How to Become a Medical Illustrator

How to Become a Medical Illustrator

Medical illustration is the transformation of complex medical and scientific information into images that can aid provision of healthcare services and facilitate learning. Thus, medical illustrators are bio-communication specialists who use their artistic ability to develop visual records for use in health care and education. If you have strong artistic skills and an interest in science, you could pursue a successful career in medical illustration.

The Work

The duties of medical illustrators vary by work setting. As such, medical illustrators working in clinical settings;

  • Take photographs and record videos of patients’ medical conditions
  • Handle special 3D equipment used in monitoring body organs such as eyes
  • Take photographs of non-accidental injuries for use in forensic investigations
  • Collaborate with healthcare practitioners, such as doctors and nurses

While illustrators in academic settings;

  • Produce images for use in journals, educational posters or textbooks
  • Compile photographs and prepare slides for use in lecturers
  • Work closely with academic staff, such as medical lecturers.

Work Environment

Medical illustrators normally work 37.5 hours a week. Depending on specialty, illustrators can spend their time in operating theatres, medical laboratories and lecture rooms.

While in operating rooms, medical illustrators wear protective clothing and unique uniforms to prevent infections and for easy distinction, respectively.


Using the National Health Service’s Agenda for Change paying structure, medical illustrators start at band 5 and work their way up to band 7, as shown below;



Annual pay

Band 5


£21,388 - £27,901

Band 6


£25,783 - £34,530

Band 7


£30,764 - £40,558

Source: National Career Service

Education and Training

To set your foot in this profession, you will need to obtain a higher national diploma, foundation degree or bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields;

  • Medical illustration – Suitable for those looking to work in academic settings
  • Graphic design or photography
  • Clinical photography – suitable for those looking to work in clinical settings. To pursue an undergraduate program in this field, you will need three A-levels in relevant subjects, such as biology, math and photography, as well as five GCSEs.

If you have a HND diploma or degree in photography or graphic design and wish to move into clinical settings, you will need to work as a clinical photographer trainee and afterwards pursue a postgraduate certificate in clinical photography.

After securing these qualifications, be sure to apply for membership in the Institute of Medical Illustrators, as well as join the voluntary registry run by the Council for the Accreditation of Medical Illustration Practitioners.

When hunting for a job, it is crucial to create a work portfolio to show prospective employers.

Skills, Abilities and Interests

Besides artistic skills, medical Illustrators should have the following skills and abilities;

  • An interest in media, photography and videography
  • Good spoken and written communication skills to relay information effectively
  • Good administrative, time management and teamwork skills
  • Intricate understanding of the human anatomy and physiology
  • Knowledge of diseases and treatment methods
  • Good IT skills

Career Development

Career development is a major aspect of human development. You definitely don’t want to stagnate in one position for a long time. As an ambitious medical illustrator, you can pursue advanced qualifications such as;

  • Master’s degree in clinical photography
  • Master’s degree in medical illustration, graphic design for healthcare or forensic art.
  • Postgraduate medical art programme offered by the Medical Artists’ Education Trust – Suitable for illustrators interested in using traditional artistic media.

The Institute of Medical Illustrators also offers membership opportunities and professional development resources.

After earning an advanced qualification and gaining vast work experience, promotion into a management position won’t take long to come your way.

Job Opportunities

The employers of medical illustrators include;

  • Hospitals
  • Medical schools
  • Research centers
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Publishing firms

Useful Links

There you have all you need to become a medical illustrator! Good luck.

Image Sourced: University of Georgia