Guide to Medical Equipment Repair Careers
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Not everyone who works in healthcare is a doctor or a nurse, and one of the most vital roles in inpatient care a medical equipment repairer. Whether it’s fixing X-ray machines or making repairs to wheelchairs, medical equipment repairers maintain and take care of the computer-based machinery that saves lives. A facility with a broken x-ray machine or non-functioning robotic surgical equipment costs patients, hospitals, and insurance providers time and money. Fixing healthcare machines quickly and efficiently can save lives.
Medical equipment repairer careers are expected to grow in the coming years to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding healthcare sector. Reasons for this job growth include increased demand for healthcare services and advancing technologies and tools that require more complex skills to fix. This includes technologies such as MRI, ultrasound and X-ray machines, as well as older, simpler items, such as electric beds or wheelchairs.
According to O*NET Online, medical equipment repairer jobs require skills ranging from calibrating components to soldering connections. Troubleshooting micro-processing and microcomputer skills may also be necessary in some cases.
Technical skills are a must for the occupation, but those interested in the career should also be good at communicating and time management. A wide range of patient-facing facilities such as hospitals and clinics need to have equipment working efficiently to care for patients.
Individuals can choose to earn an associate degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering to acquire entry-level positions. A bachelor’s degree may be necessary for employees who want to work on more complex technology, such as defibrillators.
Read on to learn more about what it takes to prepare for a career in medical equipment repair, including job responsibilities, career outlook, education, salary, and certifications.
Medical Equipment Repairer Job Responsibilities
The BLS reports that the primary duties of a medical equipment repairer are to “install, maintain, and repair patient care equipment.” Medical equipment repairers, also known as biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs), use microcomputer equipment and handheld tools to install and maintain equipment and diagnose and troubleshoot problems.
BMETs may work with mechanical, hydraulic, or electrical components, and sometimes all three. For complex computer-based machines, medical equipment repairers must be skilled at using multimeters or electrical devices that measure and troubleshoot electrical equipment such as CAT scanners and x-ray machines. Less complicated medical equipment repairs include hospital beds and wheelchairs.
Reading blueprints, schematic drawings, and technical manuals is a part of a medical equipment technician’s job. A medical equipment repairer must know how to read and understand these types of manuals and be able to disassemble broken equipment, identify root causes for the issues, troubleshoot them, and then locate the parts needed for repair and install them.
Lastly, medical equipment repairers need to be sensitive to the needs of patients while they do their repairs in a hospital or a clinical setting. For obvious reasons, the work of medical equipment repairers must be precise and timely so that medical teams can adequately care for and treat their patients.
Medical Equipment Repairer Career Outlook
The BLS shows that 53,900 individuals are currently employed as medical equipment repairers in the U.S. Between 2019 and 2029, job opportunities in this field are expected to grow at a rate of 5 percent, a rate which is faster than the national average at 4 percent (BLS May 2020).
Those with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in biomedical equipment technology qualify for positions that require more technical skills and, as a result, command higher salaries for increased skill levels.
The states with the highest employment of medical equipment repairers were as follows (BLS May 2020):
- California: 5,350 employed
- Texas: 4,390
- Florida: 3,870
- Ohio: 2,230
- New York: 2,130
Top-Employing Industries for Medical Equipment Repairers
Unsurprisingly, the top employers of medical equipment repairers are the companies that manufacture and support medical equipment. Here is a list of the industries with the highest levels of employment for medical equipment repairers (BLS May 2020):
- Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers: 15,820 employed
- General medical and surgical hospitals: 7,100
- Rental and leasing services: 3,950
- Outpatient care centers: 2,980
- Health and personal care stores: 2,620
Some medical equipment repairers are also employed as contractors, meaning that they may have to travel, sometimes significant distances, to make repairs. Others are also self-employed. It’s worth noting that the figures above do not include self-employed medical equipment repairers.
Medical Equipment Repairer Salary
As of May 2020, the median salary for medical equipment repairers was $51,610, which breaks down to $24.81 per hour, according to the BLS. Depending on education or years of experience, these salaries spread across a range of percentiles.
Here are the salary percentiles for medical equipment repairers:
- 10th percentile: $31,180
- 25th percentile: $38,700
- 50th percentile: $51,610 (median)
- 75th percentile: $67,930
- 90th percentile: $84,720
PayScale.com is a site that provides self-reported information on salary, bonus, and hourly rate, as well as can break down salary data by years of experience and job location. PayScale’s data comprises 194 individuals reporting their salaries, and as of June 2021, their figures were more closely aligned with the BLS’s median annual salary of $58,958 per year.
According to SimplyHired.com (2021), the average medical salary for medical equipment repairers is $34,515 — somewhat lower than what the BLS reports — but, as with any other job, the pay can vary based upon experience, credentials, and location of employment.
Top-Paying Locations for Medical Equipment Repairers
The BLS reports that the states paying the highest wages for medical equipment repairers are as follows (BLS May 2020):
- Oregon: $74,350 per year
- Washington: $68,180
- Alaska: $66,930
- New Jersey: $65,090
- California: $64,450
It’s worth noting that the cost of living in these five of these states is higher than the nationwide average, a factor that could offset any higher pay. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) offers a cost of living data series to help individuals compare the cost of living in each state. Using this tool, people can better compare salary data against the average cost of housing, utilities, and groceries for a particular state.
Another valuable resource for comparing salary data at the state level is O*NET. Find details on pay by state by choosing the wages and employment trends option and then selecting “state wages.” The site shows that in Alabama, the median yearly income is $41,300, 22 percent lower than the national average. In Nebraska, it is much higher, at $55,710, which is more than 7 percent higher than the national average.
How to Become a Medical Equipment Repairer or Biomedical Technician
Educational requirements for medical equipment repairers vary based on the type of equipment being repaired and range from on-the-job experience to a bachelor’s degree. For example, to work on electric wheelchairs or hospital beds, an on-the-job program of up to one year may be enough, according to the BLS.
Here is a step-by-step guide to becoming a medical equipment repairer.
- Step 1: Graduate from high school or earn a GED (four years). Aspiring high school students are encouraged to keep their grades high in math, science, and computer science classes if offered. If offered, pursue elective courses in drafting, soldering, computer programming, or technical skills.
- Step 2: Earn an associate’s degree (two years). Community colleges offer two-year degrees in biomedical equipment technology. An example program is the associate’s degree program in biomedical equipment technology at Texas State Technical College. This program is offered on-campus or in hybrid or online formats and offers two specialization tracks: biomedical equipment technology or medical imaging systems. Some programs include internships and four-year degree tracks for those who want to earn a four-year degree.
- Step 3: Earn a bachelor’s degree (four years). With a more specialized focus on applied electrical engineering, bachelor’s degree programs position students to earn higher-level jobs working on more specialized equipment. An example program is the bachelor of science in engineering technology with an electronics concentration from East Tennessee State University. This program features extensive lab work to master the skills necessary to repair equipment in industrial and manufacturing settings.
- Step 4: Gain work experience (timeline varies). BMETs can gain work experience during or after completing a degree program or on-the-job training. Some certifications require a minimum number of years of professional experience.
- Step 5: Get certified (timeline varies). While most states do not require certification to work legally, most employers look for medical equipment repairers who hold a certification. As well, some healthcare facilities may require certification. The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) offers the certified associate in biomedical technology (CABT) entry-level certification. To be eligible for this exam, applicants must meet one of four criteria: an associate’s degree and two years of full-time BMET experience; completion of a U.S. military BMET program and two years of full-time experience; an associate’s degree or higher in electronics technology and three years’ full-time BMET experience; or four years of full-time BMET experience.
Depending on the technicality of the equipment, it can take anywhere from one to four years after graduating from high school to become a medical equipment repairer. As is the case with any career, and because technologies are constantly improving and advancing, continuing education is vital for this occupation, enabling individuals to stay up-to-date on changes in tools and technologies.
Certification for Medical Equipment Repairs
As previously mentioned, certification may not be required but can be helpful to obtaining employment as a medical equipment repairer. Some employers prefer to hire certified people, and some even pay for them to undergo the certification process.
The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) offers three types of certification, including the Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET), as well as the Certified Radiology Equipment Specialist (CRES), and Certified Laboratory Equipment Specialist (CLEB). Eligibility requirements vary based on education and background. Still, an associate degree in a biomedical program with at least two years of full-time work experience in the field is one alternative for CBET certification.
Career Resources for Medical Equipment Repairers
Whether looking for work as a contractor or an organization, various job boards are available to help in a job search. Here are some career resources that may be helpful to those interested in the medical equipment repairer occupation.
- Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI): The AAMI offers credentialing for professionals to become certified as biomedical equipment technicians (BET). Individuals do not need to be a member of the association to work on certification, but if they are, they can access different benefits including discounts on AAMI products. More detailed information about medical equipment repair certification is included above.
- Equipment Management Service And Repair: EMSAR, a franchise organization offering installation, maintenance, and repair services, has a job board listing the states where full-time technicians are in demand. Pay is based upon job location and an individual’s experience.
- META: This organization provides a listing of hundreds of job opportunities available across the U.S. on its website. Each position is listed by location and by date posted. Individuals can also post their resumes and sign up for job alerts.
- MERA Medical and Scientific Equipment Maintenance and Repair Services: This organization is an alliance of companies providing medical repair services and solutions to companies for more than 30 years. The organization also offers its MERAcademy that trains MERA technicians on specific topics, types of equipment, or particular subjects every year.