Starting your career
Choosing subjects at school
To become a medical illustrator, you need a good standard of education. Useful subjects include:
- Administration and IT
- Art and Design
- Graphical Communication
Work placements and volunteering
You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland.
A Foundation Apprenticeship might give you the skills, knowledge and work experience you need to work as a medical illustrator. Find out more about relevant Foundation Apprenticeship in:
College and university
Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first.
At college, you could do an HNC or HND to set you on the right path. These include:
Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you can get into higher education through the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.
Different degree qualifications are required for each specialty.
If you want to work as a clinical photographer, you will need a degree in clinical photography approved by:
In Scotland, you can complete the following courses to qualify for professional membership of IMI upon completion:
- University of Dundee – MSc in Medical Art
- University of Dundee – MSc in Forensic Art and Facial Identification
- Glasgow School of Art – MSC in Medical Visualisation and Human Anatomy
If you already have a degree, you can apply for a trainee position. As part of your training, you can take a postgraduate certificate in clinical photography.
If you want to work as a clinical videographer, you’ll need a degree in video or photography. Typically, videographers begin their careers as qualified clinical photographers who have chosen to specialise in video production.
If you want to work as a clinical graphic designer or artist, you’ll need a degree in design or a related media subject. You could also become a medical illustrator if you have commercial experience as a designer or illustrator.
For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work.
As a medical illustrator, you’ll create visual records of patients and material by working in:
- a studio
- operating theatre
Your visual records will be used to train healthcare staff and to support medical research.
What you’ll do
Your main tasks include:
- recording digital images and video of a patient’s condition to be used as part of their healthcare record
- photography and imaging procedures to monitor the effectiveness of operations and treatments through time
- using highly specialist ophthalmic imaging equipment to help record clinical pathology
- arrange necessary consent from patients and staff
- undertake public relations photography
- produce artwork and designs for posters and patient information leaflets
- design websites for patients, doctors and the general public
- plan the layout for annual reports and other corporate material
You’ll need these skills:
- customer service
Who you’ll work with
You could work with:
- allied healthcare professionals
- healthcare scientists
You could work in:
- hospital clinics
- operating theatres
- dedicated medical illustration or photography departments
Did you know?
Medical illustrators can work with 3D printing.
Learning and development
As a medical illustrator, you’ll have continuing professional development (CPD) to keep your knowledge and skills up to date. You must also do this to maintain your registration with the Healthcare Professionals Council (HCPC). The IMI will offer relevant courses and qualifications.
As your career progresses, you could move into a more senior or management role, including leading your own team or controlling a budget.
There will be opportunities for you to teach or train current staff or the next generation of medical illustrators. With an MSc or PhD in a relevant subject, you could move into teaching.
You may decide to specialise in different areas, including:
- Ophthalmic imaging
- 3D images
Medical illustrators can also undertake clinical academic research.
To work as a medical illustrator in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:
Once you’ve graduated from the training scheme, you’ll be able to apply for professional membership of the Institute of Medical Illustrators (IMI).
If you are patient-facing, you can voluntarily register with the Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS).