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Medical Illustrator

Have you ever wondered who is responsible for pictures in your biology textbook, the iconic teeth sculpture in your dentist's office, or the anatomy textbooks for medical students? Medical illustrators are the cross roads of biological foundation meets multimodal art, coming together to form scientifically accurate representations to visually describe all sizes of life science.

Summary

Medical Illustrators have the challenge of using art, an expressive and dynamic field, to represent life sciences, which often has a correct representation that must be reflected. Medical illustrators rely on their biological foundation and art skills in addition to communication with professionals, such as physicians, to continually keep their models up to professional standard. The importance of this cannot be understated as their models play a huge role in the public literacy of medicine. Illustrations exist to represent what words alone cannot, continuing the importance of having a strong biology background.

Products of Medical Illustrators are all around us, and you may not even know it! They are used in textbooks, medical education simulators, interactive learning apps and websites, video games and other media, museums, and even a role in the rise of Virtual Reality (VR). Medical Illustration is a unique career that allows individuals with a love for the life sciences and art to combine their work and create an artistic product with a great, positive impact on others. As we progress towards an increasingly digital age, the importance of digital art skills for Medical Illustration such as animation, 2D and 3D animation, graphic design, web design, and VR/simulation cannot be understated. 

Educational Requirements

Education options for those interested in Medical Illustration are rather straight forward. Those interested in this field will want to do the following:

  1. While a degree in Biology is not necessarily required for Master's degree programs, significant biology course work, including upper-level course work, is required for admission. During your time in undergraduate studies take course work in classes such as anatomy and physiology, cell biology, developmental biology, etc. These courses should be of the same caliber of a Biology major.
  2. Take art classes, and work on a portfolio. Upon applying to graduate programs you will be asked for an artist portfolio that covers a variety of styles. Taking art classes during your undergraduate career, especially across multiple modes and styles of art, will show grades for these courses on your transcript and simultaneously build your portfolio.

When ready you will apply for an accelerated Master's Degree in Medical Illustration program. Please note that there are only five schools with programs in North America: Four in the United States, and one in Canada. These schools typically accept 20 or less students a year, making the admissions process rather competitive. A high GPA in Biology courses and a great portfolio will take applicants a long way.

 

Salary Range 2019

According to salary.com, the average annual salary for the title of Medical Illustrator in 2023 was $62,593. 

 

Want to know more?

Get Connected

Belonging to professional organizations & LinkedIn groups can provide you with networking, informational interviewing, & job shadowing opportunities, as well as assist you with finding internships and jobs.

  • The Association of Medical Illustrators offers a mentor program to connect and assist budding students in the field.
Get Experience
  • Read about Education and meeting goals at your level in Medical Illustration
Find a Job

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Information retrieved from the Association of Medical Illustrators.

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