It has been said that money cannot buy happiness, but it certainly contributes to job satisfaction, according to the results from 24×7’s 2007 Compensation Survey. Biomeds who earn salaries in the mid to upper range are extremely satisfied with their jobs and would recommend their profession to others, echoing last year’s sentiments. But despite the high number of biomeds who are satisfied with their pay, there are still many who are concerned about feeling overworked, underappreciated, and under-compensated.

A total of 1,621 industry professionals participated in the survey, raising the number of participants by 25% over the previous year. In addition to providing information on salary satisfaction, the respondents also voiced their opinions on benefits, work environment, education, and work satisfaction. Overall, the biomeds who responded to the survey believe that the profession offers many rewards but at the same time needs some improvement.

“I would like to see biomedical technicians acknowledged as something more than just maintenance techs,” says a BMET 3 with an associate in applied science (AAS) degree in Washington state. “Our biomeds often find themselves in purchasing roles, performing shipping and receiving tasks, following up on incorrect equipment purchases and exchanges, educating staff, sourcing vendors and hardware for unique circumstances or projects, project planning and oversight, consultation, etc.” Sadly, he concludes that there is little to no recognition on how much the biomedical department saves the facility money from those in higher management.

View Figure 1 in a larger size.    Charts and graphs by Julie Ridge

The Salary Story

Salaries reported in the survey ranged from a low of $36,000 to a high of $104,000. (A detailed report is shown in Figure 2.) As in past years, the salaries biomeds earn run the gamut depending on which region of the country one resides in and the specific job title held, such as BMET 1, BMET 2, BMET 3, rad tech, specialist, engineer, manager, or director/executive.

Charts and graphs by Julie Ridge

In Figure 1, the focus lies on the average salaries of BMET 3s, or senior biomeds, primarily because the majority of survey participants held a BMET 3 title. The Pacific still leads the pack with average base salaries of senior technicians reaching more than $65,000, while the East South Central region of the country has the lowest base salaries, coming in at just under $48,900. Respondents in New England reported the second-highest salaries, and to some degree, the higher salaries in the Pacific and New England reflect the overall higher cost of living in these regions.

Inconsistencies in pay across different areas of the country displeased some. A biomed with 16 years of experience who currently works in the East North Central region of the United States says, “Dis-crepancy in pay between the states does not make sense. A defibrillator is a defibrillator, no matter where it is!” This may sound logical to some, but the differences in the cost of living in different parts of the United States are significant and real, and affect many other professions in the same way.

Lower salaries typically affect how biomeds feel about their jobs, especially this year when respondents reported heavier workloads without a salary increase to accompany the extra responsibilities. For example, one respondent said, “If the salary was more in line, it would be the perfect place to work.”

The Gender Pay Gap

While the profession is still dominated by men, the glass ceiling appears to be cracking as women gain salary parity with men. Unlike last year’s findings that revealed a gap between male and female salaries across all job levels and geographic regions, this year’s results show that this type of discrimination may be decreasing. In 2006, women earned on average about 11.5% less than men. In 2007, this pay gap decreased to 9.4%.

In some cases, the female respondents reported higher salaries than male respondents in a given region and job level. For example, in the Pacific region, the average base salary for a male BMET 2 is $55,763 compared with $57,667 for a female BMET 2. In that same region, a male engineer’s average base salary is $69,228 whereas a female engineer’s average salary is $75,234.

Even with these gains in pay equity, many women still believe the salaries are not commensurate with overall job responsibility. “It is a rewarding profession, although I don’t feel the compensation is correct,” says a female biomed in New England who has worked in the field for 10 years.

Respondent Background

As with last year’s survey, the respondents were overwhelmingly male—nearly 94%, compared with just over 6% of the responses coming from female biomeds. Over 75% of the respondents worked in hospitals (Figure 3), with a much smaller number working for independent service organizations (ISOs) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). A very small percentage work in depot services, imaging centers, consulting firms, missionary organizations, and education/training.

The survey results also demonstrated, as in past years, that education is directly tied to compensation. Biomeds with an AAS degree and military-trained biomeds earned similar salaries, edging toward $60,000 (Figure 5). The average salary of those with a bachelor’s of science (BS) or some other form of bachelor’s degree topped the $60,000 mark, and biomeds with a master’s of science degree or master’s of business administration degree surpassed $80,000. Those holding a doctorate kicked it even higher, with an average wage of more than $90,000.

Interestingly, even though education is linked to higher pay, 73% of respondents have chosen not to pursue further formal education. One explanation for this might be that many biomeds believe specific educational programs are extremely challenging and not worth pursuing due to the low-paying jobs in the field. A biomed notes, “As I was going through school, I found the drop-out rate in this study to be very high—approximately 70%. Then after I finished what I considered a very hard course of study, I didn’t think the wages were in line with the difficulty of the study. If a person has a strong desire for this kind of work, then it would be worth pursuing, but only if that desire was strong.”

Others believe that education does not necessarily mean more pay. A BMET 2 with military training in Kansas says, “The amount of education and training necessary in order to perform the work at hand is not generally compensated for by way of salary or respect.”

A certified biomed working with an ISO in the Middle Atlantic region believes the same, saying, “Certification has been a value to me personally, and it has never paid off or been recognized in any way. I have never been asked about my certification on a job interview.”

A male biomed in the North Central region specializing in radiology with more than 16 years of experience agrees. “It’s interesting to note that in our facility, licensure/credentials are not a factor in compensation,” he says. “While further education is encouraged verbally, no actual incentives exist whatsoever.”

Whether a formal degree or certification is on the agenda or not, one thing biomeds agree on is that in today’s health care environment it pays to stay informed about their profession. More than one third obtain their information from magazines, such as 24×7, 29% from the Internet, 17% from meetings and conferences, and 12% from journals. The remainder of responses cited sources such as their company or co-workers, OEMs, Listservs, networking, and professional associations.

Even though there is a plethora of information sources for those in the field, many cited concerns that people outside the profession lack knowledge about the biomedical profession. “In my region, I don’t see or hear of many young people out of school looking to become biomeds,” says a BMET 3 hospital employee in Boise, Idaho. “Our field is relatively unknown and misunderstood, often being overshadowed by the information technology field.”

Which leads to other concerns readers have about the future of the profession. A CBET notes, mirroring many other comments, that, “The salary for biomedical needs to be increased to keep from losing people to information technology.”

A respiratory specialist in Boston who has been in the field for close to 15 years says, “Salary is the reason there are no new biomeds. Good biomeds are hard to find now due to a poor salary.”

Speaking of empowering the industry, a BMET 3 in the $75,000 salary range says, “With the increase of IS interfacing with medical equipment, I feel it’s imperative that clinical engineering take the lead position on both sectors.”

And a New York manager with an AAS degree says, “I would still like to see a national standard adopted for biomedical engineers, to ensure that this field retains its high standards.”

Higher Pay, Greater Responsibility

Although higher salaries are generally associated with greater levels of experience and education, on average most respondents believe they are compensated equitably, regardless of these qualifiers. For example, on a scale of 1 to 5—with 5 being the highest level of satisfaction—59% of the more educated respondents rated satisfaction with compensation levels as a 4 or 5. When it came to satisfaction with compensation based on experience, approximately 52% of the respondents with greater levels of experience placed their satisfaction level at a 4 or 5.

Still, not surprisingly, many biomeds believe they should be making more money—especially given the critical value of the work performed. “For how much we have to know about everything that we’re responsible for—I don’t feel that the compensation level is anywhere near what it should be,” writes a BMET 1 in Kansas City, Mo, who has been in the industry for 1 to 3 years and holds a BS degree. “A biomed department is the backbone of the hospital; without us there is no one to fix their equipment. If the equipment doesn’t work, then the hospital staff cannot provide the care and treatment needed to help facilitate patient recovery.”

As a CBET in Texas put it, “The few, the proud, and the underpaid!”

Where Do You Find Fulfillment?

What is interesting to note is that the highest-paid respondents are not the most satisfied with their jobs. When broken out by gender, only about 14% of the highest-paid female respondents gave top marks to job satisfaction, while a slightly higher 16% of the top-paid males reported the highest job satisfaction rating.

About 39% of the men and 39% of the women (both in the second-highest job level) selected the second-highest score for job satisfaction, indicating that they were very happy with their jobs but that changes would benefit the profession. In fact, one group of women respondents with an average salary of $59,000 indicated that they were less satisfied with their jobs.

Salary is not the only factor that influences job satisfaction. Employer benefits and other perks play a major role. The survey indicates that increasing numbers of employers—both hospitals and other organizations—offer competitive benefits to keep biomeds happy. Of those surveyed, a clear majority receives health, dental, and life insurance. In addition, the vast majority (88%) receive some type of retirement plan, and almost three quarters receive vision insurance. To assist biomeds with their professional development, 68% of employers offer tuition reimbursement. A much smaller percentage of respondents cited company cars and profit sharing as additional benefits.

Extra compensation comes to the majority of respondents through on-call and overtime pay, while less than half receive bonuses. Nevertheless, biomeds consider all the extras as valuable benefits. One certified senior field representative who has been in the profession for more than 16 years stresses that overtime pay is one of the strongest attributes of his job, saying, “The busier I am, the more money I can make.”

Although not awarded by all employers, the following perks were also cited by some of the respondents as part of their benefits package: copayment reimbursement, semiannual company retreats, stock purchase plan, corporate discounts, shift differentials for evenings and weekends, home Internet reimbursement, cell phones, pagers, medical discounts, and drug discounts.

Doing Too Much with Too Little

This year’s survey showed that although respondents are generally pleased with compensation, they have a growing concern about their workload. Ironically, even though there are few staff openings at most of the respondents’ workplaces, many employees believe their institutions are understaffed. A majority (63%) of those surveyed stated that there are no openings in their departments, while only 18% had one opening. Almost 10% have two openings, and very few have openings for three or more employees.

The word “understaffed” was used most frequently in the responses about workload. “Too much work” and “not enough time to complete the tasks” were also recurring themes among the survey responses.

Prevalent comments included, “Understaffed, over-e-mailed, overflowed with information and expectations” and “Too much work and not enough people. We added over 400 pieces and laid someone off.”

Along with increased workload come safety and quality considerations, which are important issues for biomeds. An Ohio BMET 1 commented that there is “too much equipment and not enough staff to do quality work consistently.”

A supervisor with more than 16 years of experience agrees, saying, “We’re always trying to do more with less personnel. Sooner or later something has to give, whether it’s the quality of the product or services rendered.”

A senior biomed in the East North Central region says, “Too much minutia—chasing after minor calls, bird-dogging vendors, waiting on calls, paperwork, and meetings—eat up an inordinate amount of time. Departments don’t have enough ‘front line’ troubleshooting capability to solve minor problems or resolve applications questions, so they fall back on the biomed for even the most trivial of issues, keeping us from doing what we do best.”

Frustrated with his workload, a BMET 2 in the East South Central area simply says, “1,400 pieces of equipment per tech??”

Despite comments of this nature, when asked if they believe their workload is acceptable, 64% of the respondents said yes. However, this figure is 13% less than last year’s response, suggesting that excessive workloads are a growing concern. In addition, instead of a resounding yes as to whether the workload was acceptable, those who felt they could handle it commented more frequently this year that so far they were able to keep their head above water, but it was often a struggle.

Strong managers can help balance the challenging times by assessing the situation and making changes if necessary. “I believe our manager spends an adequate number of hours to find out if we are overloaded or have enough time to do an acceptable job,” says a certified biomed with an AAS degree in Washington state. “We are not overloaded, and particular care is made to make sure we have enough time to complete the tasks to the best of our ability.”

A Nebraska tech making $70,000 points out, “My workload is very manageable due to the fact that we can always rely on other field engineers to help out if things get too busy.”

Finally, a similar comment is made from this biomed: “Recent cutbacks and departmental changes (integration into the IT department) have resulted in heavier workloads and changes in responsibilities, but reorganization of department processes and responsibilities have resulted in a heavy, but manageable workload.”

When Faced with Too Much Work

In some instances, biomeds who experience excessive workloads end up leaving a job. A CBET with a BS degree from the Middle Atlantic region explained, “I worked as an in-house biomed tech for 21 years at one hospital. Then the opportunity came along to do field service for an excellent company. It was a hard decision to leave the comfort of the job I knew so well for the uncertainty of doing something different. I am glad I took the chance. I am making much more money, and the flexible schedule is great. I enjoy traveling, and my geographically small territory allows me to be home most every night.”

Survey respondents didn’t simply complain, they offered specific suggestions to improve the situation. An unequivocal call for “more staff” was the primary suggestion, even for those who said their workload was heavy but acceptable. Hiring a secretary or administrative help was next on the list to help tackle some of the clerical duties so biomeds could concentrate on their actual jobs.

“More staff dedicated to help with repairs and PMs instead of doing office type work,” was a suggestion from a Virginia BMET 2 earning $35,000.

A field service engineer in Indiana with an AAS degree making $65,000 agrees, saying, “Less administrative time, less computer time.”

Other suggestions included better distribution of equipment assignments; an RFID system to make locating equipment for PMs more efficient; planning ahead for PMs and installations when the workload will get heavier; temporary help; software for equipment inventory, work orders, and to make scheduling and elementary information readily available; laptop computers; better management including long-term planning from upper management; and a lead tech to help manage the day-to-day work in the shop.

Training, according to survey participants, goes a long way in easing workload. About 16% of those surveyed had received between 40 and 49 hours of technical training during the past year, but sadly, 30% received 0 hours of training. Management training would also be useful for biomeds who supervise other staff, but 66% of those surveyed indicated that they had received 0 hours of management training.

A Profession Worth Recommending?

Despite the fact that many respondents believe that the profession has not kept financial pace with their expanded job duties and knowledge base, the overall consensus is that the biomed field is definitely worth recommending—although it is worth noting that the number of those who would refer the field slipped four percentage points from last year. Additionally, those dissatisfied with their compensation or who would not recommend the field still expressed their enjoyment with the job, saying that the increasing stress, lack of appreciation, and low pay are no longer acceptable.

Many cited overcoming the challenges of new techniques, the rewards of helping people, making a difference in patient safety and the work of clinicians, as well as the variety of the job as reasons they love what they do—even those who would not recommend the field.

In the words of one survey respondent, “The biomed field is a very interesting profession with a great deal of variety. New technologies are always coming online, and the future promises even more interest.”

Another offers, “If troubleshooting is something you are good at, this is the job for you.”

A BMET 3 with an AAS degree in Washington state says he receives “satisfaction from feeling like I make a difference.”

For a manager in Tennessee earning $80,000 who has worked for more than 16 years in the industry, the profession gives him satisfaction, saying, “I usually have the feeling of having accomplished something worthwhile at the end of the day, not just for myself, but for others as well.”

And this Milwaukee specialist with more than 16 years of experience probably sums it up by recognizing the full scope of what the profession offers, saying, “Adequate challenges keep one mentally involved and alert, and it is also personally rewarding to be contributing to the well being and care of others. This profession is for the passionate and committed folks only!”

Carol Daus is a contributing writer for 24×7. For more information, contact .