Health Career Center

Medical Illustrator

Medical illustrators are artists with expertise in medicine, graphic and visual design, art, graphic design technology, and communication theories. Working closely with scientists, doctors, and other experts, medical illustrators develop illustrations and other visual content that is published in medical textbooks, brochures, and other materials. They’re responsible for making complex concepts easy to understand for people without medical backgrounds. In addition to specializing in content development, medical illustrators often fill roles as creative directors, managers, and consultants. Many medical illustrators setup and manage small businesses.

The following are organizations that hire medical illustrators:
  • Hospitals, medical clinics, colleges, universities, and medical schools
  • Periodical and textbook publishing companies
  • Small companies and large corporations
  • Law firms
  • Graphic design and web development companies
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Veterinary schools
  • Marketing companies
  • Non-profit organizations and government agencies
Currently, many medical illustrators run their own businesses or work at large corporations that conduct business around the world.

Many medical illustrators work for companies that develop medical illustrations used during personal injury, medical malpractice, and other types of civil litigation. Fields where medical illustrators are in-demand that are rapidly growing include computer animation, modeling, and interactive design.

Medical illustrators often specialize in forensic reconstruction, surgery, ophthalmological illustration, prostheses devices, and other specialized fields. Some medical illustrators serve on research teams and develop illustrations for medical textbooks.

Education and Training

Medical illustrators typically hold specialized master's degrees administered at medical schools. 4 American medical schools and 1 Canadian medical school offer accredited medical illustration programs. However, about 16 students are admitted at each school during an academic year, so competition is very intense. Each school must satisfy certain requirements mandated by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) to remain accredited. The following are classes students are required to take:
  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Pathology
  • Embryology
  • Surgery
In addition to the aforementioned classes, students are also required to complete classes in electronic and digital media, storyboard creation, web development, interactive media development, animation, prosthetics, and three-dimensional modeling. It takes 2 years to complete a graduate medical illustration program, and each program has different admission requirements.

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