January 10, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
University of Michigan
Biomedical Engineering DepartmentWebsite
Lonnie Shea: -Hospitals and companies have suffered from a decrease in elective procedures, while healthcare resources have been directed toward COVID treatment. Certain areas, such as diagnostics and PPE, have been especially active and will likely see an increase after the current crisis subsides.
-The demand for healthcare will continue to increase, and, of course, the pandemic has put a huge emphasis on certain sectors. This impact may be transient, but it may last several years. Overall, there will be a renewed emphasis on detection, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of viral diseases, as well as the offering of healthcare in a pandemic environment. BMEs are well placed to help meet these needs.
-We do not yet know what the mid- to long-term effects of the pandemic on human health will be. We expect there will be some, and BMEs are good people to address these issues from an engineering perspective
-We expect there will be more remote job interviews and more remote jobs. Virtual design and testing will also become more prevalent, though we doubt it will supplant physical prototyping and testing (at least for a while).
Lonnie Shea: -It has always been the case, and continues to be, that communication skills are among the most important. Presumably, the rise in remote work caused by the pandemic will put an emphasis on this skill. We expect almost everyone asked will say this, but it is probably also true for BMEs.
-Remote communication, electronic whiteboarding, skills with remote platforms, training etc.
-A working knowledge of the medical device product development process gained through student design projects is a plus. Intern/co-op experience is a true differentiator.
-For BMEs, we think an understanding of digital healthcare, telemedicine, cybersecurity, and human factors will continue to become more important, even if that is not your direct job function.
-This skill may be too nitty-gritty, but an awareness of how healthcare is shifting to value-based models is important for BMEs, i.e. that they know a bit more about the business trends that affect their field.
Lonnie Shea: -Minneapolis, Boston, and Southern California are the first areas mentioned. Florida, Illinois, and New York are also very active. States like Michigan, Indiana, and Pennsylvania have a lot of med device activity, even though they are not the first that come to mind.
-We surveyed our alumni working in medtech and the large majority indicated that it is likely that they will return to their company's office location when pandemic-related restrictions are lifted. But a large number (about 70%) indicated that they would continue to work at least partly from home; most said 3 days a week in the office (see graphs below). So it would seem that remote work will continue, and geographical location may be of somewhat lower importance.
Loyola Marymount University
Dr. Gianna McMillan: They will need to have computer skills and be willing to adapt creatively to work remotely. Bioethics is a changing field with three main categories: medical ethics, public health ethics, and research ethics. Young graduates will need to be up to date in all three areas since they overlap, but with particular attention to their field of interest. The legal landscape continues to evolve, in all areas, and is different from state to state, so basic knowledge of current issues is needed. I tell my students they might have to do some things for free to prove their commitment and skill set. Volunteering and unpaid internships are a great way to build a resume and network within the field. Creativity is important. Sometimes a couple of hours of service at a local health clinic or writing for a blog can turn into a job or generate ideas for where bioethics is needed.
Dr. Gianna McMillan: Bioethics is multidisciplinary -- so a "bioethicist" can work anywhere. Disease-specific organizations need patient advocates, health literacy experts, and community organizers, as do local and state public health services. Clinical ethics (on-site at hospitals) requires a lot of training, but some ethics committees need non-scientists and community representatives. Research is done at most major hospitals, and there are large teams of research analysts and administrators to handle the paperwork and the ethical review of each study. There are good entry-level opportunities there.
Dr. Gianna McMillan: Evaluating internet sources critically will be necessary, as will the ability to create credible content. Large databases will become increasingly important, so having a good grasp on that skill set would be a good idea. Technology, either as "assistance" or as "evaluate and report," will become increasingly popular. Peripheral fields in engineering, medical device design, and patient interface systems might seem like a stretch -- but there are many bioethical issues to be considered as these become integrated into daily life and the care of the sick or elderly. One of the biggest challenges ahead is how our global society will deal with the intersection between health, privacy, and technology, significantly, as it impacts personal and communal health. Consistent parameters, regionally, nationally, and internationally will be crucial.