Duties and responsibilities
Medical illustration is a very small and specialized field. A medical illustrator is an artist who produces photographs or graphic images for professionals involved in patient care, teaching, education and research. The typical duties will vary depending on what area they specialize in (e.g., clinical photography, graphic designer, artist or videography). However, the typical duties of a medical illustrator roughly include:
- Creating and designing medical posters and patient information leaflets
- Creating visual materials (e.g., posters, illustrations and slides) for teaching and research purposes, for use in lectures or for conferences
- Using 3D illustration/animation software (such as Maya, OsiriX or Zbrush) to do the above
- Designing websites for patients, doctors and the general public
- Recording a patient’s condition using a digital camera or video
- Taking photographs during operations and treatments, to monitor their effectiveness
- Work closely with doctors, nurses and patients in hospitals and university medical departments
- Copying evidence from slides and x-rays
- use software to produce presentations
- Planning the layout for annual reports and other corporate material
To become a medical illustrator, you will typically need a degree in a relevant subject, such as photography, graphic design, art and design or illustration. Although a masters degree is not technically a necessity, a masters degree in medical illustration or similar is widely preferred by most employers. The field of medical illustration is competitive and candidates with masters degrees are more likely to standout.
Skills and relevant work experience
- Creativity, as the key responsibility of many medical illustrators is to create presentations, posters and information leaflets
- Interpersonal skills, as medical illustrators will often be working as part of a team and need to build effective team relationships
- Organization skills, as medical illustrators will have to work towards many deadlines
- Communication skills, as medical illustrators will have to communicate clearly to other medical professionals about their ideas
- Attention to detail, as medical illustrators must create images focusing on the human anatomy
- Technical ability, as medical illustrators will work with some complexed programmes and software
Medical illustrators will normally work full time. Depending on where they work, some may work normal days, others may have to work shifts or work weekends and evenings.
Medical illustrators earn between $62,000 and $100,000 per annum. Those in supervisory and creative director positions earn a median of $85,000 and up to $175,000 per year.
Medical illustration is a very niche and specialized career. Once in the profession, medical professionals can work for medical schools, academic health centres, hospitals, medical legal firms, publishing companies, research institutions, veterinary schools or medical educational companies. After experience, medical illustrators can progress to more supervisory or directory positions, where they will have more responsibility.