In this article:
What is a Biomedical Engineering Technology Degree?
Defibrillators. Anesthesia machines. Patient monitors. Sterilizers. Electrocardiogram machines. These and other medical devices are calibrated, maintained, and repaired by biomedical engineering technologists (BETs).
Many of the devices have become very complex systems, as they are now microprocessor controlled. This evolving technology is at the heart of the BET curriculum, which comprises coursework in microcontroller programming, mathematics, computer systems, biomedical instrumentation, x-ray and diagnostic imaging equipment, and medical laboratory instrumentation, as well as anatomy, physiology, and medical equipment management.
Biomedical engineering technology combines the science of electronics and engineering principles with medical science and healthcare – and reminds us that doctors and nurses are not the only hospital professionals who help save people’s lives.
- It is important to select a program that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
- Degree programs in biomedical engineering technology prepare students to pass the recommended Certificate of Biomedical Engineering Technology (CBET) exam.
Associate Degree in Biomedical Engineering Technology – Two Year Duration
The associate degree is the most common credential held by biomedical engineering technologists. Programs at this level provide students with fundamental knowledge and hands-on experience with electronics, microcontroller applications, computer network systems, and medical imaging systems. The curriculum also covers medical laboratory practices, anatomy, physiology, and health technology management.
Here is a snapshot of a typical program:
- Digital Fundamentals – introduction to the principles of digital systems; topics include binary number systems and codes, Boolean logic, and logic gates; combinational and sequential logic circuits are constructed and interpreted using integrated circuits (ICs) and simulation software; medium scale integration (MSI) devices are examined and are implemented to create digital systems; digital circuit troubleshooting techniques are applied to identify faults
- Passive Circuits – a theory course that introduces students to fundamental electrical quantities, laws, and mathematical equations relating to passive electric circuits; this knowledge will then be applied to determine basic circuit properties and perform circuit analysis; electrical properties include voltage, current, power, resistance, capacitance, inductance, and resonance; DC and AC circuit analysis will be performed on series, parallel, and series-parallel circuits; students will use Multisim simulation software to enhance their understanding of circuit principles
- Electronic Measurement and Hand Tool Skills – a lab course in which students will construct basic electronic circuits using breadboarding (a breadboard is a temporary circuit board for testing and prototyping circuits) and simulation software; electronic test equipment will be used to perform accurate and repeatable measurements; practical analysis and troubleshooting techniques using electronic instruments are practiced; this course develops soldering and de-soldering skills culminating in the assembly of a microcontroller kit that will be used throughout the program; using basic hand tools, the students will learn to safely disassemble and re-assemble medical devices
- Technical Mathematics and Calculus 1 - this course reviews and extends topics in algebra, trigonometry, and calculus which are relevant to biomedical engineering technology; topics include scientific and engineering notation, graphs, systems of linear equations, matrices, trigonometric functions, complex numbers, exponential and logarithmic functions, plane analytic geometry, and differential calculus
- Programming Fundamentals – introduction to standard procedural programming components such as variables, data types, loop structures, decision making, system and user defined functions, user input from keyboard and mouse, text, graphical output, and serial input/output; programming tools used will include the PROCESSING and ARDUINO development environments and the ARDUINO microboard; the combination of these tools will allow development of a graphical user interface controlling external hardware
- Electronic Devices and Active Circuits – introduction to solid state devices and active circuits; basic operation and circuit configuration of diodes, transistors and op-amps are examined; other topics include transistor switching, small signal amplifiers, filters, linear and switching regulators, and power supplies; students will implement active circuits to acquire signals from small signal transducers and construct and troubleshoot simple active circuit systems
- Effective Communications – the fundamentals of effective communications, concentrating on skills in writing, researching and analyzing information, public speaking, and critical thinking, all within the context of technical and business communications in the workplace
- Calculus 2 and Statistics – the concepts of integral calculus and differential equations with applications to biomedical engineering technology; topics include differentiation, partial differentiation, integration of polynomials and transcendental functions, and applications of the derivative and integral and solutions of differential equations using Laplace Transforms; students will analyze the gain of an electronic intelligent controller; the course also introduces the student to statistics and statistical methods which are commonly used in engineering; topics include data summarization, probability, and problems including normal distribution
- Microcontroller Systems – introduction to the operation and basic subsystems of the ATmega microcontroller; topics include basic digital input/output, port functions, memory structure and usage, serial communications, timers, interrupts, and analog to digital converter (ADC); this course also examines microcontroller interfacing to a variety of external devices including the liquid crystal display (LCD), real time clock, temperature sensor, external memory, accelerometer, and digital to analog converter (DAC); a biomed project (Patient Simulator) is included in this course
- Hardware and Software – development of PC hardware and software skills using a Windows based PC; students will install and configure PC hardware and operating systems; PC specifications and performance will be evaluated using system and benchmarking applications and components will be specified for a given system; troubleshooting skills are applied to solve PC hardware and software problems
- Anatomy and Physiology – the anatomy and physiology of the human body systems commonly monitored or regulated using medical diagnostic and life-support equipment; laboratory exercises reinforce concepts covered in lecture and provide opportunity for hands-on learning and use of some medical equipment
- X-Ray Systems – introduction to the principles of x-ray physics and the process of x-ray generation used in medical imaging; the power delivery systems required in a radiographic x-ray generator are detailed and explained; proper safety codes and practices will be implemented while performing service tests on an x-ray system to evaluate system performance; students will disassemble and reassemble parts of an x-ray system and calibrate the system to manufacturers specifications
- Medical Laboratory Instrumentation – various aspects of the medical laboratory including disciplines, automation, use of computers and software, and the laboratory’s role in patient healthcare; safe work practices, quality assurance features, and the analytical principles of common clinical laboratory methods will also be examined; this course will provide the biomedical technologist with background knowledge to communicate with medical laboratory professionals
- Circuit Applications – a combined theory and project course which focuses on circuit applications and systems used for medical devices; topics include power supply systems, batteries, battery monitoring and recharge circuits, electro-mechanical transducer drive circuits, signal conditioning, motor control, and graphical user interface (GUI) for device control and feedback
- Networking and PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) – introduction to the concepts of networking and interfacing with medical devices as well as how medical data is archived; theory will include networking fundamentals, protocols, topologies, networking hardware, wireless technologies, network security and PACS functionality basics; in the lab portion of the course students will construct a basic network using the various network devices; other lab components include how wireless technology is used with medical devices, the use of network monitoring tools, various security strategies employed in a network setting, and working with a functional PACS
- Technical Project Management – standard project management theory and application of the theory in support of student technical projects; a project proposal and plan will be developed and presented; project scope and time management are covered utilizing standard project management tools
- Technical Project – a team based project course intended to give students experience managing, designing, building, testing and presenting a complex technical system; students working in teams will apply knowledge gained from many previous biomedical engineering technology courses, including circuit fabrication, analog and digital circuits analysis, microcontrollers, programming, data communications, and technical report writing to complete assigned project requirements; teamwork and management skills are also emphasized in this course; each team must research and select a project, write a proposal, procure parts, and submit status reports; a final project presentation and technical report are also required
- Diagnostic Imaging Systems – the technologies used in the medical application of ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and nuclear medicine imaging systems
- Renal Dialysis – a practical orientation to water purification, renal failure, and dialysis technology; learning activities will emphasize the theoretical principals of each topic and relate these to the life of a typical dialysis patient
- Biomedical Instrumentation – a practical orientation to many of the common pieces of medical instrumentation found in a modern acute-care hospital; emphasis is placed on the development of working skills common to the biomedical equipment service industry; learning experiences center around laboratory exercises involving operation, function testing, and preventative maintenance of a variety of medical instruments including heart monitors, defibrillators, and ventilators
- Radiographic Image Acquisition and Management – the basics of diagnostic imaging terminology, x-ray production, and radiation safety; topics include image acquisition, image processing, Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS), and principles of radiographic imaging; laboratory sessions will provide students experience with using radiographic imaging systems and quality control test tools; professionalism and communication within a health care environment
- Practical Work Experience – this five-week work experience is designed to transition the biomedical student into the workplace; the student is placed into an unpaid, entry-level biomedical technologist position with a public or private sector employer; the student will be challenged to perform technical work, learn within the workplace, and communicate effectively with other professionals; direction, mentoring, and supervision, are provided by the employer
Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering Technology – Four Year Duration
Bachelor’s programs in biomedical engineering technology are quite rare. In addition to covering all of the subject matter of associate level programs, the bachelor’s curriculum incorporates advanced courses in physics, calculus, chemistry, and statistics. This level of undergraduate education is more suited to students considering further study in the biomedical engineering discipline.
Degrees Similar to Biomedical Engineering Technology
Simply stated, biomedical engineering uses engineering to solve health and medical problems. For example, a biomedical engineer might look for chemical signals in the body that warn of a particular disease or condition.
Majors in this field study engineering and the life sciences to create new products – such as vaccines, medicines, growth hormones for plants, and food additives – for the agricultural, industrial, and environmental industries. Among typical classes are biochemistry, general biology, cell biology, chemistry, and genetics.
Materials scientists apply principles of engineering, physics, and chemistry to study existing materials and invent and manufacture new materials. Their work has broad applications to solving real-world problems. It is essential to our everyday lives.
Degree programs in materials science cover the structure and composition of materials, how they behave under various conditions, and how they can be manipulated and combined for specific uses in specific industries – from health and engineering to electronics, construction, and manufacturing.
Students of mechanical engineering learn how to research, design, develop, and test mechanical and thermal devices, including tools, sensors, engines, and machines. These devices serve many industries, including the aerospace, medical, energy, and manufacturing sectors. In addition to coursework in engineering and design, degree programs in the field include classes in mathematics, life sciences, and physical sciences.
Radiological Science and Technologies
Degree programs in radiological science and technologies prepare students for careers as radiologic technologists. These professionals, also known as radiographers, use medical diagnostic equipment, tools, and instruments to capture images of the organs, bones, and tissues inside the body. They also analyze and interpret these images in consultation with doctors and other medical team members.
In addition to learning imaging procedures and image interpretation, students take foundational courses in anatomy and physiology, physics, and pathology. They also learn how to maintain imaging equipment, prepare patients for imaging procedures, and protect patients from harmful radiation.
Skills You’ll Learn
Individuals who study and work in the field of biomedical engineering develop a set of skills that are transferable to a variety of careers. Among these skills are:
- Appreciation for product marketability
- Attention to detail
- Communication developed through the need to collaborate with professionals in the medical, scientific, and engineering fields
- Data analysis
- Observation, investigation, research, and problem-solving
- Product design, development, testing, and modification
- Report writing and documentation
- Safe experimentation
- Technical savvy
- Three-dimensional conceptual ability
What Can You Do with a Biomedical Engineering Technology Degree?
Graduates of a biomedical engineering technology program have several employment options. Most begin their career as equipment service personnel with hospitals or medical equipment companies, the two most common employers of biomedical engineering technologists.
Working in hospitals
- Provide technical quality assurance by performing installation, inspection, calibration, and repair
- Provide service documentation for specialized equipment such as X-ray based and ultrasound imaging and medical laboratory and dialysis equipment
- Network medical instrumentation with hospital information systems
Working with medical equipment companies
- In the role of a field service representative, travel to customer sites to service equipment
- With experience, become a modality specialist, the primary account representative for a portfolio of customers; examples of medical imaging modalities are CT (computer tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), ultrasound, x-ray, and nuclear medicine imaging including PET (positron emission tomography)
Additional opportunities exist in:
- Research, development, and product innovation
- Laboratories and private clinics
- Technology support and training
- Medical product sales and marketing
See which schools are the most and least expensive.Read about Tuition