Medical illustrators produce photographs, videos and graphical images for use in healthcare.

What does a medical illustrator do?

Medical illustrators produce illustrations, photographs and videos for use in healthcare. The images produced may be used for diagnostic purposes, recording patient care, or for training. You’ll need artistic ability and a good eye for detail to do this job. You’ll usually be working for a health board in the NHS, though you may also work for a smaller private hospital.

Your tasks will depend on your specialism and may include:

  • recording a patient's condition using a digital camera or video
  • taking photographs to monitor the effectiveness of operations and treatments
  • using specialist equipment and techniques to capture 3D images of structures like the eye, and to record specific procedures
  • working closely with doctors, nurses and patients in hospitals and university medical departments.
  • photographing non-accidental injuries, in forensic photography
  • providing bereavement photography for grieving parents
  • copying evidence from slides and x-rays
  • using software to produce presentations
  • creating visual materials for teaching and research purposes
  • producing photography and artwork for publicity materials, annual reports, staff newspapers and websites.

What do I need to do to become a medical illustrator?

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • working towards this role


You'll need a degree in a relevant subject like:

  • photography
  • graphic design
  • illustration
  • art and design

You can apply for a trainee position as a medical illustrator in a healthcare setting once you finish your degree.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grade 4 (C) or above, including English, maths and sometimes a science
  • 2 to 3 A levels for a degree

More information


You can apply to do a postgraduate qualification if you're already working in healthcare and you have a relevant degree. For example, courses include clinical photography and graphic design in healthcare.

Related skills

  • Ability to understand technical plans
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Interpersonal skills
  • IT
  • Organisation
  • Teamwork
  • Technical ability
  • Time management

Academic route

  • A levels including biology and photography

Vocational route

  • Level 3 courses in art and design

Related subjects

  • Art
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer science
  • Design technology
  • Media studies

Essential qualifications

  • Undergraduate degree in clinical illustration or clinical photography
  • Or, an undergraduate degree in photography or a related discipline, and a postgraduate qualification in clinical photography or clinical illustration

Where to find out more

Career tips

Medical illustration is a small and specialised field, and there's a lot of competition for vacancies. You'll improve your job prospects if you also have relevant work experience.

Some courses include work placements, or you could contact your local university or NHS trust's medical photography department to arrange a visit or some work shadowing.

Professional and industry bodies

You can join the Academy for Healthcare Science or Institute of Medical Illustrators for professional recognition, training opportunities and to make industry contacts.

Further information

You'll find more advice on careers and training in medical illustration through the Institute of Medical Illustrators and Health Careers.

Where could I be working?

You could work in a photographic studio or in an NHS or private hospital.

You may need to wear protective clothing.

Career opportunities

With experience, you could progress to a management role. With further study, you could also move into research or teaching.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

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