University of Wisconsin–Madison

Medical Illustrator (MI)

Work Activities/Work Locations

  • Medical Illustrators provide visual aids to enhance the understanding of medical science. They draw illustrations of human anatomy and surgical procedures.
  • Illustrators create graphics by hand, computer, or other technical equipment to be used in publications, television, presented at workshops/museums, or posted on instructive websites.
  • They use a variety of mediums including pen and ink, watercolor, plaster, wax, plastics, and photographic equipment. They are increasingly utilizing computer graphic software packages to create illustrations.
  • Medical Illustrators need to have a solid foundation in anatomy and general medical knowledge so they can present visual aids accurately.
  • Medical Illustrators can work in medical schools, large hospitals and clinics, for publishers of medical textbooks and journals, or advertising firms that carry pharmaceutical accounts. They can also work for public or private research institutions or pharmaceutical firms.
  • Some Medical Illustrators are similar to freelance artists who try to develop a set of clients who regularly contract for work. They can then pick and choose the jobs that they will take, and many times work at home.

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Medical and Scientific Illustrators like using their creativity and many different skills to complete projects.
  • People are generally very appreciative of work a Medical Illustrator accomplishes.

 Education: 4-6 years

 Patient Interaction: Low

 Physical Activity: Low

 Salary: $44,900

 Job Growth: Medium

Getting Started

  • High School Courses
    • Students should take a college preparatory curriculum and concentrate on courses and/or activities that would strengthen their artistic abilities.
    • Development of a portfolio or an audition that demonstrates their talent is critical for students’ entry into private fine arts or performing arts institutions, respectively.
    • Helpful high school courses would include Drawing, Multimedia Design, Photography, biology, and Computer Graphics.
    • Get practical experience by contributing your illustrations to school newspaper.
  • Education and Training
    • Training requirements for artists vary by specialty, and although formal training is not strictly necessary for fine artists, it can be very difficult to become skilled enough to make a living without some training.
    • 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 with courses in drawing, life drawing, painting, design, color theory, photography, and layout and Premedical courses usually is preferred, followed by a Master’s Degree in Medical Illustration.
    • College/university coursework includes core subjects such as English, social sciences, and natural science in addition to art history and studio art.
    • Independent Schools of Art and Design also offer postsecondary studio training in the fine arts leading to an Associate in Art (AA) or BFA degree. Typically, these programs focus more on studio work than the academic programs in a university setting.
    • Formal educational programs in art also provide training in computer techniques. Computers are used widely, and knowledge and training in them is critical for many jobs in this field.
    • This master’s degree in Medical Illustration is offered in only a few accredited schools in the United States. This two-year program includes gross anatomy, histology, pathology, anatomical and surgical illustration, three-dimensional modeling, exhibit construction, and cinematography.
    • Learning how to assemble a winning portfolio is a key to success with employers. The portfolio is a collection of hand-made, computer-generated, photographic, or printed samples of the artist’s best work.
    • Assembling a successful portfolio requires skill usually developed in a Bachelor’s Degree program or other postsecondary training in art or visual communication

    Most Wisconsin colleges, universities, or technical colleges will offer an Art major.

    Wisconsin currently does not offer a Master’s Degree Program in Medical Illustration. Currently there are 4 accredited graduate programs in the nation and 1 in Toronto. See Association of Medical Illustrators www.ami.org for a complete listing of schools.

    University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Biomedical Visualization, College of Associated Health Professions, M.S. degree-2 year curriculum, see www.ahs.uic.edu

  • Method of Entry

    Association of Biomedical Communications Directors
    University of North Texas Texas Health
    Science Center
    Fort Worth, TX, 76203
    www.abcdirectors.org/

    Association of Medical Illustrators
    201 E. Main St., Ste. 1405
    Lexington, KY, 40507
    866/393-4AMI (4264)
    www.ami.org

    Biocommunications Association
    389 Newport Avenue
    Attleboro, MA, 02703-5617
    571/557-1971
    www.bca.org

    Guild of Natural Science Illustrators
    P.O. Box 42410
    Washington, DC, 20015
    301-309-1514
    www.gnsi.org/

    Health and Science Communications Assoc.
    PO Box 31323
    Omaha, NE, 68132
    402/915-5373
    hesca.net/

    Ophthalmic Photographers’ Society
    1887 W. Ranch Road
    Nixa, MO, 65714
    417/725-0181 or 800/403-1677
    www.opsweb.org/

     

Career Outlook

Number Employed in 2012 (Wisconsin): 460
Expected Employment in 2022 (Wisconsin): 510
Percent Employment Growth (2012-2022): 11%
Expected Annual Openings: 20
Median Salary in 2014 (Wisconsin): $44,900

Salary information is located at Career One Stop

Wisconsin AHEC Health Careers Information Center provides the most current salary information available from CareerOneStop. CareerOneStop will have a lapse between when the information is gathered and when it is released.

  • Medical and Scientific Illustrators usually work 40 hours a week, Monday thru Friday.
  • Freelance Illustrators can set their own hours.
  • Can work part- time.
  • Fine Artists advance professionally as their work circulates and as they establish a reputation for a particular style.
  • Medical and Scientific Illustrators may become directors or assistant directors of media services units.
  • Some become Freelance Illustrators and may independently contract their services.