Prosthetic engineering is a fascinated and specialized field. Using your engineering degree to actively improve the quality of life for patients is very appealing to engineers. Here is the ultimate guide to prosthetic engineering.
- What do prosthetic engineers do?
- What do prosthetic engineers NOT do?
- What type of engineer makes prosthetics?
- How to become a prosthetic engineer
- Types of prosthetics engineers make
What do prosthetic engineers do?
Prosthetic engineers work in the design and manufacturing of prosthetic devices. Their day-to-day activities vary based on the job type. Here are some things prosthetic engineers do:
- Design/R&D-Prosthetic engineers that work in design or R&D work on designing novel prosthetics. Their days consist of cadding, prototyping, and testing designs.
- Manufacturing-Some prosthetic engineers work in manufacturing. Their days consist of figuring out the best ways to manufacture prosthetic devices effectively and efficiently in order to either sustain or set up their production.
- Clinical Engineer-Clinical prosthetic engineers work with doctors and occasionally patients to understand project requirements and communicate needed design adjustments to the design engineers. This is a less technical role.
What do prosthetic engineers NOT do?
It’s important to have a realistic idea of what prosthetic engineers do and don’t do. Here are some things prosthetic engineers DON’T do:
- Patient interaction-You should think of being a prosthetic engineer as a corporate job. While possible, it is very rare for prosthetic engineers to have any sort of patient interaction.
- Make custom prosthetics-Prosthetic engineers design prosthetic devices for a large subset of people. Once they perfect the design, they hand it over to manufacturing to be mass-produced.
If you are interested in patient interaction, consider being a prosthetist. A prosthetist is someone who meets with patients regularly to assess their concerns and recommend the best prosthetics for them. They then fit the patient for a prosthetic, create molds, and take part in the prosthetic’s creation. They continue to see the patient regularly to measure progress and address any concerns.
What type of engineer makes prosthetics?
Contrary to popular belief, most prosthetic engineers are not biomedical engineers. Most prosthetic engineers have their degrees in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, or biomedical engineering. When you go to find a job as a prosthetic engineer, you won’t find jobs listed as “prosthetic engineers”. Companies post jobs with job titles that match the specific thing they need someone working on. Here are the most common engineering job titles posted by prosthetic engineering companies:
- Mechanical Engineer-Companies will ask for a mechanical engineer if they need someone with the specific skills of a mechanical engineer. Knowledge of analyzing dynamics, mechanical of materials, structural analysis, and heat flow are all important for designing prosthetics.
- Electrical Engineer-Companies that design wearable sensors and robotic prosthetics often need electrical engineers to work on the electrical components of their products.
- Manufacturing/Quality engineer-Every engineering company in the world needs manufacturing and quality engineers. These skills are more universal, so they can be a great place to start if you’re having trouble getting an R&D position. Pretty much any engineering major can land one of these positions.
- R&D-Companies looking for R&D engineers to design prosthetics are typically looking for people with R&D experience. It’s more common for entry-level positions to be listed under mechanical or electrical engineering. When a company is looking for an R&D engineer, they are typically looking for someone with experience in the industry and general knowledge of all aspects of the device.
How to become a prosthetic engineer
If you’re looking to become a prosthetic engineer, there are steps you can take in college and early in your career to make you a more desirable candidate.
Read 5 Steps to Become a Prosthetic Engineer for an in-depth guide to becoming a prosthetic engineer. It covers how to choose the right major based on the type of prosthetics you want to make and lists specific courses, extracurriculars and internships to look into.
Remember, the goal early in your career is to get into the industry. It’s super common for engineers to start as manufacturing or quality engineers and then work their way into R&D. If you can start as an R&D engineer, then that’s great. If not, you can always switch to an R&D role after a couple of years.
Types of prosthetics engineers make
Something many people don’t know is that there’s a lot more to prosthetic engineering than just limb prosthetics. Here’s a list of just some of the prosthetics that engineers make:
- Limb prosthetics (both robotic and non-robotic)
- Joint replacements
- Prosthetic heart valves
- Brain stents
- Specialty prosthetics (Examples include prosthetics for sports, cooking, and other activities)
- Animal prosthetics
- Prosthetic hands, feet, fingers, and toes!
- Prosthetic eyes
- Cosmetic prosthetics (examples include prosthetic bras for people who have received mastectomies and prosthetics for people with facial deformities)
- Dental prosthetics