How to Become a Medical Illustrator


Loosely termed, a medical illustrator can be considered a medical artist. With their artistic skill and knowledge of the medical sciences, medical illustrators can create visual material and references for the purpose of sharing medical knowledge and bio-communication. With their understanding of the human physiology digital art, medical illustrators can prepare visual illustrations for medical text books, professional medical journals, health advertisements, pharmaceutical products, lectures, presentations, and various forms of media.

If you wish to have an office based career in the medical industry where you can add value through your artist and digital talent, then the right course of action for you would be to become a medical illustrator. Your hard work and efforts may help many people around the world who are interested in the expanding medical field.

Education Requirements

The usual education requirement for medical illustrators is a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree in medical illustration. With a bachelor’s degree in medical illustration, you may be able to get an entry level job as a medical illustrator assistant or play an assistant’s role in a small project.

If you want to rise in the ranks and want to make a name for yourself in the medical illustration industry, then you should aim for a master’s level certification. Majority of the medical illustrators possess a master’s degree from an accredited and recognized graduate program. The Association of Medical Illustrators provides information on these accredited programs and insight on certification needs for interested candidates. It is the leading authority when it comes to regulating and defining the medical illustration industry.

It is expected that medical illustrators be familiar with certain fields of medicine as well, such as anatomy, physiology, neuro-anatomy, surgery, pathology, pharmacology and so on. It is expected that candidates be thoroughly familiar with art practice and application. Medical illustrator programs also provide students with the training needed to operate and use sophisticated art equipment. It is through high end digital technologies that medical illustrators are able to process and produce medical illustrations.

Certification provided by the Association of Medical Illustrators is a voluntary option for interested candidates. It may provide a much needed boost in their career after becoming a Certified Medical Illustrator (CMI).

Job Duties

The job duties of a medical illustrator vary depending on the size of the organization, level of qualification and the policies in effect. For example, the job duties of a medical illustrator working in a medical research facility may vary from those of a medical illustrator working in a pharmaceutical marketing company. Nonetheless, the list below should give you a preview of the common and generic job duties you may encounter as you start your career in medical illustration.

  1. Develop visual aids, graphics, and images to demonstrate and present medical or biological facts
  2. Use high end computers and digital technology for the purpose of preparing medical illustrations
  3. Apart from developing extensive and comprehensive visual material, you may also have to develop simple drawings, diagrams and sketches for various medical fields such as anatomy, biology and physiology
  4. Design various charts, graphs and tables for the mass presentation of data
  5. Develop and render 3 dimensional models and animations that give comprehensive insight and preview into medical subjects
  6. Work along-side with educators or teachers when developing images and illustrations for medical text books
  7. Consult with and work with various medical professionals when developing comprehensive and in-depth models or animations for medical cases or tutorials
  8. Use all sorts of art and digital equipment to create basic and advanced models
  9. Stay up to date with the latest in the digital artwork field so as to bring efficiency and improved quality to the table
  10. Assist in creating visual arts for marketing campaigns and new product development
  11. Maintain the health and fitness of sophisticated visual and digital equipment

Career Outlook

The career outlook for medical illustrators is quite favorable, even though the field is not expansive. With large research and development budgets for pharmaceutical companies, health care and medical institutes, the need for medical illustrators increases to provide illustrations and visual aid. Furthermore, due to the steady growth and expansion in the curative and preventative medical industries, the need for qualified medical illustrators increases to facilitate various illustrative and visual needs.

Salary Prospects

A medical illustrator can earn an average annual salary of $43,000 ( According to another source, the average annual salary for a medical illustrator is $52,000 ( The earning potential of medical illustrators largely depends on the type of industry they work in. For instance, marketing projects and 3D animation projects for large pharmaceutical giants may be quite rewarding. The greater your qualifications and familiarity with various digital equipment and techniques, the greater may be your earning potential.

Further Reading

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