Medical devices

Biomedical engineering global resources

Trained and qualified biomedical engineering professionals are required to design, evaluate, regulate, maintain and manage medical devices, and train on their safe use in health systems around the world.

WHO has conducted surveys and studies to have information on the academic programs, professional societies and status of biomedical engineers worldwide, which will further enhance their involvement to increase access to safe, quality medical devices globally in order to provide better health care.

From the results of surveys and studies conducted, publication about the role of biomedical engineers has been established. Human resources for medical devices, the role of biomedical engineers, is part of the Medical device technical series, WHO presents the different roles the biomedical engineer can have in the life cycle of a medical device, from conception to use. It is recognized that medical devices are becoming ever more indispensable in health-care provision and among the key specialists responsible for their design, development, regulation, evaluation and training in their use – are biomedical engineers.

The publication includes country information on the number of biomedical engineers and similar professionals and technicians, as well as educational institutions and professional societies as reported before 2015.

This publication had the support of the IFMBE, International Federation of Medical and Biological Engineering and was developed from 2013 to 2017.

Biomedical engineers belong to unit group 2149, Engineering Professionals Not Elsewhere Classified, and biomedical engineering technicians are classified as unit group 3319, Physical and Engineering Science Technicians Not Elsewhere Classified.

WHO welcomes continuous updates to the number of biomedical engineers and technicians, you can give your contribution through the following link:

Next stat update will take place in 2020.

2017 data on biomedical engineers and technicians

The density of biomedical engineers and technicians by country is available at WHO "Global Health Observatory”

Here you can also find the excel file where are available data about each country, academic institutions and biomedical societies:

In 2017 a new survey was launched with the aim of obtaining new and more complete data worldwide.

WHO has compiled all information from the previous (2009-2010, 2013- 2014, 2015) and current (2017-2018) surveys in order to apply for recognition of Biomedical Engineering as a discipline in the International Standard Classification of Occupations (by the ILO, to be published 2018) as biomedical engineers belong to Unit Group 2149 "Engineering Professionals Not Elsewhere Classified". The statistical analysis and data collection were performed by the WHO collaborating centre “IRCCS S. Matteo Hospital (Italy)” led by Paolo Lago in collaboration with Giovanni Sacchi under the WHO supervision. This work was supported by IFMBE (International Federation of Medical and Biological Engineering), and NGO in official relations with WHO.

NOTE: WHO relies on external professionals to enter information into the database, thus the data base is only as good and accurate as the data entered in it.

Past Surveys (2015, 2013 and 2009)

2015: WHO invited representatives of biomedical engineering institutions or programs, technical schools, professional societies, government institutions, and those responsible for country labour statistics, to complete a survey on Biomedical Engineering professionals, in order to have information available. This database was designed by Daniela Rodriguez, and collaboration with other medical devices team members in WHO, considering the previous ones.

2013: the database was released in 2013 and was developed mainly by Darash Desai and other collaborators from Boston University, USA, in collaboration with Shauna Mullally, Jennifer Barragan and Nicolas Jimenez, from WHO.

2009: to identify educational support in the biomedical and clinical engineering field and to facilitate contact with biomedical and clinical engineering teaching units and associations. This survey was developed and supervised by Dr Saide Calil and collaborators in University of Campinas, Brazil, working together with medical devices unit of WHO. A total of 592 contacts were identified in 466 teaching units and 115 associations in 90 Member States.

To access available information of the past references please use the links provided below.

BME thumb

Sources of biomedical engineering training

Formal professional qualifications for biomedical engineering professionals are obtained through successful completion of programs at educational institutions: both technical schools and universities. Similar to other professions, continuous professional development training is essential for biomedical engineering professionals to retain and enhance their skills. Some sources of continuous professional development training include:

  • partnerships with educational institutions abroad;
  • non-governmental organizations that specialize in training medical device personnel;
  • on the job’ training for new recruits;
  • continual professional development training for staff;
  • training materials provided through professional associations;
  • device manufacturers and vendors; and
  • accessible online resources.