Bachelor of Fine Arts in Medical Illustration
Medical illustrators combine advanced artistry with a deep knowledge of anatomy to produce drawings, digital animation, and graphics that effectively communicate medical concepts. Most medical illustration careers require advanced degrees, however, there are a few schools that offer a BFA in Medical Illustration. Due to the specialized and sometimes hands-on nature of the program, there are currently no online offerings for this program, and there may be a requirement to travel to other campuses to attend certain classes. Those that choose this degree option will be rewarded with a highly specialized degree with career options ranging from the Healthcare sector to Media and Publishing.
Admission Requirements for a BFA in Medical Illustration
Admissions to undergraduate medical illustration programs are highly competitive and there are only a handful of schools in the country that are offering this degree program at an undergraduate level. For admission, schools will require a minimum GPA score to be submitted, along with ACT or SAT results - these will be specific to the school. Due to the nature of the degree program, students will be required to submit a portfolio of previous work completed in different mediums - hand drawing, photographs, and computer images. Students will need to have completed a full biology course in high school.
Medical Illustration Degree Coursework
Students will cover a range of courses during the program, covering human biology to art to communication. There may be classes in visual design and even potentially the chance to take part in a full-body dissection.
Gross Human Anatomy
Medical illustrators need to be well versed in the human body and how it works. Courses in gross human anatomy teach the structure of the body, its organs, as well as their respective functions. Students could come across courses like this early in their studies as human anatomy is foundational to the field of medical illustration.
Developments in graphic technology have expanded the field of medical illustration beyond traditional pen and paper. Contemporary medical illustrators may be expected to produce both 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional animations of surgeries, cell biology, or even molecular processes. Students pursuing a degree in digital animation can expect to take introductory to advanced courses in digital animation depending on their interests.
Another set of foundational knowledge, medical illustrators might be expected to know the ins and outs of cell functionality. These courses typically break different types of cells down to their component parts and teach how they contribute to the cellular system. These may be general medical courses taken with students from other fields or may be specific to medical illustration, combining factual knowledge with visualization techniques.
An invaluable skill for medical illustrators is the ability to draw effectively in real-time. Students may come across courses which require students to observe and sketch surgeries in progress. These courses are an opportunity for students to pull together their foundational skills in sketching, anatomy, and medical procedures.
Some programs may include coursework in digital game-making and interactive animation for educational purposes. Such courses could introduce user interface design concepts and programming languages. Students might have the opportunity to design and animate their own educational game project.
How to Choose a Degree in Medical Illustration
As there are not many schools across the country offering Medical Illustration at an undergraduate level, some factors that you may want to consider when deciding which course to go with could include; State, cost and curriculum.
Due to the technical nature of the program, there may be a requirement to travel to different campuses for semesters to complete certain core elements of the course. Additionally, some schools may provide more opportunity for hands-on anatomy experience. Students may also want to consider their proximity to graduate education and whether their undergraduate program will fulfill all of the requirements for further education.
Career Options with a Degree in Medical Illustration
Those with a degree in medical illustration could find themselves working in the medical industry, publishing, education, or even law. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average salary of fine artists and illustrators in 2018 at $48,960 per year. Because of their expertise, however, medical illustrators could expect much higher salaries. Below are some career prospects someone with a degree in medical illustration could pursue.