Medical Illustrator Career Plan

A career in medical illustration requires strong skills in both science and the visual arts. Because programs are competitive – and spots limited – this career path takes academic skills and savvy. The following steps were designed with the high school student in mind. (If you already have a degree in an art or science field, you can begin exploring graduate programs.)

  1. Meet with your academic advisor and plan a college prep curriculum. Get a solid foundation in science. Also work on developing your art skills. You have quite a bit of time to build your portfolio, but you may want to get a head start by enrolling in AP art.

  2. Pursue career exploration in health sciences and the arts. Start with career fairs or job shadowing.

  3. Explore undergraduate programs. There is no one correct choice for undergraduate major, but do make sure that you take the prerequisites that you’ll need for your graduate studies. Policies vary a bit from institution to institution. Georgia Health Sciences University notes that biology majors and art majors have both been among the successful graduate school applicants. The University of Toronto notes that most of their successful candidates have BA or BS degrees, and that BFA candidates should have no more than 25% studio courses on their transcripts.

  4. Work on your art portfolio while earning a competitive GPA. Also seek out experiences that will give you practical experience and build your resume. If you have a background in design, you may be able to do some volunteer work for a healthcare client, even if it’s not truly biomedical illustration.

  5. Explore graduate programs. There are currently three CAAHEP-accredited medical illustration programs in the United States that are accepting new students (Georgia, Illinois, and Maryland). There is also one program in Canada. They’re competitive, so you’ll want the total package: test scores, grades, portfolio… and good communication. Be prepared to go through an interview process.

  6. Get some real-world experience while pursuing your graduate studies. Your school will likely have partnerships with a number of health institutions. You may complete a volunteer or paid internship.
    Also consider joining AMI (the Association of Medical Illustrators). There is a mentorship program for new professionals.

  7. You can search for jobs on the AMI site. You will also find resources for the self-employed.

Personality Traits: According to AMI, medical illustrators have good visualization ability, scientific and artistic aptitude, and are detail-oriented. They are content to work alone, but can also collaborate effectively.