The global medical animation market is expected to be worth $301.3 million by 2021. Some estimates place the market at $514 million by 2024. Either way, the medical animation market is booming and the trend is expected to continue thanks to constant new discoveries, treatments, and technologies in science and medicine. Health and science organizations must keep pace with these advances so visualization specialists such as medical animators and illustrators are in high demand.
The skills needed to excel in this field go beyond animation. According to Explore Health Careers (EHC), medical animators must have the scientific and medical knowledge to interpret complex information, “distill it down, and communicate the story in a clear visual narrative that is accurate, educational, and engaging.” These specialized artists must work closely with scientists and physicians to produce visual content for the web, journals, film and television, interactive and mobile media, books, virtual reality, exhibits and demonstrative evidence for legal proceedings, journals, books, advertising, presentations, and magazines.
Medical animators can refine their focus in a particular “facet” of medicine such as:
- Augmented and virtual reality simulation
- Cellular/mechanism of action animation
- Medical app design/health gaming
- Medical-legal exhibits/mechanism of injury animation
- Surgical / medical device illustration
Says EHC, medical animators may also specialize in “the creation of sculptured anatomical models and medical simulation trainers for teaching and practicing procedures. This includes use of 3D printers and materials applied to create custom prosthetic implants for patients affected by facial or body disfigurement.” There is a need for “interactive e-learning programs for patient education, student courseware, physician education and pharmaceutical/device sales training,” as well. Many medical animators and illustrators become authors and co-authors of journal articles and textbooks.
Because medical animation is a highly specialized field, medical animators must be highly educated. In addition to a degree in animation, illustration, digital art, visualization sciences, motion graphics, visual communications, digital design, or other related area, medical animators typically hold a master’s degree in medical illustration, medical art, scientific illustration, biological illustration, biomedical visualization, or other related area. Undergraduate degrees are also offered in these areas, so a double major and say, a graduate certificate is another option.
In addition to a degree (or degrees) in these areas, medial animators and illustrators have advanced flash, 2D, 3D and 4D animation skills, as well as advanced 3D printing skills, and advanced drawing and design skills. Medical animators also have the ability to grasp advanced software programs that are common in the industry. Some firms often use custom software programs, so superior technical skills are crucial.
Medical animators are members of a select group that will continue to grow. For now, if you have the right skills, you will likely have more job offers than you can count. This is especially true if you live in North America, which is expected to account for the largest share of the medical animation market. Europe is next, followed by Asia-Pacific.
The types of organizations and companies looking for skilled medical animators and illustrators include biotech, hospitals, life science, publishing, pharmaceutical, medical device manufacturers, academic institutions, plastic & reconstructive surgery, medical-legal firms, insurance providers, research institutions, government agencies, forensic departments, veterinary schools, and medical education companies, to name a few.
Some medical animators may be directors of biomedical communication departments while others may lead teams of animators or illustrators. Some may start their own studios. As the industry continues to expand, so will the number of medical animation studios. Some prominent players in the U.S. and abroad today include:
- Animated Biomedical Productions (Australia)
- AXS Studio, Inc. (Canada)
- Blausen Medical Communications, Inc. (U.S.)
- Elara Systems, Inc. (U.S.)
- Ghost Productions, Inc. (U.S.)
- Hybrid Medical Animation, Inc. (U.S.)
- Infuse Medical (U.S.)
- INVIVO Communications, Inc. (Canada)
- Medmovie, Inc. (U.S.)
- Nucleus Medical Media, Inc. (U.S.)
- Radius Digital Science (U.S.)
- Random42 Scientific Communication (U.K.)
- Scientific Animations, Inc. (U.S.)
- Trinsic Medical Animation, LLC. (U.S.)
- Understand.com (U.S.)
- Viscira (U.S.)
- Visible Body (U.S.)
- XVIVO Scientific Animation (U.S.)
Besides plenty of job opportunities, aspiring medical animators will enjoy competitive salaries. According to a survey by the Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI), salaries range from $62,000 up to $100,000. Those in creative director or other supervisory positions earn $85,000 up to $175,000 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that animators average $63,970 up to $113,600 and illustrators average $46,460 up to $99,140.
Schools that offer Medical Animation/Illustration Programs
As mentioned, there are many degree paths that can provide the education and training needed to become a medical animator or illustrator. Most colleges and universities offer the programs mentioned earlier (animation, illustration, science/medical, etc.). Your program coordinator can help you pick the right combination to help develop the skills needed to land a position. The programs listed below are some of the most popular options.
Augusta University, Augusta Georgia
MS Medical Illustration
Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York<
MFA Medical Illustration
University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
MS Biomedical Visualization
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
MA Medical and Biological Illustration
University of Toronto, Mississauga, ON
MS Biomedical Communications (MScBMC)
University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK
MSc Medical Art
University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK
MSc Medical Visualization & Human Anatomy
California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB), Marina, California
Science Illustration Graduate Certificate
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia
BFA Communication Arts with a Concentration in Scientific & Preparatory Medical Illustration
Cleveland Institute of Art
BFA Biomedical Art
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
BFA Biological Illustration
Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
BA Biological and Pre-Medical Illustration
Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia
BA Studio Art with a Medical and Scientific Illustration Track
Arcadia University, Glenside, Pennsylvania
BA Scientific Illustration
Olivet College, Olivet, Michigan
BA Visual Arts with a Biological Illustration Concentration
"Accredited Programs." CAAHEP.org. Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), 2017. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.
"Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators." United States Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 30 Mar. 2016. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.
"Medical Animation Market Size To Reach $514 Million By 2024." Market Research Reports & Consulting. Grand View Research, Inc., Sept. 2016. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.
"Medical Animation Market Worth 301.3 Million USD by 2021." MarketWatch. MarketWatch, Inc., 25 May 2016. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.
"Medical Illustrator/Animator." ExploreHealthCareers.org. Liaison International, 2017. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.
"Multimedia Artists and Animators." United States Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 30 Mar. 2016. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.