Guide to Medical Equipment Repair Careers

Whether it’s fixing X-ray machines or making repairs to wheelchairs, medical equipment repairers maintain and take care of a variety of equipment. Technical skills are a definite must for the occupation, but those interested in the career should also be good at communicating and time management. After all, companies, including hospitals, need to have equipment readily available and working efficiently to be able to take care of their patients and clientele, and medical personnel need to understand the status of said equipment. After all, how can a facility with a broken X-ray machine or instrumentation that doesn’t function properly provide timely care? Use this guide to medical equipment repair careers to learn more about the occupation, and specializations within it, and gain a better understanding of the field.

Medical Equipment Repairer Overview

Blueprints, schematic drawings and technical manuals are a part of any medical equipment technician’s job. Not only must a technician know how to read and understand these types of manuals, but also 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. This can require skills ranging form calibrating components to soldering connections, according to O*NET Online. Micro-processing and microcomputer skills may also be involved.

As of 2012, there were 42,300 individuals employed as medical equipment repairers in the U.S., and job opportunities are expected to be excellent for prospective employees through 2022. Those with an associate degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering could find the best job opportunities, according to the BLS, but opportunities could also be better for those willing to work in rural areas. States with the highest employment of medical equipment repairers, as of 2013, include California, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio (BLS). Immediately below, we provide numerous resources that should be helpful to anyone considering a medical equipment repairer career:

  • U.S. News & World Report: Read more about the medical equipment repairer career, including how people rate the occupation in terms of upward mobility (above average!), stress level and flexibility.

  • Summary Report for Medical Equipment Repairers: Put together by O*NET Online, a partner of the American Job Center Network, this site provides many kinds of details about the occupation, including common tools and technologies employees in the field use and what their work environment and responsibilities are like. For example, 74% of people reported that they are on the phone every day in their job.

  • Engineering World Health: Think the medical equipment repairer occupation keeps you limited to a certain number of places? Wrong! As this article shows, EWH offers a summer institute (SI) that sends students overseas to repair medical equipment in other countries, as varied as Nicaragua, Rwanda and Tanzania. All together, through this program, more than 4,200 pieces of medical equipment have been repaired, representing approximately $8.6 million worth of machinery and equipment.

  • BPI Medical: The blog on this website provides information on the newer types of equipment that people could work on or maintain in the healthcare industry. This website features a series of articles on the use of flexible endoscopes, which are increasingly being used in hospitals and surgery centers across the country, according to the site.

  • Doctors Toy Store: Need an idea about the type of equipment that you could work on in your career? It could be more than just X-ray machines. In fact, the Doctors Toy Store can give you an idea about the broad range of instrumentation used in healthcare. The site provides information about a wide variety of tools, ranging from power chairs to surgical lights and endoscopes used in the healthcare industry and available for purchase.

Medical Equipment Repairer Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks information for a variety of healthcare careers, including those for medical equipment repairers. From 2012 to 2022, the BLS predicts that job opportunities for medical equipment repairers are expected to grow by 30 percent, which is much faster than average compared to all jobs. Reasons for this job growth include an increased demand for healthcare services as well as 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 the BLS. Career resources that may be helpful to those interested in the medical equipment repairer occupation include:

Top Employers for Medical Equipment Repairers

Who are the top employers of medical equipment repairers? The BLS shows that many equipment repairers, 26 percent, were employed by commercial equipment and supply wholesalers in 2012. Another 14 percent were working for state, local or private hospitals and 7 percent for ambulatory health care services. Finally, 6 percent were employed by health and personal care stores.

Some medical equipment repairers are also employed as contractors, meaning that they may have to travel, sometimes significant distances, to be able to make repairs. Others are also self-employed. In fact, the BLS shows that of the 42,300 people working in the occupation as of 2012, 15 percent were self-employed. Whether you are looking for work as a contractor or for an organization, such as a hospital, a variety of job boards are available (in addition to typical job search sites) to help in your search. Some of these include:

  • Equipment Management Service And Repair: EMSAR, a franchise organization, offering installation, maintenance and repair services, has a job board listing the states in which it needs full-time technicians. 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 positions is listed by location and by date posted. Individuals can also post their resumes and sign up for job alerts.

  • AAMI: Members of this organization can post their resume, look for jobs or create personalized job alerts using this website. More than 1,500 jobs were posted on its job board, as of early July 2015, including locations all across the U.S., and as far away as Juneau, Alaska. Details, such as responsibilities and qualifications, are listed for each position.

Medical Equipment Repairer Salary

As of May 2013, the median salary for medical equipment repairers was $44,180, breaking down to $21.24 per hour, according to the BLS. Employees in the top 10 percent earned as much as $72,660 yearly, or $34.93 per hour, while those in the lowest 10 percent earned as little as $26,930, or $12.95 per hour. According to SimplyHired.com, the average medical salary for medical equipment repairers is $39,000 — somewhat lower than what the BLS reports — but, as with any other job, pay can vary based upon experience, credentials and location of employment. Below are more websites offering information on salary.

  • USA Wage: Look to this website for information about medical equipment repairer pay based upon the state that you live in. Simply scroll to the bottom of the web page to select the appropriate state and receive state-specific information about average annual and hourly pay and the salary trend over several years.

  • The College Board: Find out how pay for medical equipment repairers compares to other occupations. For example, medical repairers earn more than individuals in other types of repair occupations, including those in musical instrument repair.

  • Payscale.com: Yet another source for information on salary and pay, this site provides information on salary, bonus, and hourly rate, as well as can break down information by years of experience and job location. For example, medical equipment repairers with less than one year of experience reportedly earn about $15 per hour while those with 20 or more years of experience earn about $22.03 per hour, according to the site.

Top Locations for Medical Equipment Repairers

The BLS reports that the highest wages earned by medical equipment repairers are in the states of Alaska ($69,510), Utah ($57,450), Oregon ($57,160), Nebraska ($56,640) and New Jersey ($54,630). Three of these states –Alaska, Oregon and New Jersey–however, have costs of living that are higher than the nationwide average and that could offset any higher pay. On the other hand, Utah and Nebraska have costs of living that are lower than the nationwide average. Keep in mind that opportunities may be best in rural areas, according to the BLS, but that needs could also be strong in highly populated, urban areas.

  • MERIC Cost of Living: Compare the cost of living per state with the nationwide average and discover which states have higher and lower COLA than average.

  • Occupational Employment and Wages: This BLS webpage provides information about the medical equipment repairer occupation, breaking down state locations with the highest concentration of jobs and the top paying metropolitan areas.

  • O*NET OnLine: 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, for example, median yearly pay is $40,300, but that in Wyoming it is much lower, at $29,800. Even more exciting, searchers can be more specific and look at information based upon zip code. In the 20029 zip code, for the urban Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria area, the median yearly pay is $54,100.

 

How to Become a Medical Equipment Repairer

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. Individuals can also complete an associate degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering. A bachelor’s degree may be necessary for employees who want to work on more complex technology, like defibrillators. Because technologies are always improving and advancing, continuing education is important to this occupation, enabling individuals to stay up-to-date on changes in tools and technologies. Certification may also be helpful to obtaining employment, with some employers preferring to hire people who are certified or even paying for them to go through the certification process, according to the BLS. Below are some links that provide information about the steps to becoming a medical equipment repairer:

  • Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation: The 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, but an associate degree in a biomedical program with at least two years of fulltime work experience in the field is one alternative for CBET certification.

  • “Becoming a Biomedical Equipment Technician (BMET)”: This 3:30 minute YouTube video, sponsored by AAMI, provides reasons for going into the field, responsibilities that you will have on the job, and information on job demand. It also points out that when most people check into a hospital, they assume that the medical equipment will work properly, when, in fact, there are skilled professionals helping to maintain it and keep it functioning.

  • “New biomedical equipment technician program opens doors into medical field”: This article, posted in The Pasadena Citizen, points out how essential biomedical equipment technician repairers are to healthcare, helping repair not only patient monitors, but defibrillators as well as medical imaging equipment. The article also speaks about how technicians can diversify their career, particularly if they learn about microcomputers and microprocessors in a program.

  • “Medical Equipment Repair Can be a Gamble”: Showing the tough side of the field, this article, posted on Angie’s List, points out that complaints against medical repair companies and technicians can be harsh. However, as one company co-owner points out, problems with equipment can also be caused by users and not always as the result of improper repairs.

  • Biomedical Engineering Technology Careers Overview: The information posted on this DeVry University bachelor’s degree program page indicates that professionals employed in the field can work on very complex machinery, ranging from medical equipment imaging to artificial devices, such as pacemakers and prosthetics.

  • “Biomedical Engineering Technologist”: This 5:19 minute video on YouTube talks about what one technologist does while working at a Canadian hospital, including responding to service calls. This person’s specialty is the maternity ward and includes helping take care of fetal monitors that track heart rates. She also talks about how studying chemistry, physics, biology and math is helpful to becoming a logical and critical thinker, which
    is beneficial to understanding how things operate.

The variety of technologies and equipment types that need repair and the locations at which these need to be done, from rural areas to big cities and even overseas, shows how exciting a career as a medical equipment repairer can be. With job opportunities expected to be much faster than average up to 2022 and with healthcare advancing forever toward the future, as evidenced through trends in electronic medical records and healthcare analytics, knowing how to work on technologies, both new and old, may be a smart place to be.

Barry Franklin
Barry Franklin Editor

Barry is the Editor-in-Chief of MedicalTechnologySchools.com, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, which he co-founded. Previously, Barry served as a VP at a Silicon Valley software company. In addition to running editorial operations at Sechel, Barry also serves on the Board of Trustees at a local K-8 school, and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, where he also met his wife.