Am I fit to be a Scientific Illustrator?

Do you enjoy graphic design, or have you entertained the idea of possibly working in a science-related setting? Becoming a Scientific Illustrator just might be the perfect job for you. This profession combines the best of both worlds–science and art–to create life-like drawings and diagrams that are typically featured in textbooks, brochures, and even museums.

Why are Scientific Illustrators needed?

In this day and age, we have the photographic and scientific means to know what anatomy looks like, so why do we need someone to illustrate it? Scientific Illustrators enhance and give life to real-life anatomy. More often than not, the subjects photograph poorly, and it is hard to transfer small details through photography. With illustration, artists can translate the images in order to be clear, concise, and organized.

So, do I have to double major in Science and Art?

The short answer is no. Most Scientific Illustrators have a bachelor’s degree in a science field, or even science illustration. Some go on to pursue a master’s degree. However, it is important to show coursework in design as well. Animation, life drawing, and graphic design classes are suggested to show as experience, while also benefiting you with experience.

What would my job tasks be?

With a job like Scientific Illustration, the possibilities are truly endless. Some common subjects you may be working with are plants, animals, humans, and insects. You may also be subject to creating commissioned projects for companies and organizations.

How do I gain experience?

Outside of school, it is important to be on top of internships and networking opportunities to build your resume and portfolio. With art-related jobs in particular, employers like to see previous projects and what you are capable of; a written bullet on a resume only goes so far. To start, reaching out to smaller communities is a great way to work up to a bigger publishing agency. Try asking around local recreational centers, schools, and museums.

Am I a good candidate for the position?

Besides scientific and artistic skills, Scientific Illustrators need to possess other qualities that make them fit for the job. Illustrators need to accurately describe and effectively communicate their drawings to their viewers. Being observant, communicative, and technical are some key characteristics that make for a great Scientific Illustrator. Having strong hand-eye coordination and being able to work with small items are also traits Scientific Illustrators can gain from art experience.

If this particular career path is intriguing and you are interested in becoming a Scientific Illustrator, you can! Here’s how:

As mentioned, there are certain certification requirements. These include:

  • Minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in scientific illustration
  • A strong portfolio that highlights elements such as repetition, dexterity, and realism.

Examples of a strong portfolio can be found here:

If you love the intricacies of science and have a good eye for design, this profession may be calling your name. The process to becoming a Scientific Illustrator is fairly simple compared to other medical fields. The main aspects to securing a job in this field are experience and networking. Employers want to know you are skilled in your field, as well as see that you have had prior experience elsewhere. As mentioned, the jobs that Scientific Illustrators are given may be tedious, so it is beneficial to show this is not your first time around.

By Dayna Hausspiegel
Dayna Hausspiegel Outreach Engagement Ambassador