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Medical Illustrator

Career data updated last on 10/15/2014
Medical Illustrator Medical illustrators are professional artists who combine drawing skills with knowledge of biology or other sciences. Medical illustrators draw illustrations of human anatomy and surgical procedures. Scientific illustrators draw illustrations of animal and plant life, atomic and molecular structures, and geologic and planetary formations. The illustrations are used in medical and scientific publications and in audiovisual presentations for teaching purposes. They can also work for lawyers, producing exhibits for court cases. Medical illustrators not only produce such material but function as consultants and administrators within the field of biocommunication.
Salary $29.33/hr - $60,000 annually
Significant Points More than half of all artists and related workers were self-employed—almost eight times the proportion for all professional and related occupations.
Specializations Some medical illustrators specialize in forensic reconstruction, ophthalmological illustration, medical-legal presentations, or the making of prostheses, often accumulating considerable recognition for their knowledge and abilities in that particular area. Other may become an important part of the medical research team.
Work Environment Many medical illustrators are employed in medical schools and large medical centers that have teaching and research programs. Other medical artists are employed by hospitals, clinics, dental schools, or schools of veterinary medicine. Some institutional medical illustrators work alone, whereas, others are part of large multimedia departments. Other medical illustrators choose to target specific markets such as medical publishers, pharmaceutical companies and advertising agencies, physicians or attorneys. Experienced medical illustrators may also begin their own businesses, head a group of illustrators or become a director of an audiovisual department. Some may freelance and are authors and co-authors of textbooks, or of articles in which they have made major contributions.
High School Prep General college preparation is recommended: three courses in math including algebra I, algebra II and geometry, or a higher level math course for which algebra II is a prerequisite; three science courses including biology, chemistry, and physics; four English units and two social studies units, including one in U.S. History; and two years of a second language. The college preparatory program should include as much emphasis on art and science as possible. Students should have writing, computer and research skills as well.
Academic Requirements Admission requirements vary from program to program. Medical illustrators must have both a demonstrated artistic ability and a detailed knowledge of living organisms, surgical and medical procedures, and human and animal anatomy. A 4-year bachelor’s degree combining art and premedical courses usually is preferred; a master’s degree in medical illustration is recommended. In addition, a portfolio of artwork and a personal interview are generally required. This degree is offered in only five accredited schools in the United States. Graduate programs in medical illustration are two years in length.


There are currently no schools in Colorado that offer training or a degree. We suggest you look in the Organization listing, often the associated professional organization list schools where a degree or training can be found.

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