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
A Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare, or Creative and Digital Media, taken in S5 or S6, could give you valuable work experience.
If you’re at school or thinking of changing career, doing a work placement could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS.
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.
Successful completion of the course could lead to a degree in a life science subject at a university that participates in the SWAP partnership programme.
You will need to have different qualifications for each specialist area.
If you want to work as a clinical photographer, you will need a degree in clinical photography approved by the Institute of Medical Illustrators (IMI). However, if you already have a degree, you can apply for a trainee position. Your degree must be recognised by the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP). You will be able to take a postgraduate certificate in clinical photography as part of your training.
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.
Once you have graduated, you will be able to apply for professional membership of the IMI. If you are patient-facing, you can voluntarily register with the Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS).
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
For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work. You should check specific entry requirements before applying.
As a medical illustrator, you’ll work in a studio, operating theatre or on the wards to create visual records of patients and materials. 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/or 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 within a busy outpatient department
- 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:
- caring for people
- communicating with people
- customer service
- working in a team
Who you’ll work with
You could work with:
- allied healthcare professionals
- healthcare scientists
You could work in:
- hospital clinics, wards or operating theatres
- dedicated medical illustration or photography departments
To work as a medical illustrator in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:
Did you know?
Medical illustrators can work with 3D printing.
Learning and development
As a medical illustrator, you would be expected to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) in order to keep your knowledge and skills up to date. You must also do this to maintain your registration with the HCPC. The IMI offers courses and programmes to keep this up to date.
Gaining qualifications will help your career prospects. 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
Some medical illustrators also undertake clinical academic research.