Scientific and medical illustrators use traditional and electronic methods to create drawings related to biology and other sciences. Their work illustrates articles in medical and scientific journals and other publications, and also is published in teaching materials such as audio-visual presentations. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes medical and scientific illustrators with all fine artists in its salary data, a look at types of employers gives an idea of salaries for scientific illustrators in particular.
The average salary for all fine artists working on a wage or salary basis as of May 2010 was $25.52 per hour, or $53,080 per year, estimates the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median salary, or the number at which an equal number of these artists earn less and an equal number earn more, was significantly lower, at $21.56 per hour, or $44,850 per year. The bottom 10 percent of fine artists had pay rates at or below $9.22 per hour, or $19,190 per year, and the top 10 percent had salaries of $43.14 per hour and higher, or $89,720 per year and more.
Types of Employment
The bureau lists fine artist salaries with various types of employers, some of which may indicate salaries for scientific illustrators. The average pay rate was $40,400 per year in colleges, universities and professional schools; $51,470 with newspaper, periodical and book publishers; and $67,080 with software publishers. The highest average salary was in scientific research and development services, at $38.66 per hour, or $80,420 per year. However, this industry only employs about 50 fine artists nationwide.
Salary.com provides data for scientific artists, defined as those who produce medical and scientific illustrations. The median salary for these workers as of May 2011 was $40,551 per year. That translates to about $19.50 per hour. The middle 50 percent were earning $39,742 to $48,733 per year. The bottom 10 percent of the pay scale was at or below $39,005 per year, and the top 10 percent were making more than $56,180 per year.
Job growth in this field should be about average, predicts the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Intense competition exists for both salaried and freelance work. More opportunities are likely for illustrators who work on a computer and for medical illustrators.