How to Become a Medical Illustrator

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Medical illustration is an essential part of the medical field that involved detailed drawings of human anatomy and medical procedures. Medical illustrators are specially trained professionals that combine their artistic ability with their knowledge of biology to create a variety of medical illustrations.


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What does a medical illustrator do?

Medical illustrators create many different types of medical illustrations for a variety of purposes. They often create illustrations of human anatomy or surgical procedures for books and publications. They also produce animations and 3-dimensional models for seminars and lectures. They draw specific details that are hard to see in photographs or on an actual body. Medical illustrators sometimes draw the steps taken during procedures and create illustrations of both healthy and diseased body parts to explain the effects of medical conditions. Some help create artificial body parts such as eyes or eyes. Medical illustrators often sketch by hand and use computer software to create their illustrations. Some specialize on specific area such as the heart or brain.

What kind of training does a medical illustrator need?

Medical illustrators typically need a master degree in medical illustration. Prospective medical illustrators usually complete courses in anatomy and physiology, biology, art, chemistry, design, graphic art, computer illustration, and medical terminology. Many aspiring medical illustrators complete internships while pursuing their education to gain practical experience in the field. Many medical illustrators create portfolios of their work to show to potential employers. Some medical illustrators gain professional certification to remain competitive in the field. They must complete continuing education throughout their careers to maintain their certifications and keep their skills up to date.

What are the prospects for a career as a medical illustrator?

Employment of medical illustrators is expected to grow about as fast as average for all professions, increasing 9% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The growing and aging population and increased demand for detailed medical images will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good especially for medical illustrators that have extensive experience and specialized skills. Some job openings will arise from the need to replace medical illustrators that retire, transfer, or leave the profession for other reasons.

How much do medical illustrators make?

As of January 2010, medical illustrators with 1 to 4 years experience earn average annual salaries between $34,590 and $55,028. Those with 5 to 9 years experience earn average annual salaries between $29,479 and $53,930 (2).

A career as a medical illustrator is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong desire to create a variety of images for medical purposes. Medical illustrators must have excellent artistic ability and a solid understanding of anatomy and physiology and a variety of medical procedures. Detail orientation, good writing skills, accuracy, and precision are necessary characteristics. Medical illustrators must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills because they work with a variety of other professionals. They must also be able to work under stress and pressure.

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