Jonathan Grashow, M.S. Biomedical Engineering, Four and one half years industrial experience, Design Engineer III at Evaheart Medical describes his job search experience, insights into BME curriculum and includes job prep suggestions for the new graduate.
“As a bioengineering graduate myself I can relate to how hard it can be to land a job in the medical device industry as a new graduate biomedical engineer. Many published articles and other media outlets suggest to students that upon graduation with a biomedical engineering degree they will be met with a plethora of lucrative job offers, but in reality this isn’t the case. I think one of the main reasons for this stems from the fact that companies in today’s fast paced medical device world are very concerned about what a new hire can do for them on day one. There is a (somewhat correct) perception that BS biomedical engineering graduates know a little about many different things, but not enough about any one thing to be helpful without significant additional training. I think one of the major reasons for this is that many biomedical engineering programs are geared towards the academic career track. BS graduates are well prepared to… continue their education, work in academic research laboratories and become research professors (which is not necessarily a bad thing). They are not as well prepared to step into an industrial setting. The effects of this perception are magnified by the fact that many of the people making hiring decisions don’t have a good understanding of what a biomedical engineering education includes. Most of the accredited programs for biomedical engineering are relatively new and may not have existed when hiring managers were in school. This lack of understanding can be easily remedied in an interview by reviewing a candidate’s coursework, but often times hiring managers don’t have time to interview a person who’s qualifications don’t match the posted job description. For this reason, in my experience the biomedical engineering degree can be more of an impediment to getting a foot in the door (to that first interview) than it is to getting an offer.
Putting this criticism aside, the last 4 engineering job openings we’ve had have been filled by bioengineers (one BS, two MS, and one PhD). We’ve found that there is a pool of extremely bright and talented bioengineers available for hire who can’t find jobs (especially in our area). All of the bioengineering candidates we have hired have been extremely successful. Here are three things I think BS biomedical engineering graduates with aspirations to enter the medical device workforce can do to improve their chances of landing a job:
1. Gain experience through industrial internships. This gives a candidate something to show companies who want to know what a candidate can do for them and also expands a candidate’s professional network (probably the single most important component to landing a new job). A resume with 2 summers of experience at a medical device company is infinitely more appealing to companies than one without any real-world experience.
2. Consider a wide range of jobs. As mentioned above, the biomedical engineering degree includes a wide range of different classwork. While this can be a liability because it comes at the cost of reduced depth of knowledge, it can also be helpful because a biomedical engineering education prepares a candidate for many more careers than most of the other engineering disciplines. Product development jobs are some of the hardest (but not impossible) for biomedical engineers to land because they have to compete with mechanical, electrical, chemical, and materials science engineers who usually have more specialized knowledge, however a biomedical engineering education is a great stepping stone to a wide range of careers such as: clinical engineer, regulatory professional, quality engineer, human factors engineer, etc.
3. Give companies what they need. Look through job descriptions, note the skills employers are looking for, and make an effort to obtain them. For example, in today’s medical device engineering job market LabVIEW programming is a skill that is widely sought. I’ve had many relatively new graduates claim to have LabVIEW skills based on limited exposure to it in a class or using a program written in LabVIEW by someone else. Usually this is not enough to operate at the level required for a real-world job. In order to rectify this, get a student copy of LabVIEW and a book and practice. To show potential employers that you have legitimate skills pass the LabVIEW Associate Developer certification test (at $200-$300 dollars this may seem expensive, but when you consider how expensive your college courses are it’s really quite a good value). Free sample tests are available online. Lastly, find a way to use LabVIEW for a project. First try to find a project like this in a university lab or an internship. If you absolutely can’t find anything then get creative and do something like setting up your kitchen appliances to make breakfast for you automatically in the morning. CAD skills are another good example. In my experience ProEngineer skills are the most highly requested, followed closely by SolidWorks and AutoCAD. As a student you can obtain a personal license for this software for pennies on the dollar. Take advantage of this. Writing “1000 hours of experience using SolidWorks” on your resume is a lot more powerful than stating that you used it in a class.”