Do you want to work as a scientific illustrator?
- Read about the most important info you need to decide on following this career.
- Follow the 7 points below and search for a tertiary institution near you for future studies. If you already are graduated, you may also search through our list of Jobs in the main menu.
- If you want to PLAN the way you need to prepare, then join our community where you will learn everything, while chatting with other potential artists and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!
UPDATED: 7 October 2020
1. What is a scientific illustrator?
Scientific illustrators are artists who study animals and create realistic and detailed drawings of each animal so that other people can study the drawing for research or reference.
Illustrators may be referred to as scientific illustrators, medical illustrators or biological illustrators, depending on their area of specialization and their employer.
2. What do they do?
Art & design / Business
Scientific illustrators focus on very realistic drawings by using either the usual art material (pencil, paint etc) or digital software.
- Communicate with management or clients to understand projects
- Study the specific kinf of animal
- Figure out which medium to use
- Transform the sketch through computer aided design software
- Work closely with scientists
- Present progress and final product to management or clients
- Promote business through a portfolio
Where they work:
Scientific illustrators can spend equal amounts of time indoors as outdoors. They do need to study the animal closely, and at times this can be done in nature.
Places of Employment –
They are sometimes employed by book editors, universities, museums, research institutions, laboratories and even government. They may also decide to start their own businesses.
The average yearly salary of scientific illustrators can be around US$58,000, but will depend on the talents, skills as well as place of employment.
Advancement in the field typically depends on work experience. First year practitioners often begin on a part-time basis, fitting their commitments around other work demands. Promotion to senior levels are available in all related careers. The levels of each promotion might differ from organization to organization, but generally are the following:
Intern > Junior Illustrator > Senior Illustrator > Manager
Scientific Illustrators mostly work on very tight deadlines, and would be called on to work lengthy hours. They might also need to travel frequently, and work in dangerous circumstances (out in the field).
Future Growth and Possibilities:
The prospects of future growth in this industry is only at around 1% with strong competition. The demand for illustrators is forecast to be greater for those with knowledge of digital illustration software.
3. Which Skills are required?
The skills required for a career as a scientific illustrator can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.
- Critical thinking
- Creative thinking
- Decision making
- Problem Solving
- Effective communication
- Interpersonal relationship
- Basic drawing techniques
- Basic business knowledge
- Basic customer service skills
- Good health and physical fitness
- Basic computer literacy
4. Which Subjects must I have at School?
The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.
OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!
5. What will I need to Study?
The minimum requirement to enter a career as a scientific illustrator is a college diploma, with a few excellent Short Courses.
A diploma with a focus in fine arts, animal behaviour, zoology, animal physiology, or a closely related area is preferred.
Short Courses –
In drawing techniques and using software packages.
The duration of most diplomas are between 2 and 3 years full time. The duration of short courses differ, but can range from a few days to a few months.
Possible Career Preparation Paths:
If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.
Why is planning important?
To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A Preparation Path is like your road map to where you want to be.
Possible Combined Career Paths:
It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.
Stepping Stone Career:
Being a scientific illustrator can also be used as a stepping stone career. A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (sometimes due to things like high fees etc).
You can begin as an intern illustrator after basic short courses and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.
Some of the possible paths:
Training and apprenticeship:
Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal caregiver careers, most of the skills you will need will be acquired through on-the-job training. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.
In some cases entry level positions (or junior positions) require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.
Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a more senior person or expert.
Join the Scientific Illustrator Group in STEP 8 to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!
Average entry level of education across the career:
6. Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations
Certain animal careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.
Although not required by law, certifications may help workers establish their credentials and enhance their skills.
Learn more about requirements by joining OZT in STEP 8.
7. Where can I study further?
All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.
See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards animal art and design.
8. Join the OZT community
Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a scientific illustrator.
Members of the Platform have special access to:
- Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
- Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
- Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
- Make friends around the world and share knowledge
- Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!
If you have decided on being a Scientific Illustrator, please click on the JOIN GROUPS button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.
If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu.
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