Sketch out a career as a medical illustrator

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Medical illustrators, also known as clinical photographers, produce photographs, videos and other graphical images for use in the healthcare sector.

They also use their graphic design, editing and artistic skills to produce materials for medical lectures and conferences.

As a medical illustrator, your key duties would usually involve:

l clinical photography – using a digital camera or video to record a patient’s condition

l taking photographs for use in monitoring the effectiveness of operations and treatments over a period of time

l using specialist equipment and techniques to capture 3-D images of structures like the eye, and to record specific procedures.

You might also produce artwork for educational posters, leaflets, publicity and corporate materials, annual reports, staff newspapers and organisations’ websites.

With some employers, your work would include:

l forensic photography (photographing non-accidental injuries)

l bereavement photography for grieving parents

l copying evidence from slides and x-rays

l using software to produce presentations

l creating overhead transparencies and other audio-visual materials for teaching and research purposes.

You would work closely with both healthcare professionals and patients in a range of settings around hospitals and university medical departments.

You would typically work 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday, with the possibility of on-call duties and occasional 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 may occasionally be faced with unpleasant or upsetting situations.

Some NHS Trusts have a number of sites, so you may travel between buildings during the course of your working day.

Medical illustrators can earn between £20,700 and £26,800 a year. With experience this can rise to around £33,000 to £39,000.

To apply for a trainee post, you will usually need at least a relevant foundation degree or BTEC HND, plus a portfolio of images.

Increasingly, you will need a degree in a subject such as clinical photography, medical illustration or photography. Check with course providers for details of entry requirements.

You will improve your job prospects if you 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.

You will find most jobs with NHS Trusts and university medical schools. You may also find work in research establishments, pharmaceutical companies, in the private medical sector or as a freelance illustrator.