What does a Medical Illustrator do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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A medical illustrator is an artist who specializes in producing images which are related to the medical field. These images may be used in instructional materials, informational handouts, advertisements, research publications, and a variety of other settings. Employment prospects in this field are quite excellent for people who are willing to pursue certification, are there are limited numbers of fully qualified medical illustrators, and there is a constant need for medical illustration.

Humans have been creating medical illustrations for thousands of years, as numerous works of art and historic medical texts indicate. Illustrations were used to document specific medical issues as well as generic topics like anatomy so that people had a graphic representation of topics discussed in texts, and they were also historically utilized for documentation of unusual medical cases. Over time, the field of medicine has expanded radically, as have the potential applications for medical illustration.

In order to become a medical illustrator, someone trains as an artist and also receives training in the biological sciences. Human anatomy and physiology are typically part of a medical illustrator's education, and he or she may choose to focus on a particular area of interest, such as nursing, surgery, and so forth, to acquire additional skills. Many professional illustrators also belong to professional organizations of medical illustrators, some of which offer certification and job referrals.


This type of work requires artistic skills, along with an eye for detail and the ability to precisely follow instructions. Medical illustrators may also need to be comfortable with working in settings such as operating rooms and morgues.

In addition to creating traditional drawings, a medical illustrator can also produce images digitally, and he or she can work with medical models, educational films, and so forth. He or she wants to communicate medical information in a way which is clear, accessible, and relevant, whether that information is an illustration of a new surgical technique in a trade journal, or a poster used to promote childhood vaccinations to new parents.

In many cases, a medical illustrator works as a freelance professional, accepting jobs from a variety of people including service organizations, doctors, medical schools, hospitals, and so forth. Other illustrators may work in the employ of a hospital, laboratory, or publishing house, producing images on demand for various projects. For example, a medical illustrator who works for a pharmaceutical company might produce illustrations used in drug information pamphlets, along with illustrations for promotional materials, publications in medical journals, and so forth.


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Post 2

@SZapper - You might look into working as some kind of medical photographer than. After all, a lot of those medical textbooks and journals have photographs in them too!

After reading this article, I don't know why any medical illustrator would choose not to get certified. It sounds like a certified medical illustrator is very in demand. I know if I could do something to make myself more in demand in my field I sure would!

Post 1

I think this would be such a cool job! I majored in art when I went to college but biology and medicine have always interested me too!

I took Anatomy and Physiology as one of my lab sciences when I was in college and the drawings and photographs fascinated me! Honestly, if I had any kind of drawing skills I would have considered a career as a medical illustrator.

Unfortunately, though my major was art, my drawing skills are lacking. That's why I made photography my concentration. I think this would be an awesome job for anyone who is interested in both art and science though.

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