Professional Association

Association of Medical Illustrators

General Duties:

Generate illustrations requested by the customer, review medical accuracy. A typical day of a medical illustrator varies depending on which step they are at. Usually, a medical illustrator communicates with customers for product requirements, they does research on that otpic of interest. They start sketching and color swatching and review for medical accuracy, then make the illustration.

What environment(s) and/or settings is this profession employed?

They work in an office or freelance. Some jobs require on-site observation of disease or laboratory.

What are the skills/qualities needed to be successful in this field?

Have medical and scientific knowledge in order to transcribe complex information into a visual narrative. They should be detail-oriented with natural ability in both art and science. Highly skilled with illustration software. Be able to work in teams and independently.

What is the employment outlook? 

Excellent due to the highly specialized nature of the work and relatively limited number of medical illustrators graduating each year.

What is the average salary/earnings for this profession? What is the average indebtedness of professionals entering the field? 

Median salary is $70,000.

Other healthcare professionals someone in this career may interact and/or collaborate with:

Physicians and scientists.

What kind of educational training/qualifications does entry into this career require? 

The majority of medical illustrators have a master’s degree from an accredited two-year graduate program in medical illustration. There are currently four programs in North America that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Professional Interviewed:

Sue Lee, freelance medical illustrator at Sue Lee Medical Illustration, based in Vermont.

How did they become interested in this field?

Her parents both worked as health professionals and her mother is a painter, so she considers herself acquiring both “genes.” She went to Colgate University as a pre-med but ended up creating an independent interdisciplinary major called biomedical illustration to pursue becoming a medical illustration.

What do they like about what they do?

Most of her work is instructional illustration. Besides the interest in anatomy and physiology, she loves solving the puzzle of creating illustrations and graphics that are both accurate, pleasing to the eye, and easy for the learner to understand. Most of her work is in pharmaceutical training, so learning about new drugs and how they work is fascinating. She has been freelancing for most of her career and she enjoys the flexible schedule.

How do they think their field will change in the next 10 years?

While there are many available sources of medical illustration through stock, or programs like ADAM, most of her clients want to have images created specific to their programs to maintain consistency and use branded colors, as well as full rights to the artwork. She thinks that the need for proprietary work will change, but because of purchasing full rights, the amount of work needed may diminish.

What is their advice for those interested in this career?

Though with a bachelor’s degree in anatomy, physiology, etc. with strong art/digital skills, it may be possible to find one’s way into a freelance career in medical illustration, at this point, a master’s degree from an accredited school is likely needed to be hired by an institution (hospital, university, etc). The Association of Medical Illustrators maintains a list of current graduate programs (at present there are 4).