Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions

... about the profession of medical illustration and the Augusta University Medical Illustration Graduate Program.

About the field....
• What qualities are needed to be a successful medical illustrator?
• What is the average salary for medical illustrators?
• How’s the job market?
• Where will I end up working?
• Aren’t computers replacing medical illustrators?

About the program at Augusta University....
• How long is the program?
• How expensive is Augusta University tuition?
• What other fees and costs are there?
• Is it true that health insurance is required?
• What about financial aid?
• How is the housing situation?
•  Is parking available on campus?
• What is the typical age and gender of your students?
• Is the curriculum traditional or computer-based?
• Do I need to bring a computer?

About the application process...
• Do I need a specific undergraduate degree?
• Do you require the GRE exam?
• Do you require computer training?
• What do you look for in a applicant’s portfolio?
• Is there anything I shouldn’t include in my portfolio?
• What is more important, scientific aptitude or artistic ability?
• How competitive is the application process?

About the Field....

 What qualities are needed to be a successful medical illustrator?
Although it is unlikely that any one person exhibits all the qualities listed here, a successful medical illustrator usually shows several:

  • A strong interest in the human body, physiology and medicine
  • The ability to visualize forms and render them in a realistic manner, often without the benefit of any physical references (i.e., drawing from the imagination)
  • An overriding concern for accuracy in a drawing
  • A strong ability to communicate and explain, both verbally and visually
  • The ability to adapt and implement new technologies
  • The ability to listen carefully, understand fully, and to seek out answers to remaining questions
  • Strong self-esteem (i.e., a thick hide) and confidence. This enables one to take criticism and correction (sometimes delivered emphatically) while keeping a cool head
  • Ambition, self motivation
  • Common sense and good business skills.

Again, most successful medical illustrators have varying degrees of the above qualities. Many of the qualities listed are acquired through experience in the field or through additional education after graduate school.

 What is the average salary for medical illustrators?
The salary range is quite wide and depends on many factors, including: the market and geographic location, an illustrator’s experience, position, artistic skills, area of expertise, business savvy and diligence. Several of the most financially successful illustrators in the field earn well over $100,000 annually. Salaries for new graduates have been rising, and our graduates over the past few years have received starting salaries between $45,000 and $65,000 annually. The average is approximately $53,000.

 How's the job market?
Although changing in the nature of the positions available, the job market appears to be growing. Computer technology and the Internet have broadened the job market considerably. One interesting trend is that approximately one-third of professional medical illustrators work for themselves as full-time private practice illustrators.

Among our recent graduates, of those entering the workforce, approximately 2/3 find employment within 90 days of graduation. And nearly all secure a job within 180 days.

•  Where will I end up working?
This is a difficult question to answer, because the possibilities are numerous. In the past, a medical illustrator was usually employed by a university-based hospital or institution, where their primary role was to create surgical illustrations for medical textbooks and journals. This has been changing steadily over the past few decades, and medical illustrators are now finding employment in a variety of areas. Now medical illustrators often find themselves creating illustrations for mainstream publications and advertising, as well as courtroom illustrations and patient education brochures. Many are involved in video production. The computer has broadened the field to include 2-D and 3-D animation, web site creation, nonlinear editing, etc.; and yet, there are still individuals doing traditional work at traditional institutions. The possibilities really are numerous, and continue to increase.

•  Aren't computers replacing medical illustrators?
Quite the opposite is true. Granted, there are some areas of medical imaging that have been developed with computer technology and that don’t require the services of a medical illustrator. Most of these involve either diagnostic imaging or anatomical models, areas that represent a small portion of a medical illustrator’s role. On the other hand, the computer has provided many more venues and techniques for the field, and has contributed to the growth that is now occurring.

For more information about the profession of medical illustration, contact the Association of Medical Illustrators.

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About the program at Augusta University....

 How long is the program?
Five consecutive semesters, or 21 months. All students begin with the Fall semester and graduate after the Spring semester of the following academic year. For additional information, please visit the Curriculum page of this website.

 How expensive is Augusta University tuition?
Our program is one of the least costly of its type, and is truly an exceptional value. For current tuition figures, please refer to the School of Graduate Studies Tuition & Fees page on the Office of the Registrar website. Augusta University is a participant in the Academic Common Market. Students from Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia or West Virginia may petition their home state to learn whether they qualify for in-state tuition at Augusta University. In addition, Augusta University can often grant in-state tuition (through a Regent's waiver) to out-of-state and foreign students.

•  What other fees & costs are there?
In addition to tuition, there are several student fees, such as an activity fee and a technology fee. For a detailed list, please refer to School of Graduate Studies Tuition & Fees.

For books, supplies and personal equipment, we estimate approximately $1,600 for the first year (three semesters), and $600 for the second year. Additional costs per semester, if necessary, are estimated at $100.

•  Is it true that health insurance is required?
Yes, all students attending Augusta University must offer proof of health insurance coverage. For more information, please refer to Health Insurance section of the Student Services website.

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•  What about financial aid?
For information about financial aid and scholarships, please refer to the Financial Aid Office.

•  How is the housing situation?
There are limited single and married student housing options available on-campus. The cost is considered to be inexpensive. Most of our students live off-campus, usually within five miles of campus. Housing in Augusta is moderate in cost and readily available. For detailed information on housing, please contact the Student Housing Office.

•  Is parking available on campus?
Yes, although the Augusta University campus is growing rapidly and there are fewer parking spaces than there used to be. Parking fees are quite reasonable. For further information about parking, please refer to the Parking Service Bureau.

•  What is the typical age and gender of your students?
It varies greatly from year to year, but over the years the number of female and male students has remained virtually equal. The age range varies from the low twenties to the mid-forties (we don’t ask, of course). In addition to young people seeking further education, this field seems also to attract many older, successful professionals that want to return to school in order to enhance their lives. For additional information, please visit the Students page within this website.

•  Is the curriculum traditional or computer based?
We have created a curriculum that combines the best, most important elements of both traditional and computer techniques. We update the curriculum annually to reflect changes in the field. The result is a dynamic program that provides comprehensive and timely training. For additional information, please visit the Curriculum page of this website.

Our curriculum is linear in nature; that is, the skills and knowledge acquired in the beginning courses form the foundation for additional learning in subsequent courses. All students take the same courses in the same order. As a consequence, we do not currently offer any electives.

•  Do I need to bring my own computer?
No, each student carrel is equipped with a high performance computer workstation, currently an Apple Mac. In addition, we have special purpose computers available in our computer lab.

You may, of course, bring your own computer. However, we can not load Augusta University-licensed software on to your computer. Furthermore, while our campus is considered to be quite safe and secure, we cannot be responsible for any loss of or damage to your computer while on campus.

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About the application process...

 Do I need a specific undergraduate degree?
No. Any bachelor degree from an accredited college or university will qualify. No preference is given to BFA, BA, or BS degrees.

 Do you require the GRE exam?
Yes. We look for a combined verbal and quantitative score of 900 or better (if taken prior to August 2011) or 295 or better (if taken after August 2011).

•  Do you require computer training?
Absolutely. We now require evidence of computer competency in the Preliminary Application by asking for samples of both raster-based (e.g., Adobe Photoshop™) and vector-based (e.g., Adobe Illustrator™) images. All fields in the graphic arts have been permanently changed by computer technology, and our curriculum reflects that change. We do not teach basic computer skills here—the student is expected to have acquired those skills as an undergraduate or on their own.

•  What do you look for in an applicant’s portfolio?
Applicants should have a well-developed artistic ability, and should be able to draw with a high degree of realism. When we evaluate a portfolio, we are primarily looking for the following: an ability to draw convincing forms in space, accuracy in terms of proportions and perspective, sophisticated use of color and a confident drawing style. We find that figure drawing provides a good measure of an applicant’s abilities, and so we pay careful attention to that part of the portfolio. Gesture drawing, painting, printmaking and sculpture are all fine as long as they help to show an applicant’s abilities. View portfolio samples

•  Is there anything I shouldn’t include in my portfolio?
Yes. We ask that none of the work be copied from photographs or artwork by others (it’s usually quite obvious). We also advise applicants not to include medical subject matter in their portfolio unless it is drawn as fine art (e.g., bones in a still-life). Contrary to popular belief, we DO NOT like to see flat, hyper-detailed, over-rendered work. Detail is fine, but only if the forms are well developed first. We prefer work that has creative energy, where the hand of the artist is evident. One last suggestion: Don’t send more than the requested number of images. Quantity does not make up for a lack of quality.

•  What is more important, scientific aptitude or artistic ability?
They are both important in the admission process. We won't consider an applicant for admission unless they have at least a 3.0 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) in the required science courses and satisfactory GRE scores. We then evaluate and rate the preliminary portfolios on a competitive basis, and invite the top candidates for a personal interview. This gives us an opportunity to evaluate the applicants' interpersonal communication skills, which are important when deciding who will be accepted for admission.

•  How competitive is the application process?
It is considered to be quite competitive, but certainly not out of reach for someone who has well-developed artistic skills combined with an aptitude for the biological sciences. We typically receive 35 to 50 applications per year. From those we choose 12 to 20 that show the level of artistic talent and science aptitude that is required for success in the field, and invite them to our campus for a personal interview. We then select up to 9 students per year (depending on space available) from this group for admission. From time to time a selectee will not be able to attend, so we also choose several alternates.

For additional information on the application and admission process, please visit the Admissions page within this website.

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