The field of biomedical engineering has many areas of specialization. Microbiologists, clinical research associates, biostatisticians, and biomedical technicians are a few popular examples. Each job has its pros and cons and everyone has different preferences, so finding the right career is all about determining the best fit for you.
Microbiologists focus on the small things. Many different fields exist inside microbiology, covering the tiniest organisms in the world. Since small organisms are everywhere, field sites and lab sites vary widely. As a microbiologist, you might perform a wide variety of jobs from developing new lab tests to creating new drugs. Depending on your focus, you might kill an organism that causes disease or foster growth in the ones that humans rely on for good health.
If research studies are more your speed, becoming a clinical research associate would be a great opportunity for you. No matter where you go, you’ll perform similar job duties, although the credentials needed to put your skills to use in clinical trials may vary. Employers include the government, pharmaceutical companies, and medical research organizations, all of which need a number of clinical research associates to perform functions critical to their mission. Choosing which of those three you might pursue is a trade-off in pay, work-life balance, and how you feel about the work.
If you like statistics, you’ll enjoy this option. Biostatisticians are charged with interpreting results across a wide variety of situations. In a lot of research, and especially in biology, it’s difficult to get a simple and straightforward answer from experiments. If you pick this path, you’ll be working to sort the pertinent data from the noise. As a biostatistician, you’ll have the chance to model results from many different health-related applications depending upon which employer you choose.
As a biomedical technician, you’ll work mostly with equipment. It’s an extremely important role in any biomedical lab. Without properly calibrated and well-maintained equipment and instruments, it’s difficult – and in some cases impossible – to deliver useful research and reliable results. The best labs in the world rely on technicians to keep them running at their peak. You’ll need additional training and certification depending on the equipment you maintain. Different labs may also have different requirements.
Biomedical engineering is a wide field with many different options. Once you nail down exactly what type of employer you want to work for, many of the field’s skills are broadly applicable across government, private sectors, and academia. If you’re still not sure, browse employment postings. Looking at actual listings will help you balance where you want to work, what kind of work you’d like to do, and how much you want to make.