Biomedical Engineering Technician Apprenticeship Program
If you are wondering just how important the work of a biomedical engineering technician (BMET) is, ask any patient who is living with kidney disease and depends on a dialysis machine. The complex components of the dialysis machine require calibration, maintenance, testing, and troubleshooting to ensure they are working properly, and it’s just one example of the critical work performed by BMETs.
Isaac Benitez got his start in the medical field as a BMET while studying at Howard Community College (HCC).
“I have always had a knack for fixing things and working on equipment, but also really liked the idea of having a job in the health care industry because I wanted to help people,” said Benitez.
While taking classes, he also worked full-time at Med-Electronics, a medical technology sales and service provider headquartered in Beltsville, Maryland. Benitez was able to apply what he was learning in the classroom to his day-to-day work at Med-Electronics, gaining valuable field experience and exposure that would someday differentiate him in the competitive marketplace. The company also funded his tuition, books, and administrative fees as he earned an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degree.
HCC has always offered a BMET degree program, but recently launched Maryland’s only BMET apprenticeship program, providing students an “earn while you learn” educational model that capitalizes on the benefits Benitez saw through his combined work and school experiences.
“Apprenticeship programs are very popular because it gives students a chance to gain real-world experiences as they are pursuing their education, while offsetting the costs associated with going to college,” said Karla Whittaker, apprenticeship coordinator at HCC. “Our apprenticeship programs are designed to give students a lot of flexibility so they can work during the day and take classes in the evenings, which is a draw for not only our BMET students but also those who are part of our IT, construction management, and HVAC apprenticeship programs.”
One of the reasons HCC has introduced its new BMET apprenticeship program is because demand for well-trained professionals in the biomedical engineering technology field is on the rise, with expected growth of four percent over the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The medium salary for an entry-level biomedical engineering technician is $50,000, which is about 10 percent higher here in Maryland than the national average,” said Mark Edelen, chair of the engineering and technology department at HCC. “Perhaps most importantly is that the demand for new talent in this industry is increasing and will continue to do so. A substantial portion of the jobs in this industry are currently filled by people over the age of 52. As these professionals continue to age and eventually retire, companies need to recruit new people to fill the gap.”
Bob Patterson can attest to Edelen’s statement, and stresses that local employers strive to recruit people who are well-trained, and who can hit the ground running right away once they are hired. Patterson has worked as service manager at Med-Electronics for over 30 years, and also serves as a BMET program instructor at HCC.
“We spend time in the classroom learning about the various types of equipment in the medical field, what each machine does, and how it interacts with other technologies,” explained Patterson. “Then we spend time in our labs working hands-on with the equipment. We challenge our students to take equipment apart, calibrate it, test it, and rebuild it. These learning experiences teach them so much and give them confidence. They know what to do when they are tasked with something similar at work the next day or the following week. It’s a great example of why the combination of classwork and on-the-job training is so valuable.”
Today, Benitez, age 25, works as a biomedical service specialist at DaVita, Inc., a national provider of kidney dialysis services. He manages dialysis equipment in four locations, and is proud of the progress he has made in his career.
“I love my job because I know it matters and is helping people,” he said. “HCC created a pathway for me to not only begin my career, but to grow in my career, too. This is a booming field and there will always be a need for this service. I will have so many opportunities because of the training I received. I am in a good place.”
For more, visit our BMET Apprenticeship page.
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