Medical illustrator

Design, arts and crafts

Career outlook for medical illustrator

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would use your artistic skills to create images and take photos and videos of medical conditions and treatments. Your images would be used to train healthcare staff and to support medical research.

You’d create visual records of the care that patients receive. You’d make materials for medical teaching and research.

There are four areas you could specialise in:

  • Photography
  • Videography
  • Graphic design
  • Medical art

You would record a patient's condition using a digital camera or video. You’d take photographs so that medical staff can see the effectiveness of operations and treatments over a period of time.

Using specialist equipment and techniques, you’d capture 3-D images of structures like the eye, and record specific procedures.

You might also take photos and create artwork for:

  • Educational posters and leaflets for the public
  • Publicity materials
  • Annual reports
  • Staff magazines and newspapers
  • Websites

For some jobs you would:

  • Do forensic photography, taking photos of non-accidental injuries
  • Copy evidence from slides and x-rays
  • Do bereavement photography, taking photos for grieving parents
  • Use software to design presentations

You would work closely with doctors, nurses and patients in hospitals and university medical departments.

You can see more about this role in the National Health Service on the Medical illustrator page on the NHSScotland Careers website. See the Learning and development section for information about career structure, progression and rates of pay.

Working conditions


You would usually work 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday. You may sometimes need to be available for on-call duties and overtime. Job-sharing and part-time hours may also be possible.


You could be based in a clinic, hospital ward, studio or operating theatre. You will usually work as part of a team. You may occasionally be faced with unpleasant or upsetting situations.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Adaptability
  • Working with technology
  • Creative
  • Designing
  • Innovative
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


You would need a degree (SCQF level 9/10) in Photography followed by Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Photography (SCQF level 11).

You can enter some photography National Certificate or National Qualification courses (SCQF level 5) with no formal qualifications but most courses require National 4/5 qualifications (SCQF level 6).

You can enter a Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma courses (SCQF level 8) with National 4/5 qualifications and one to two Highers or equivalent qualifications.

Entry to a degree (SCFQ level 9/10) requires National 5 qualifications and a minimum of four Higher or a relevant HNC/HND.

To enter a postgraduate qualification (SCFQ level 11) will usually require a relevant degree. There are no postgraduate courses in Scotland

Medical illustration is a small and specialised field and there is often a lot of competition for vacancies.

The Institute of Medical Illustrators offers Assured Voluntary Regulation, through the Academy for Healthcare Science.

This is increasingly sought after by potential employers, as a recognition of professional standards. 

Useful subjects

  • English (often required by courses)
  • Art and design (often required by courses)
  • Photography
  • Science such as human biology

You will also need

You will need a portfolio of your work when applying to courses and to jobs. 

Helpful to have

Qualifications that demonstrate creative, digital and visual communication skills such as Skills for Work Creative Digital Media (SCFQ level 4) or Creative Industries (SCFQ level 5).

Work-based qualifications such as a Diploma in Creative and Digital Media (SCQF level 7) may also be helpful.

You will improve your job prospects if you also have relevant work experience.