If you’re an engineer or will be soon, the medical field may not be on your radar — but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be.
The medical sector is enormous, and you’ll be able to get some unusual opportunities as an engineer.
You can be almost any kind of engineer for this field because they need everyone. Chemical, electrical, biological, mechanical and even computer engineers all have a place in the medical field.
This variance happens because the medical field is so large. Research and development are always happening, especially as new diseases keep popping up. The biomedical engineering field is predicted to continue growing much faster than average,
1. You’re Expected to Work
Medical work, of any kind, is hard. The end goal of your job is to help save lives. That’s a fantastic goal, but you have to work in a way you’re not used to. While you may not be the one in the operating room, some of the equipment you’ve serviced may be. It will have to function perfectly to help keep people safe. If you’re in a lab, you may have to try to find a way to store vaccines for longer periods so they can be transported efficiently.
Some people aren’t comfortable working with that kind of pressure, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, it’s important to have some idea of your comfort level before you take on a job in this industry.
2. Work-Life Balance Will Vary
Most of science has a “hurry up and wait” approach. That means you might go a few months of working constant overtime, followed by a dead area where you’ve just got to wait around. However, that depends on what kind of engineering you’re doing. If you’re a mechanical engineer and you have a variety of medical machinery that you can work with, your workflow may remain quite steady.
3. There are Potential Exposure Risks
If you’re working in a medical lab or hospital, you may run the risk of exposure. In a lab setting, this risk is often very minimal and well-controlled, and it might be part of your job to make sure it stays that way.
You wouldn’t be at the same risk level as a nurse or doctor, but it’s still a risk. It may mean you’d need to think about different things, like the possibility of bringing pathogens home on your clothes that your family might then be exposed to.
Either way, the risk is low, and engineering controls are vital to minimizing exposure for every person in the health care field. You can also choose to work at labs with lower biosafety levels, which means you wouldn’t be around some of the more severe diseases, but working in a more dangerous area also means you can help more people. It’s a trade-off.
4. Don’t Sell Yourself Short
Most engineers, especially those that are already established in the field, may not think they’re qualified for a career in the medical industry.
It’s easy to assume you’d need some background understanding of the field or at least a solid grasp of chemistry.
That might be true if you’re applying specifically as a biomedical or chemical engineer, but there are also testing standardization and software application tasks that engineers can do, too. If you still have reservations, read some real-world case studies of medical validation testing or software implementations and see if that isn’t more up your alley.
The doctors, scientists and nurses who use the equipment regularly don’t always have the time, knowledge or ability to figure out how it works. As the science becomes more and more dependent on technology, engineers become a more integral part of the biomedical workforce.
5. It’ll Be Cutting Edge
Some people like being in brand new territory, but it has its pitfalls. There tends to be a much higher failure rate, for starters. You’ll also have to face problems that no one has dealt with before and figure them out.
Some of the issues may take days or weeks to resolve, along with the planned maintenance that has to occur in currently functioning areas. You’ll constantly have to learn about new equipment and new problems with old equipment, and you may well end up teaching people how to use the equipment they just got.
Engineering is a broad field and has well over 20 different branches. Not all of them apply to the medical industry, but many do.
Even those who think they don’t stand a chance in the field may find themselves surprisingly well-equipped to move into it.
If you think you’d like to make a difference and learn about brand new technology while you’re at it, give it a shot!
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