Can you Minor in Medical Illustration?

Medical illustration is a growing interest of students from different educational backgrounds these days as the industry is growing at a good rate.  What happens if you have some interest in medical illustration but are not sure you want it as your major?

medical illustration of spine

In this article I will answer the question on the minds of many current and future university students, which is “Can you minor in medical illustration?”

In general, yes, you can minor in medical illustration. There are universities  that offer students the ability to pursue a minor in medical illustration in addition to their major. These interdisciplinary minors include studies in art and science and open the door for graduate studies.  Let me explain the specifics.

There are many jobs in the world today that require an employee to have a degree in medical illustration.  As a result of this demand for medical illustrators, many universities have added the opportunity to get a minor in medical illustration to their list of growing degree options.

Medical illustration is a relatively new degree to pursue in a university, whether its on an undergraduate or graduate level.  As a result, there are many frequently asked questions regarding a minor.

How to get a minor in medical illustration?

A minor in college is a program that allows students to explore a second discipline of interest. It has less courses than the major and allows students to pursue multiple interests.

Usually a medical illustration minor is an interdisciplinary program with art and science courses and is open to students in all disciplines.  However, it is best suited for students who are pursuing a bachelor degree in biology or art.  Such minors are for those who either want to have an extra foundation in visuals for science such as for scientific articles or for those who want to complete a graduate medical illustration program later on.  They basically give students a taste of the medical illustration field to let them decide whether they want to pursue it further in graduate school and make it a full time profession.

Below are some links to medical illustration minor programs:

Savannah College of Art and Design scientific illustration minor

Virginia Commonwealth University scientific illustration minor

University of Toronto biomedical communications minor

University of Southern California science visualization minor

University of Illinois life science visualization minor

Louisiana Tech University pre medical illustration


What do I need to get into a medical illustration minor?

To get into a medical illustration minor program, there is no separate college admissions process if you are already attending the college.  You need to be in good standing in your bachelors program and may need a certain GPA.

In certain cases you need an application that will be reviewed and there is a limit to how many students can be admitted, due to the nature of the program and resources/ equipment availability especially when 3d animation and software is utilized.  A portfolio or work may be required depending on the school.

Other options for medical illustration programs

Having covered the minor in medical illustration, let me briefly explain other options to pursue an education in medical illustration.  The longest and costliest are of course the full undergraduate program in medical illustration as well as the graduate program covered in another article.

In addition to those, you can obtain certificates in medical illustration which can be continuing education, a post bachelors or post masters degree.   There are even some fully online programs.

Below are some certificate programs available to you:

California State University Certificate

University of British Columbia Certificate

Rhode Island School of Design Certificate

Minnesota State University Certificate


Where do medical illustrations end up?

Look around you, anywhere in the world, and you will likely see some type of medical illustration. Many mediums choose to display medical illustrations. There are so many mediums that choose to display medical illustrations that the possibilities are endless. Here are a few examples of the many mediums that choose to display medical illustrations:

-Textbooks for students who are studying medicine and choose to pursue a career in a medical field by getting a degree that is based on a medical specialty.

-Advertisements for health-related products that draw in an audience by having a medical illustration tell them what their health-related product does to a living body.

-Videos that are meant to teach or inform an audience of a medical-based topic. It is common for medical illustrations to take the place of real-life pictures of the same medical-based topic if the topic of the video concerns an unethical practice, a rare medical procedure or a medical procedure that can’t be filmed to show up on a screen and presented clearly.

-Scientific journals where their scientific body is concerned with the field of medical studies. The medical illustrations in a scientific journal may be used to explain a selected author’s contribution by matching up with that author’s article or to draw together the multiple articles which have all been written by many different authors into a coherent theme as a way to tie up all the contributions to the main focus of that specific scientific journal.

-Exhibits in a location for an audience to learn about a specific medical topic. This audience  could be unfamiliar with the topic of that specific medical-based experience. If this is the case, the medical illustration of that specific medical-based exhibit will likely show a step-by-step procedure or clear outline, depending on the nature of that medical-based experience, to be a visual guide on that medical-based topic displayed by that exhibit. By adding on a medical illustration as a medical-based exhibit guide, a selected audience can easily become engaged with and learn from that medical-based exhibit.

-A guide in a book or pamphlet that needs to have a detailed description of how to carry out a medical procedure.

-Brochures for health-related products that need to draw in an audience by having a medical illustration tell them what their health-related product does to a living body.

What do medical illustrations depict?

3d rendering of a virus

Medical illustration can be used for many different purposes. As a result, medical illustrations can show a variety of different topics. There are so many topics that can be displayed with medical illustrations that the possibilities are endless. Here are a few examples of the many topics that can be displayed by medical illustrations.

-Images of the human body. These images can be internal images or external images.

-Images of any animal’s body. These images can be internal images or external images.

-Images of robotics.

-Images of the effects that a supplement can have on a body.

-Images of microorganisms, cells, particles and other elements of scientific study that can’t be seen with the naked eye without the use of a microscope.

Other facts concerning medical illustration

The following facts are further information that you will find useful concerning medical illustration as a career:

-There are an estimated 2000 medical illustrators that are working in the field of medical illustration today.

-Medical illustrations can be comic or realistic

-Medical illustrations can be digital or physical

-There is an official Association of Medical Illustrators. The Association of Medical Illustrators can help prospering medical illustrators with assistance in gaining a minor in medical illustration as well as a job after a prospering medical illustrator has received a minor in medical illustration. Adding on, the Association of Medical Illustrators can help people looking to hire a medical illustrator by pairing up a medical illustrator with them. The Association of Medical Illustrators was started in 1945. The Association of Medical Illustrators also allows people to join their organization as a member or as a sponsor.

If you want to learn more about being a medical illustrator from first hand experience, check out this video:


Click on the following link to learn what medical illustrators major in.

Doc J

Dr. J has worked in biology all his life and holds several advanced degrees and certificates in biology, anatomy, scientific illustration, 3d animation and motion graphics. He has always had an interest in teaching others the wonders of biology using the latest advances in graphics, including visualization, digital microscopy, animation, illustration, VR and interactive media.

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