Clinical engineers work in health care settings assessing medical technology needs and providing medical equipment oversight. The field typically is classified as a sub-field or branch of biomedical engineering. To become a clinical engineer generally requires a bachelor's degree or higher degree in an engineering field with specific training in clinical engineering. Certification is not required to work as a clinical engineer, but it can make you more employable by signaling to employers that you have reached a level of competency in the profession. In the United States, certification to become a clinical engineer is awarded by the American College of Clinical Engineering (ACCE).
Clinical engineering is an evolving field, and college degree programs that are specifically in the subject are rare. Many people who become clinical engineers gain their degrees in biomedical engineering or other engineering disciplines, or they study engineering technology. Some study math or sciences.
After you have decided on a degree field and are working toward that degree, plan on taking additional courses to learn how you can take the engineering principles that you're learning and apply them to a clinical setting. Such coursework should include classes in human factors engineering, medical terminology, systems analysis, physiology and more. Some engineering degrees, especially in the field of bioengineering, offer internship opportunities in clinical engineering that teach students about medical operations and protocols.
If you decide to pursue certification to become a clinical engineer, there are several paths to take. You can achieve certification by having one of various combinations of education and experience. One example is to earn a bachelor's degree or higher degree in an engineering field and then work in engineering for four or more years, including three years in a clinical setting. After you have the requisite education and experience, you can apply for clinical engineering certification, which involves an application review process and written and oral testing.
Qualities that are important if you want to become a clinical engineer include good analytical skills, problem-solving ability and strong communication skills. Having empathy for people and a strong sense of ethics is important when working in the health care industry. Curiosity about how things work and creativity also will be helpful to you when you become a clinical engineer.
A job that is sometimes confused with that of clinical engineer is the role of the biomedical equipment technician. Both jobs are important, but they are distinct from each other. The clinical engineer works at a broader level, assessing and managing technology needs and analyzing problems. The biomedical equipment technician performs the more hands-on role of servicing and repairing medical equipment.