood pressure or heart monitors and these devices need to be kept out in the field with patients in mind, maintained and with evidence gathered as well,” he adds.

Qualifications needed to enter the healthcare engineering sector

If you’re interested in working in healthcare engineering, the main entry route is via university. Many students find and undertake internships in their holidays and then use that experience to gain their first job in the sector. As highlighted below, there are both academic and industry- focused career paths to choose from.

“Entry-level positions include hardware and software engineering roles, both in industry and academia,” notes Dr David Clifton, a research fellow and college lecturer at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering, University of Oxford. 

There are many IET accredited degree courses available in suitable subjects, which include biomedical science and engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, mechanical engineering and physics. Accredited courses can help you on your pathway to becoming a chartered engineer and may further support your career aspirations.

Engineers working for the NHS

For those that wish to work specifically within the NHS then the next step is to complete the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) [new window]. To apply you usually need a 2:1 or higher in a relevant subject, or a master’s in the subject you'd like to specialise in. A programme for graduates, this can lead to more senior roles within the NHS.

Pay in the biomedical engineering and healthcare technology sector

How much can you expect to earn if you work in the biomedical engineering or healthcare technology sector?

“Graduate-level engineers would expect to earn £25-35,000 in industry, depending on the company, and the track record of the applicant,” says Dr Clifton. “Academic R&D posts, notably post-doctoral research assistants, would earn in a similar range within a university setting,” he adds.

Find out more about careers in biomedical engineering and healthcare technology

If you'd like to find out more about working as an engineer within the healthcare sector then here are some links to further information.

The IET has a dedicated Healthcare Technologies Network, which aims to serve the needs of academic and industrial engineers working in this area. Why not join them (it’s free) and make some useful contacts today!

IET.tv is also a good source for information and often posts relevant talks and lectures. Here are some other sources of information that may help.

Medical engineering at the NHS [new window]

The Royal Society of Medicine [new window]

The Kings Fund [new window]

Prospects’ biomedical engineer entry requirements [new window]