Where can I find Education opportunities in my location?
ADVANTAGES OF A FORMAL PROGRAM
Half the battle is what to do once you know how to draw for scientific illustration purposes, that is where formal programs shine.
Save time by being guided down successful paths of study
In certificate programs you have many subjects: classes on vertebrates and invertebrates, botanical illustration, drawing form and function, computer use and the business classes, how to market, how to tap into resources and hold shows and access other markets. The curriculum at these schools is designed to meet the demands of the current job market. For example, anyone entering the Medical Illustration job market these days should have training in digital animation, multimedia, and 3D computer modeling. Practically every job posting I've seen for the past few years lists these as "required" or "preferred" skills. Programs are constantly monitor job listings and communicate with alumni to ensure that they are meeting the needs of employers.
Networking connections that last a lifetime
For better or worse the network you build is what supports your career. You receive a great amount of help and companionship and resources from classmates. A formal program allows you to quickly gain exposure to techniques and ideas, exchanging them daily with your class mates and teachers. This comradeship can be priceless.
If you are unable to move to the location of the formal Science/Biological/Medical Illustration Program, you will need to fashion your own, informally or formally through your local university. Many College/University arts programs are open to the idea of the student creating their own course of study with supervision. The trick is to find the right people to supervise a successful path of study.
Before You Start
What is your goal and background? What is the study you are following right now and why do you want to be a science/biological/medical illustrator? Do you recognize yourself in these quotes?:
"When I discovered medical illustration and my life changed completely. I took my first art class since high school and immediately realized I had found the right career. I could sit and draw for hours on end and it never felt like work. After ten years in the profession, it still doesn't. Just think how rewarding it will be to do something you love for a career."
"After graduating HS I went straight to college studying wildlife biology. Unlike many students out there, I didn't switch majors a million times. My experience in art up to that point had been as a hobby...I didn't even know that there was a career out there dealing with natural science illustration. Once I discovered it I instantly felt 'this is what I was meant to do'."
What is the state of your drawing skill? Drawing is a skill. It can be improved. Practice looking. Look at everything you see and find even the smallest details. Are you able to filter them out without losing the bigger picture? The ability to draw accurately is a prerequisite to doing well in this field.
What is your attitude toward Science? Do you enjoy reading about science? Do you like to draw things that explain science or nature?
What is the thing that makes you really enthusiastic and want to know everything about. That is what most science illustrators do - more than "normal" illustrators - really know everything they see in the light of the science behind it, and then translate that into a very practical point of view. Finally an illustration must be very pleasurable to the eye within a certain set of rules. Science or medical illustrating is not (only) about having the skill to be a really good artist but much more about the knowledge of what you are drawing and who you are drawing for.
Plan a Course of Action
Find out about the content of undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs. The skills learned in these programs are likely the ones you want to also learn.
Next look locally to see what college and university programs can be the foundation you need to push your study toward your goal. Need to draw better? Find good books to learn from. Go to the community college and sign up for drawing courses, look for workshop opportunities that focus on your needs. Need to ground yourself in Science basics? Biology, geology, chemistry, ecology, etc. are all available at community colleges.
If you are looking for a certificate or masters degree, what local programs might you be able to work within while focusing on your specialization?
Formal structure of the college setting is useful for those who need structure and guidance, but all these subjects can be tackled in your own home as you draw draw draw, if you have the fortitude.
Some examples of courses of study in this field: