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STEM Series Pt. 4: Medical Illustrator

Do you ever wonder where our science textbooks get all those detailed diagrams from? Or how do so many health websites have different drawings to show us what different symptoms may look like? That is a job for a medical illustrator! If art is your passion but so is science, then this is the job for you.

Medical illustrators are experts in both science and art. They are professional artists who create accurate and life-like illustrations of human and animal biology. The drawings they create serve the purpose of teaching and communicating ideas of the medical field through visual storytelling. For example, illustrations could educate a patient on how a pacemaker device keeps the heart muscles pumping correctly. Medical illustrators also are used as teaching aids to train doctors and nurses, and visual aids to help the general public understand various health issues. Medical illustrator’s creations are not just limited to the health field, the drawings can also be used in court by attorneys to help explain better a surgical procedure to the judge or jury.

Most medical illustrators work with doctors, scientists, and other experts. However, the material they create can be used in lectures, books, medical journals, physicians’ offices, and many more. A medical illustrator usually begins by researching their topic, and then moves on to creating thumbnail ideas and sketches for their final product. Besides drawings, they also create 3-D models, animations, and interactive experiences. These projects often are in teams with medical animators, web developers, and other creative professionals.

To become a medical illustrator, it is ideal to engage in a bachelor’s degree in art and design along with a minor concentration in biological, or pre-med sciences. Many also recommend furthering your education by attaining a master’s degree in medical illustration from a graduate school. There is also usually a certification program illustrators must be recognized from, but this may vary depending on where you live. The average salary for a medical salary is approximately $62,000 to $85,000 per year. Medical illustrators can be self-employed full-time or can work on a freelance basis. It is actually common for medical illustrators to be self-employed. In fact, they reported some of the stronger earnings.

Being extremely detail-oriented will tremendously help medical illustrators create specific and accurate art. Possessing good communication skills will also be helpful as they will have to speak to clients and employers, and may even have to explain the nature of their diagrams. It is important to know that medical illustrators must be equally skilled in both visual art and biological sciences!


Format Team. “How to Become a Medical Illustrator.” Format, Format, 25 Oct. 2018,

“Learn about Medical Illustration.” Association of Medical Illustrators,

TACP Staff. “Medical Illustrator / Animator.” The Art Career Project, 16 July 2021,

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