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Getting Started with Medical Devices

Career Paths
Medical Devices
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When starting in the field of medical devices, you need a strong background in biology and the biological sciences.  A post graduate degree in some field of engineering, like chemical engineering, can be very useful.  Medical devices is a field where creative people invent and develop products for use in the medical sciences. 

The medical device field has a broad range of products, including coronary artery stents, orthopedic devices, dental products, surgical products and bone transplantation products.  Some of the larger companies create a variety of medical products.  Smaller companies may make only one or two products.  You can work at a company that doesn’t manufacture any products, but has a heavy research dynamic.  Working in medical devices usually means working in private industry.  The only governmental jobs available for medical devices are jobs at the US Patent Office, where you review products for their uniqueness and feasibility, and the FDA, which approves the safety of the products.

Corporations that make Medical Devices

  • CovidienCovidien provides medical devices to a hospitals, clinics, home care and long term care facilities.  They identify clinical medical needs and provide products and services in areas like contrast media, electrosurgery, surgical stapling, laparoscopic instrumentation and pulse oximetry. Two of its leading products are Autosuture and Kendall.  They have a total of 42,000 employees in sixty countries, and focus on growth, leveraging their global culture, innovation and portfolio management.
  • Boston Scientific.  Boston Scientific has created breakthrough medical devices and products for more than thirty years.  Its focus is on non-invasive medicine, and it has about 25,000 employees and 17 medical manufacturing facilities throughout the world.  It has a total of 15,717 outstanding patents worldwide.  It runs clinical studies designed to create medical products and has awarded more than 85 community grants and 100 medical fellowships in 2009 alone.
  • Johnson & Johnson.  Johnson & Johnson makes medical devices and products for the hospital, operating room and laboratories. Their products include hip replacement, coronary artery stents and tests for those who have headaches, breast cancer or diabetes.  They have both a medical device and pharmaceutical division.
  • Thermo Fisher ScientificThermo Fisher has several divisions, including a healthcare division.  Key products include rapid screening tests, especially for flu viruses, and clinical healthcare products.  This company has an active research and development department that creates new products for laboratory and hospital use.
  • Medtronic.  Medtronic makes medical devices for chronic diseases.  They have several different areas of medical expertise, including cardiac rhythm disease management (pacemakers primarily), spinal and biologics, cardiovascular, neuromodulation, diabetic devices and surgical devices.  They have an international division.  Their work in heart rhythm control dates back to the creation of the first pacemaker in 1957.  Among other products, they make implantable defibrillators.
  • Baxter International.  In the area of medical devices, Baxter International provides solutions for drug delivery systems for hospitals all over the world.  For those with renal conditions, this company is one of the leading corporations for home and in-hospital dialysis equipment.  It has an active research department that strives to develop new products for multiple medical areas of expertise.
  • StrykerThis company specializes in medical equipment for emergency departments and EMS systems, including evacuation equipment, and emergency cots.  There are also product categories in the area of orthopedics, pain management, spinal medicine, trauma medicine and operating room equipment.  There are job opportunities in the areas of intellectual property and technology, among others.

There are a number of smaller companies out there.  There are small companies all over the country and the world that make one or two products and are looking for someone in research and development to maximize the products they’ve got or to create new products.  You need to search the web for these corporations or work with a recruiter.

Job Titles

You can have a number of different job titles working in companies that create and manufacture medical devices.  You could work in sales at any one of the above corporations, where you would sell the company’s products worldwide.  You could be a project manager in a research and development team or a scientist in research and development.   You could also be a product developer in areas of new product development.  Some job titles include “product developer” or “program manager in medical products”.  Investigative manager is another job title you could aspire to.  As a postgraduate in Engineering and Biology, you will be in the best position to get the choice jobs in the research and development of new products. 

Resources for Finding Jobs in Medical Products

Many of the large corporations have career opportunities on their websites.  Some of the smaller corporations have career opportunities posted on their sites.  You can check out the Medical Device sections of large job boards like Career Builder or the smaller career sites dedicated to careers in the biomedical sciences.  

What does it take to do jobs in these areas?

Much of your skill set depends on what kind of job you are interested in. If you are working in research and development, you may need bench skills and strong engineering skills.  You may manage a team of people all working on the same problem or project so that you need some communication skills and the ability to lead a team.  You need skills in strategy because you will be creatively coming up with new product ideas.  Travel is possible if you are working on a bicoastal product or working with a group in another country. 

If you will be working in the area of sales, you will need strong communication and “people skills” and should be prepared to travel a lot.  Work in sales implies you know the product very well and have the written and spoken skills to get that across to other people. 

 

Is this very competitive?

There is a lot of money to be made in the field of new medical products, so the competition is fierce.  The thing you have as your advantage is to be well trained in engineering, medicine and/or biology.  Make sure your coursework involves these areas before expecting to make top dollar in the field of medical products.  You can always invent a product as a post graduate and can bring your idea to a company to see if they’ll hire you and your idea at the same time. 

What is the pay like?

Much of the pay depends on where you work.  If you work in sales, your pay can be about $50,000. If you are hired as a higher up in research and development of medical products, your pay can be more than $100,000.

Christine Traxler, MD practiced medicine for fifteen years in rural Minnesota before turning her love of writing into a career. As a medical writer, she has worked on projects designed to make medicine simplified for the popular audience. She has two daughters and resides in Minneapolis.
Copyright Christine Traxler, MD
Published with permission

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