Imagine you're in a hospital bed, hooked up to a heart monitor and a ventilator. Those machines had better be working properly. Fortunately, they almost always are. Whom do you thank? A biomedical equipment tech.
This is one of the few health careers in which you are key to helping patients recover yet there's (usually) no blood and gore. Biomed techs enjoy other pluses, too. You're not limited to repairing stuff: You install, train, calibrate, and perform maintenance. And you're always getting to work on new, ever better equipment such as combined PET/CT scanners and robotic radiosurgery units, which irradiate a tumor but not the surrounding cells. Only a two-year degree is required, and the job market is terrific—you're unlikely to ever hear the word "layoff." This career is resistant to offshoring, although some state-of-the-art machines allow remote diagnostics, so if a Texas MRI machine breaks down in the middle of the night, a tech in Indiana or India can figure out what's wrong.
This career's main downside is periodic stress. If that heart-lung machine stops working in the middle of a bypass operation, you'd better fix it now. Of course, if you do save the day, you are a true hero. A more significant downside is that biomed techs increasingly need aptitude both for fixing equipment and tweaking the computers embedded in state-of-the-art machines like an automatic infusion pump that can say, "No. That's too big a dose." Another downside is that perhaps one week a month, you'll be on 24-hour call—that patient on the heart-lung machine can't wait until the morning. Fortunately, you're likely to be called in only once or twice a week.
Next time you're visiting someone in the hospital and hear those lifesaving beeps and alarms, think about whether you just want to be grateful to a biomed tech, or become one.
National: $53,300. More pay data by metropolitan area
(Data provided by PayScale.com)
There are annual salary surveys from the Journal of Clinical Engineering, AAMI, and BI&T.
A two-year associate of applied science degree is typically required, from one of the 74 accredited institutions, listed here.
- Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation
- 24/7 (a trade magazine)
- Critical Careers: A Guide to Opportunities in Medical Equipment Service by Roger A. Bowles. A major revision, with the working title, The Biomed Tech's Career Guide, is scheduled for publication in early 2008.
- Introduction to Biomedical Equipment Technology (4th Edition) by Joseph Carr