One measure of today’s biomedical equipment technician can be whether or not he or she is certified. With so few biomedical electronics programs offered by colleges and universities, many technicians learn by the hands-on method. There is, of course, great value to this approach. However, with so many biomedical technician jobs being filled by people with education in related fields, it is hard for employers to estimate the value of a candidate’s experience versus their fringe education. One tool can be whether or not the potential employee is certified. Certification establishes that the certified individual has the basic knowledge to perform in the field. The next question is, what certifications are out there? For the biomedical technician, there are three organizations that offer certification. The International Certification Commission’s (ICC) test given through the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) offers the most recognized certification: certified biomedical equipment technician, or CBET. The Electronics Technicians Association-International (ETA-I) and the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians (ISCET) both offer a certified electronics technician exam (CET) with a biomedical option.
AAMI and the ETA-I also offer imaging certifications. AAMI has designed the CRES for x-ray technicians, while the ETA-I offers BIET for all imaging modalities. Along with their other certifications, AAMI has the CLES for laboratory equipment specialists. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each certification.
Overseen and administered by the ICC, AAMI’s CBET, CRES, and CLES carry the most recognition. The test includes 150 multiple-choice questions covering anatomy and physiology, safety, electricity and electronics, and medical equipment function and operation. In order to pass the exam, you must answer at least 70% of the questions correctly. The current fee to test is in excess of $250. The examinee must register in advance and travel to a predetermined site on a specific date.
The ETA-I and ISCET both have a network of certification administrators across the country and around the world. With hundreds of test sites available, the candidate can schedule a test in their local area at their own convenience. In fact ETA-I has been working with local biomedical societies to offer certification exams at their annual conventions. Both the ETA-I and ISCET require a passing score of 75% on all tests.
The ETA-I’s CET certification with a journeyman option in biomedical equipment tests the candidate’s basic electronics knowledge with a 100-multiple-choice-question associate exam. Mathematics, electronics, troubleshooting, and circuit analysis are all covered on the associate test. Once the candidate passes the basic exam, they may take a specialty exam in any of specialty modalities. The biomedical exam contains 50 questions covering medical terminology, equipment function, troubleshooting, safety and regulations, and instrumentation. The ETA-I charges $60 for the associate exam and $75 for the biomedical option. These tests may be taken separately, but there is a cost break when attempting both at once. The International Certification Accreditation Council reviews and approves the ETA-I examination.
The ISCET associate exam encompasses basic mathematics, DC circuits, AC circuits, transistors and semiconductors, components and circuits, and instruments. Once the examinee passes the basic electronics test, he/she can opt to take the biomedical journeyman exam. This exam covers electrical systems, general instrumentation, troubleshooting and circuit analysis, medical terminology, and equipment. The associate exam contains 45 questions and costs $45, while the biomedical test contains 75 questions and costs $50. If taken together, the fee is $75.
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Any of these certifications sufficiently demonstrates the certified individual’s fundamental competence. A candidate should consider cost, convenience, and recognition when deciding which exam to pursue. Although the CET exams require higher scores, the ability to fit the exam into your schedule along with the possibility of breaking up the associate and journeyman portions is beneficial. The recognition of the CBET is certainly appealing, but the cost is prohibitive to many. Having taken exams with each of the associations, and based solely on my scores, I found the AAMI and ETA-I exams had the same level of difficulty while the ISCET exam was slightly more difficult. I do feel that if one chose to test with AAMI, using the CET tests as a primer would give a good indication of how you would do on the CBET exam. For details about these exams, visit each Web site at: www.aami.org, www.eta-sda.com, and www.iscet.org.
Glen Wolfe, CBET, CET, is manager, biomedical services, at Trace Services Inc, Elk Grove Village, Ill. For more information, contact .