How to Become an Immunologist

Immunologists are experienced doctors who specialize in diseases affecting the immune system.

Their knowledge is used to help identify and develop solutions for these diseases; their work can also help propel advancements in the diagnoses and treatments of immunological diseases.

Individuals who want to become an Immunologist may have an interest in immunological diseases and how they work.

Education Requirements to Become an Immunologist

Individuals who would like to work in the health care industry and become an Immunologist need a combination of high education and experience.

This can take several years to complete after high school as candidates will need to complete a bachelor’s, a medical degree, a residency and a fellowship in order to become an Immunologist in the medical field.

Individuals who would like to pursue a career in research, can opt to complete a doctoral degree.

Starting with the undergraduate degree, students who want to become an Immunologist in the medical field must choose a focus related to medicine and science.

Typical undergrad programs can include: Biology, Chemistry, pre-med or a closely related degree.

After completing their bachelor’s, an individual must then work towards taking the entrance exam to get into medical school which is called the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

For detailed information on the medical entrance exam visit the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website.

After completing a minimum of four years in medical school, individuals will earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.).

An individual must then pursue a residency and practice in the internal medicine field for several years to gain experience.

To gain exposure and hands on experience in immunology, individuals must then complete an immunology fellowship for a minimum of 2 years.

Individuals who would like to work in the research field will also need to apply for a doctoral degree.

These individuals must complete a PhD in Biology or Microbiology which can take up to 8 years to complete.

Individuals pursuing this route must also work on other skills such as communication, attention to detail and collaborative skills because of their close work with other professionals and researchers.

In addition, Research Immunologists supervise small groups of research teams.

Immunologist Job Description

Specific duties will vary depending whether an individual is a Research Immunologist or a Medical Immunologist.

Research Immunologists mainly work in laboratories while Medical Immunologists work in clinics, hospitals or private offices.

Medical Immunologists will coordinate with other health care professionals to begin diagnosing and identifying immunological disorders and diseases.

These professionals will work with patient records to gain an understanding of a client’s medical background and conduct any necessary tests related to the information they glean from a client’s medical file.

They will then evaluate the tests to determine any irregularities, concerns or normal results.

If a result points to an immunological illness or disease, Medical Immunologists will then determine a treatment plan after weighing the benefits and risks or side effects of a treatment plan.

After deciding on a treatment plan for a patient, they will then continue with the immunological therapy.

Research Immunologists are based out of a laboratory and will focus their work on scientific studies that center on diseases that affect the immune system.

For example, they will look at ailments such as allergies and cancer using advanced equipment to determine the cell reproduction cycle which will give them an understanding of how these disorders work.

Some Research Immunologists may also be based on the field to gather environmental information on potential causes to an immunological disorder.

For example, when studying an allergy, an Immunologist will gather information regarding the plant or weed causing the allergy from its natural environment to gather more insight on its natural habitat.

Research Immunologists may work under pressure because of the time constraints implemented by research funders such as an academic institutions or colleges.

Immunologist Salary and Career Path

The annual median income for Physicians and Surgeons, which includes Immunologists, was approximately $187,200 in 2012.

Exact wages will depend on a variety of factors including: level of experience, geographical location and professional reputation as well as whether an Immunologist is self-employed or works for a clinic or hospital.

This job sector is also expected to grow at a faster than average rate at 18 percent through the year 2022.

This growth is attributed to the progress and expansion of health care related industries and technologies as well as the demand coming from the aging population seeking the latest technologies, diagnostic tests and treatments.

Individuals interested in this profession have many things to look forward to when deciding on this career.

They can expect a healthy job market because of the growth projections as well as a higher income.

In addition, their work is focused on improving the health care of their patients.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an immunologist?

Immunologists are medical doctors specialized in diagnosing and treating diseases related to the immune system.

They usually manage problems such as allergies, asthma or autoimmune disorders.

Immunologists need a lot of medical knowledge but also compassion, resourcefulness and communication skills.

As an immunologist, you can work directly with patients but you can also focus on laboratory research.

Immunologists can be employed by hospitals but also by universities, government agencies or pharmaceutical companies.

If you’re a person who is passionate about science and you want to help others, a career as an immunologist may be the right path for you.

How much does an immunologist make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for surgeons and physicians, in general, was $203,880.

Salaries in this field vary widely, based on many different factors, including the employer, the physician’s level of experience and region of employment.

As an immunologist, you can earn anywhere between less than $50,000 and more than $200,000.

How much does it cost to become an immunologist?

Like all medical doctors, immunologists need many years of training beyond high school.

Although requirements vary by state, in order to qualify for a license you will need a degree from an accredited medical school and to complete a residency.

One year of training at a public medical school costs, on average, around $58,000 for out of state students but tuition at private schools can be more expensive.

In order to be able to enroll at a medical school, you will first need to complete a four-year undergraduate program and to take the Medical College Admission Test.

Four-year bachelor’s degree programs cost, on average, around $40,000 a year.

MCAT registration fee is $320.

After graduating from medical school you need to complete your residency and to gain your state license.

Although certification is not required, it may increase your employment opportunities.

The American Board of Allergy and Immunology and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology offer credentials for immunologists.

If you want to work in scientific research or to find employment at a university, you will usually need a Ph.D.

What is the demand for immunologists?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t record specific data about immunologists but they provide stats about physicians, in general.

According to BLS.gov, the employment of surgeons and physicians, in general, is expected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028.

How long does it take to become an immunologist?

In the United States, immunologists need at least 13 years of training beyond high school which include four years of pre-med school, four years of medical school, residency in pediatrics, internal medicine or combined programs followed by a fellowship that lasts around 2 years.

After gaining a few years of experience in the field, seeking voluntarily certification by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology or the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology can help prove your skills to potential employers.

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