The readers of 24×7 responded to our annual request for compensation information and by most indications, monetary rewards are encouraging. Pay continues to rise for technicians and managers, with novice biomeds commanding big bucks due to the shortage of trained people. Skilled veterans also report improvements as the competition for talented healthcare technology specialists heats up.

f01a.jpg (8197 bytes)On the broadest level, 2001 didn’t bring much change to the financial conditions of people working in the healthcare technology management, service and support industry. Overall, there was only a 2 percent rise in reported income, when you average everything together. But this is an industry that can’t decide what to call itself, let alone get a fix on the “average” employee, so a little dissection is in order to determine the industry’s health. All in all, we’re not in that bad of shape. New hires continue to see the best offers, but veterans are starting to get their due.

A little over half of the responses to our Pulse Check came from hospital-employed technicians, so that’s a good place to start our assessment.

The average of the annual compensations reported by newest recruits, those with less than one year on the job, all the way up to biomeds with 10 years of experience, is consistently in the $45-50,000 range. The average only entered the next segment — $50-55,000 — among technicians with over 10 years at the same hospital.

Salary Average by Employer
Comparison 1997-2001

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It’s important to remember that the Pulse Check asked for total compensation, including overtime, on-call pay and bonuses. The wide variety of situations in this industry, and the broad use of mandatory overtime in healthcare, make it impossible to get a truthful picture any other way.

The variety also accounts for the wide swings within categories. Reported BMET incomes had a standard deviation of about $10,000, so you must be aware, mileage will vary!

The realization that skilled technicians are a scarce commodity is prompting the more sedentary segments of the industry to pick up and move. The average hospital BMET with 10 years of experience reported only four with the current employer. (Although some of that can be attributed to the industry practice of shifting employees when an engineering management contract is put in place.)

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A hospital CBET with five years of experience pushed his income over $50,000 by changing employers. He recommended, “The best, and sometimes only, way to get any substantial raise at my level seems to be to make a change of employer or threaten to.”

Imaging specialists continue to be the highest paid technical people, averaging in the $65-70,000 range for a field service engineer (FSE).

Salary Range by Years Experience

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An X-ray representative reports, “OEMs are finally realizing the value of their service engineers. They finally understand that service revenue carries the bottom line. Competition for good FSEs among OEMs means nice pay raises for good employees who stay and did not move to another OEM.”

But that work requires long hours and late nights. And, unlike the hospitals and ISOs, there are limits for people with management ambitions.

“They have removed all but the top rungs of the ladder,” said an X-ray FSE for a major manufacturer who is frustrated that his Master’s Degree in biomedical engineering doesn’t seem to be helping him get beyond $60,000 or advance his career.

Responses by Employer




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A manager who left the manufacturers five years ago and is now with an in-house program, observed, “Money could be better in field service, but I like seeing my kids every night and staring at a windshield gets old.”

Unfortunately, manufacturers seem to be in the vanguard of a disturbing trend, cutting benefits.

A manufacturer’s manager said bonuses were eliminated, the company’s contribution to an employee’s 401(k) was cut to just 25 cents on the dollar, and the employee’s charge for health insurance is growing.

Added a technician, “Insurance costs me approximately $200 a month. Is that really considered a benefit?”

Responses by Title

Some companies really do care about their employees. A technician with a laboratory equipment manufacturer reported compensation that was among the highest levels, but that’s not all the company does for its human resources. “A foundation founded by the company’s founders’ wife gives college grants to employees’ children based on grades and financial criteria. It also helps employees cover catastrophic expenses such as medical bills or caused by natural disasters,” the employee said proudly. “It’s a great deal.”

The lack of qualified technicians is made worse by a trend towards increasing hours and responsibilities. Said a hospital BMET, “One person is doing the work of three.”

A hospital BMET in the South with 6-10 years of experience said he only gets an annual salary of $30-35,000 — no overtime and nothing extra for carrying a pager 24×7.

Who’s getting bonuses?

(26% of all respondents
are in a bonus program)

It’s common to see experienced biomeds attempt to wear technician and director hats at smaller hospitals, such as the jack-of-all-trades at a specialty hospital in the Northeast who does everything for about $60,000.

A Mountain state biomed tech also making $60,000 said, “I am a one-man show in what should be a 2-3 person shop; manager in everything but title and salary. Being properly staffed would mean less stress, but a $15,000 pay cut!”

One Georgia BMET stated, “I feel that our field should be more in line with nursing. Most techs have as much or more education as nurses. We have to learn and adapt to the changes in technology, and health risks as well.”

And a 16-plus veteran technologist working in X-ray observed, “It seems that wages for hospital service personnel have stalled in the last three years with greater wage advances going to IS people and, of course, to nurses. We need a correction — soon.” He currently gets $55-60,0000 with overtime.

Average Salaries by Region

A young biomed in the Northeast reports that he is making good money, $60-65,000, after four years in the field, but disillusioned by the work. “I entered this field to fix equipment,” he said. “But find most of my time is spent dealing with PM quotas, manufacturing errors and purchasing difficulties.”

Regionally, there is dissatisfaction in the high country.

“The Intermountain West isn’t known for its high salaries,” said a CBET manager. “Guess I should feel quite lucky making a little over $50k a year.”

Another biomed tech who reported making less than $40,000 complained of “Absolute gross neglect of our personal needs.”

And there’s a dark side to the sunny South. A CBET with 6-10 years of experience, currently working for an ISO, observed, “There is a misconception that there is a lower cost of living in the South. It’s not. The problem is a lot of employers use this as an excuse to pay lower salaries. I have seen as large of a difference as $20k less in the South for people with the same qualifications.”

He added, “I live in Alabama now and I moved from Chicago. The cost of food, lights, water, heating and electricity were the same. The only thing higher in the North was the cost of a home, and sometimes gasoline.”

A veteran CBET in California reported, “The wages in the San Francisco Bay area are high because housing is expensive. It is so expensive and the traffic is so bad that there is a shortage of biomeds. Entry level biomeds can’t afford to live here.”

Technicians, engineers, specialists getting on-call, overtime

On the other hand, the City of Brotherly Love reportedly adores biomedical equipment specialists. One fellow with five years experience who is making $55,000 exclaimed, “Philadelphia is OK for biomeds!”

From June through September, 24×7 readers were invited to fill out Pulse Check forms that ran in the magazine, or use the interactive form posted on our Web site, Analysis was limited to states and territories of the United States, and incomplete forms were discarded, leaving 585 usable responses to the Pulse Check this year. That’s about 4 percent of 24×7’s readers, and a typical voluntary response rate.

The distribution of employers, titles and location roughly corresponded to the independently-audited demographics of 24×7 subscribers. Only manufacturer’s technicians were significantly under-represented, comprising 10 percent of Pulse Check responses, even though they are 18 percent of the magazine’s total readership.

Overall, sufficient data exist to reveal trends, which is the purpose of the Pulse Check. A regional compensation survey conducted by a human resource consulting firm may use different methodology — and will cost thousands of dollars. Yet, as the variability revealed in the Pulse Check suggests, no poll can pronounce the “correct” compensation for every employee. There is no substitute for honest negotiation.