Graduate Admissions – FAQs

Program Requirements...

What are the prerequisites for this program?
  • An undergraduate degree (B.A., B.S. or B.F.A.)
  • Science prerequisites: general chemistry, vertebrate anatomy*, vertebrate physiology*, and an upper level biological science (at least one of the following: cell biology, developmental biology (embryology), histology, molecular biology, or immunology).*A two semester course in Human Anatomy and Physiology may be substituted for both courses.
  • A strong art portfolio demonstrating ability to realistically render observed subject matter: Drawing, Figure Drawing, Graphic Design, Color Media and Digital Media.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills with at least one course in English composition.
Which is the best undergraduate major to prepare for the program?
The students enrolled in our program represent an even split between biology/pre-med majors and fine art majors. We evaluate art preparation on the portfolio, not grades. We evaluate science achievement by the student's transcript, considering final grade and the level and rigorousness of each course.
Do I really have to take all the sciences?
Yes, all applicants must be able to show that they can complete all four science prerequisites prior to matriculation into the program. Most science work should be completed prior to the January 15th Portfolio/Profile due date.

The students enrolled in our program take medical school courses with the Johns Hopkins medical students and are held to the same high standards for testing and lab performance. We need to be sure our applicants are qualified to pass these challenging courses and perform rigorous thesis investigations in order to receive their Master of Arts degree from this institution.

We do not require GRE scores. We screen applicants very carefully for excellent preparation and grades in undergraduate science coursework, to set them up for success at the graduate level.
What is the application process?
After reading the specific portfolio requirements (on this website), interested candidates upload a 20-image Portfolio and complete an online Applicant Profile form beginning November 1st; the deadline is January 15th of the admission year. On average, we receive 50 to 60 submissions each year.

After January 15th, the Admissions Committee notifies candidates who qualify for final consideration, provides access to the online application site, and invites them for a personal interview to review original art from their portfolios. Due dates for the formal application and supporting materials (letters of reference and transcripts) are provided at the time the interview date is set and are no less than three days prior to the interview date. On average the Committee invites 20 candidates for interview.
Where do I submit my standardized test scores?
The Admissions Committee does not require GRE scores. However, if you take the GRE, TOEFL, or IELTS exams, please have your scores submitted to:
Institution Code 5316 -- Johns Hopkins University PhD Medicine.
How many students apply each year? How many do you accept?
We receive close to a thousand inquiries per year regarding our graduate program. 50-60 applicants upload the 20-image portfolio for us to review (with the accompanying Applicant Profile form).We invite the top 15 to 20 candidates to interview and to submit the full application with letters of recommendation and official transcripts.We accept up to 7 students each year, giving an acceptance rate of 12% - 15%.
Do you accept international students?
Yes. If you have not graduated from an English-speaking college/university, you will need to present proof of English language ability such as scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). While the Committee does not publish a minimum score, they anticipate viewing high marks in all sections (reading, listening, speaking, and writing). Also, while you will qualify for Departmental scholarship funds, you may not qualify for US Federal Loan monies. You will need to show the ability to cover the cost of tuition, fees and living expenses as part of the F1 Student Visa. Once offered a position as a student by the Admissions Committee, the Office of International Student, Faculty, and Staff Services will assist international students with the processing of visa paperwork.
What is the yearly tuition for the program?
Tuition for Academic Year 2015-2016 is $48,750/year.
Is financial assistance available?
Substantial Department scholarship funds provide partial tuition support to all students. There is no separate application process for these Departmental scholarships. Students are encouraged to apply for graduate student loan support. The Financial Aid Office of the Medical School certifies the eligibility of students for the US Federal loan programs.
Financial considerations are confidential and individually determined, and do not influence admissions decisions.
Is it possible to attend and complete your program part time or online?
No. This is a full time two-year commitment.
Can I visit the department?
Yes, candidates ready to review portfolio art originals with a faculty member of the Admissions Committee may request an in-person visit between April and October. Limited digital portfolio reviews by a faculty member of the Admissions Committee also may be arranged for candidates without the need to travel to Baltimore. Please email to request more information.

Portfolio Questions...

What are the portfolio requirements?
:: 20 samples of artwork. :: Examples of all 5 required art categories: general drawing, figure drawing, graphic design, color media and digital media.
:: A minimum of 5 figure studies.
:: A minimum of 2 digital media pieces (graphic design or illustration).
:: Examples of art outside the required categories, a maximum of 2, may include: sculpture, fine art prints, multimedia presentations, or photography.
:: Medical subject matter should not be included.

When uploading your images, you will be asked to identify your artwork as follows:
:: Title
:: Description
:: Medium/Software
:: Original size
:: Date of completion
:: Source - direct observation, photo reference, or both
How should I submit my portfolio?
Portfolio Upload :: Submit images, including any detail images, at a high resolution. A safe guideline is to make the largest dimension 1024px. Note: the Admissions Committee is interested in viewing artistic details and subtleties of your artwork. Therefore, you may wish to include an additional detail image of selected Portfolio art to enhance your submission. No more than 4 total detail images may be uploaded.
What type of art is best for my portfolio?
Realistic rendering of observed subject matter including life drawing, still life, landscape and portraits.
We are looking for excellent draftsmanship, good sense of realistic proportions, understanding light on form, ability to render various textures convincingly and ability to focus the viewer's eye within a drawing. Please see the specific list of portfolio requirements on our web site.
What type of art should not be included?
Categories of art not helpful to the committee in predicting how successful a student will be in this career include:
abstract or non-representational art, collage, images drawn exclusively from photographic reference, fantasy drawings, photography, non-representational sculpture, and functional art (fiber arts, pottery, etc). It is acceptable to include one or two examples in your portfolio to round out your presentation as an artist; however, these should not dominate your portfolio nor should they be substituted for the required categories such as life drawing. Do NOT include Medical or Anatomical Illustration subject matter in your portfolio!
Why not include medical subject matter in the portfolio?
The Faculty on the Admissions Committee have devoted their entire professional careers to creating, teaching and especially to critiquing medical and biological illustration. Discrepancies in the accuracy of the anatomy, breaks in medical or scientific convention, imperfections in handling of illustrated instruments, and the like will be noticed immediately by the faculty on the Admissions Committee and this will distract focus away from the artistic capability you intend to demonstrate by that piece of art. Distracting the Committee away from your ability to draw is the absolute last thing you want to do in an admissions portfolio.
Should I include a Detail image in my Portfolio?
The faculty permit up to 20 different examples of your art and up to 4 "detail" images. For the vast majority of art submitted to the program, detail images will not assist the faculty. They will notice most details easily from an overall image.
However, for large, highly-detailed works of art, a high resolution close-in image can highlight extensive amounts of work in a small portion of the overall piece.
Best advice? Be judicious! Save this opportunity for when it is most useful.
Where do I submit my portfolio?
The 20-image Portfolio, and 4 detail images, may be uploaded no later than January 15th to:

Medical Illustration as a Profession...

What is Medical Illustration?
Medical illustration is artwork depicting medical subject matter, created by highly trained and skilled professional artists for a specific audience. Medical illustrations convey ideas and concepts in medicine that are difficult to represent in words or photographs. Illustration styles can range from highly technical and detailed to artistic and stylized. Accuracy is important regardless of the style. Medical illustrations are used in a wide variety of fields that depend on imagery to convey meaning and information. These include the advertising, editorial, institutional, legal, patient education, academic, and scientific research fields. Positioned at the forefront of medical advancement, medical illustration is frequently used to convey new developments and concepts that impact medical research and improve patient care.
How is Medical Illustration different from other fields of illustration?
The combination of artistic skill and scientific training allows medical illustrators to fill a unique niche. Professional medical illustrators are highly trained in both medicine and visual communications, making them uniquely qualified to visually represent medical and scientific information with clarity and accuracy. Medical illustrators are familiar with medical subject matter and terminology and can converse easily and efficiently with their medical clients to create effective visuals. More specifically, most medical illustrators differ from traditional artists in that they spend several years in a specialized degree program at a medical school taking coursework side-by-side with medical students. Medical illustrators take the same lectures, labs and exams, and are graded on the same curve as students aspiring to be surgeons, anesthesiologists, and pediatricians. While medical students dissect cadavers to develop an understanding of the inner workings of the body, medical illustrators-in-training go one step further. They must combine their developing medical knowledge and growing artistic abilities to visually represent what they are seeing. In addition to hands-on dissections, students of medical illustration examine radiographs, study pathologies under a microscope, and spend time in operating rooms. This combination of rigorous medical training plus course work in illustration and communication design is unique to medical illustrators.
How does one become a Medical Illustrator? Does it require special training?
The majority of professional medical illustrators in the United States and Canada have a Master's degree from an accredited graduate program in medical illustration. There are currently three programs in the United States and one in Canada that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Each program accepts 4 - 16 students each year, so entrance into the schools is very competitive. The following graduate programs are accredited by CAAHEP:
Accreditation is a status granted to educational programs that meet or exceed a specific set of criteria for educational quality. The Association of Medical Illustrators developed the first set of educational standards for accreditation and began accrediting graduate programs in 1967. Today, accreditation is awarded by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Educational Programs (CAAHEP), and the accreditation standards are reviewed and revised every few years to reflect changes in the profession.

High school students contemplating medical illustration as a career should take a college preparatory program with as much emphasis on art and science as possible.

In college, students should concentrate on art and biology. Art courses should include drawing, life drawing, painting, color theory, graphic design, illustration, and computer graphics. In the sciences, studies should include general biology or zoology, vertebrate anatomy, developmental biology, physiology, chemistry, and cell biology. The science courses must be of the caliber required for pre-med or biology majors. Please see the list of requirements for application to the Johns Hopkins Medical and Biological Graduate Program.
What is Board Certification for Medical Illustration? What does "CMI" mean?
Many medical illustrators choose to enhance their careers by becoming board certified. Certification is a program endorsed by the Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI) to encourage lifelong learning and to measure professional competency for practicing medical illustrators. This voluntary certification program is designed to provide the practicing medical illustrator with the recognizable and valuable Certified Medical Illustrator (CMI) credential, which assures stakeholders of their current competency in the profession. There is no relationship between certification and membership in the AMI or any other organization, so any practicing medical illustrator meeting the eligibility requirements may apply. The certification program is administered by The Board of Certification of Medical Illustrators (BCMI), an independent body that objectively measures and evaluates exam results and awards certification to applicants upon successful completion. The BCMI follows the standards of the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA), recognized leaders in setting quality standards for credentialing organizations to ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the public.

A Certified Medical Illustrator has successfully passed exams including biomedical science, business practices and ethics, and has undergone rigorous portfolio review. Competencies are maintained by meeting continuing education requirements and must be renewed every five years. For more information on certification of medical illustrators, please visit the Board of Certification website.
What is the AMI?
The Association of Medical Illustrators is an international organization founded in 1945. Its 700+ members are primarily artists who create material designed to facilitate the recording and dissemination of medical and bio-scientific knowledge through visual communication media. Members include illustrators, animators, 3D artists, art directors, and other subspecialties of our profession. In addition to the creation of visuals, members also serve in consultant, advisory, educational and administrative capacities in all aspects of bio-scientific communications and related areas of visual education. Members can join at the Student or Associate level. Professional members are approved by vote of the Board of Governors, after a review of recommendations by the Membership Committee. This category requires portfolio review, sponsorship and experience as a medical illustrator. Only Professional Members may vote on Association business and hold office. The professional objectives of the AMI are to promote the study and advancement of medical illustration and allied fields of visual communication, and to promote understanding and cooperation with the medical profession and related health science professions. For more information, please visit the AMI website at
What is the Vesalius Trust?
The Vesalius Trust for Visual Communication in the Health Sciences is a non-profit public foundation. Established under the direction of the Board of Governors of the AMI in 1988, the Trust develops and supports education and research programs in the field of health science communications. The Vesalius Trust also provides student scholarships, educational grant funding, support for the AMI's annual meeting, and support to the AMI Archives. For more information, please visit the Vesalius Trust Website.
Where can I find more information on Medical and Biological illustration?