Aging Boomers Boost Medical Devices Industry
The medical devices industry has seen much growth in recent years.
It offers many job opportunities to those hoping to venture into this field.
The aging of our society appears to have an impact on this field. As people
get older, they generally need more medical care.
In the U.S., there are 76 million baby boomers (those born between 1946
and 1964). And the number of Americans age 65 and older will double over the
next 30 years. That's according to figures released by the American Association
of Retired Persons (AARP).
"The aging baby boomer population should be a big bonanza for the health
device and supply industry," says a report by U.S. Business Reporter. "Medical
devices have a tendency to be used more by the elderly in disproportionate
The report also points out that longer life expectancies are having an
impact. "Women have an average life expectancy of 78 years, while men have
a life expectancy of approximately 69 years. This bodes well for medical device
[and] equipment companies because they can generate more usage for their products
with the longer life expectancy."
Frost and Sullivan is an international market consulting and training company.
One of its reports links the recent growth of the industry with an aging society.
"Demand in the medical device industry continues to increase due to the
aging baby boom population and the ailments associated with getting older,"
says the report.
"In addition to the population getting older, people are becoming more
aware of the importance of remaining physically fit. As an increasing number
of people are participating in sports and fitness programs, the number of
injuries resulting from this has risen as well. This will sustain the growth
of the market for medical devices."
Kevin Murray is the vice-president of regulatory affairs for a medical
devices trade association. He agrees. "As people age, they obviously become
more susceptible to disease, injury and that type of thing," he says.
"So there is a demand for medical treatments. And with that comes the demand
for more use of medical equipment and devices. So it certainly has provided
an opportunity for the industry. And it has also provided an opportunity in
the development of new types of devices to treat disease and other types of
medical problems that we are seeing an increase in because of our aging society."
Roy Wallen is the marketing director for a medical device manufacturer.
He says the aging boomers will impact the medical device industry in several
"The bulk of experience in the field is with people that are starting to
work their way out of the workplace, so having qualified workers is a challenge,"
he says. "In addition, as people are aging, it provides more opportunity,
a bigger market, for health care related systems."
Wallen stresses that the number of older people in our society is increasing
and there are more medical device systems available. But there are fewer workers.
That means a greater reliance on technology. "There are more patients with
fewer people to take care of them," he says.
"In the medical device area, technology is evolving pretty rapidly now,"
"We are seeing tremendous developments in products that we hadn't seen
before. And we are seeing some really interesting treatments being developed.
I think it potentially could be a pretty exciting area to be involved in.
And certainly on a global level, there is a growth opportunity."
He says growth is limited by cost constraints in Canada, the United States
and Europe. "[But] there are also emerging countries that are expanding the
market, like China, a lot of the Asian Pacific countries, South America and
Latin America," Murray says.
"Those countries will probably outpace Canada, the United States and Europe
in terms of growth and market opportunities. The future is going to be in
a lot of these emerging countries, like China, whose population is over one
There are a number of job opportunities within the medical device industry
field. Bob Stiefel is a director of clinical engineering services. He oversees
the technicians and engineers who work with the medical devices in that facility.
"The technicians inspect, calibrate and repair medical equipment in the
hospital and help users in the safe and proper use of some of the more sophisticated
equipment," he says.
"Engineers evaluate equipment, design changes or new equipment and help
in planning for new types of technology to be introduced in the hospital."
Stiefel says these two fields of work exist within the whole medical device
industry. "The same types of folks [technicians and engineers] find jobs in
teaching, in manufacturing and in regulatory agencies, all dealing with medical
equipment. So there are many aspects to how technical people are employed
in the medical device field."
Those looking to enter this field should major in some form of engineering.
"Electrical engineering is very popular, although biomedical is probably the
most appropriate.... Mechanical engineering is also very important," Stiefel
says. He adds that pre-med is also an option.
There are also opportunities in marketing. In that case, business classes
would be needed, along with a scientific background, according to Murray.
"Also, more devices will depend on computer technology. So there may be more
positions in software design or writing original code," he says.
For high school students, strong mathematics skills, the ability to work
with computer systems and strength in the life sciences areas are all important,
There are other things high school students can do now to begin to prepare
for a job in this field. "The thing that immediately comes to mind is to volunteer
for a few weeks or a couple of months in a hospital and, in particular, in
an area of the hospital where medical technology is being used or serviced,"
For those who do decide to pursue this field of study, Stiefel says, there
will be jobs waiting for them. "The field is wide open. There is a demand
for all types of people in technical fields," he says.
"These days, we are almost constantly looking for more people for the department.
The same is true in other departments, literally around the world."
The higher-level jobs in this field require extensive education. "But there
are a lot of opportunities in laboratory medicine or in entry-level positions
that don't require a high level of education," Wallen says. "So there really
is a range of opportunity for people, depending on what their skills or desires
The rewards of working in the field are an added bonus. "I think that applying
one's interest in technology to medical technology provides a double reward,"
"For me, it satisfies my interest in technology and it satisfies my desire
to contribute to society. It is hard to find an area where you can contribute
to society better than in health care."
Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation
A resource for those in the industry
Medical Device Manufacturers Association
Encourages the development of new medical technology
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