Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineers use engineering and scientific principles and techniques to solve medical and health-related problems in biology, medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science.

Biomedical engineers design and develop medical instruments and devices such as heart-lung machines, iron lungs, artificial kidney machines, realistic artificial limbs and organs such as heart valves and hips, pacemakers and monitoring devices. They also adapt computers to be of service to medicine.

Research ranges from the study of the engineering aspects of human biological systems to the improvement of existing medical devices. They design and develop equipment for medical imaging to display anatomical detail or physiological function. They may arrange testing to ensure the continuing safety of electronic, electrical and mechanical equipment used for diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of patients.

Some biomedical engineers advise and recommend the purchase of new equipment to administrators. They are also often involved with the training and supervision of technicians.

Biomedical engineers plan data processing services and the development of associated computing programs. They also analyze new medical procedures to forecast likely outcomes. They diagnose and interpret bioelectric data using signal processing techniques and provide computer analyzes of patient-related data.

They are concerned with the safety and effectiveness of instruments and devices and also advise on patient management. Engineers in this field often consult their medical and paramedical colleagues to find solutions to problems in the treatment of patients. This leads to the design, construction and development of instruments and devices that may help to relieve suffering and improve the quality of the patient's life. They analyze and design prosthetic and orthotic devices particularly for those with disabilities.

Biomedical engineers must have a good theoretical and practical knowledge of engineering, a sound understanding of medical sciences and the ability to combine the two. They usually work in multidisciplinary teams with other professionals including nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists, other medical specialists, physiotherapists, and occupational and speech therapists.

Specializations include:

  • Bio-engineering whereby engineering principles are applied to the study of biological systems and processes
  • Clinical Engineers research, develop and maintain instruments and equipment to aid clinical staff
  • Rehabilitation Engineers deal with systems and devices that improve the quality of life of people with disabilities

Personal Requirements

  • work well with others
  • effective communication skills
  • precise observation and measurement skills
  • able to work independently and in a team
  • persevering and flexible
  • patience and imagination
  • analytical, problem-solving and designing skills
  • mechanical ability
  • manual dexterity and good eye-hand coordination

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

Degree: The University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Wits offer degree courses in Biomedical Engineering. The Department of Biomedical Engineering forms part of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and the Groote Schuur group of teaching hospitals.

Post-graduate study: Since undergraduate training in engineering or physical sciences is an entry requirement, courses in Biomedical Engineering consist of post-graduate programmes leading to the following degrees:

  •  BSc (Med)(Hons) Biomedical Science
  •  MSc (Med) Biomedical Engineering or Biomedical Science
  •  MPhil and PhD
A biomedical engineer who wants to practise in a clinical setting must register with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) as a Biomedical Engineer. An MSc (Med) degree in Biomedical Engineering is recognised by the Engineering Council of South Africa and by the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) as partial credit towards registration as a Professional Engineer and a Biomedical Engineer respectively.


  • the Centre for Engineering and Health Care, University of Cape Town
  • hospitals and other health care facilities
  • medical research institutes
  • universities
  • medical electronics industry
  • self-employment, with the necessary experience - set up a private firm to develop, design, manufacture and market medical instruments and devices, as well as to offer consulting services.

Further Information

Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) 
1st Floor, Waterview Corner Building
2 Ernest Oppenheimer Avenue
Bruma Lake Office Park, Bruma
Johannesburg, 2198 
Tel: (011) 607-9500

Department of Biomedical Engineering
Faculty of Medicine
University of Cape Town
Observatory, 7925

Department of Electronic Engineering
University of Tshwane 
Brooklyn, 0181

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work in a hospital or other health care centre
  • make an appointment to speak to a biomedical engineer about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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