How to Become an Allergist

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More and more people are beginning to suffer from allergies, an estimated 1 in 5 Americans suffers from some type of allergy. The prevalence of allergies has been constantly increasing since the early 1980s. Allergists are medical doctors that specialize in diagnosing and treating allergies.


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What does an allergist do?

Allergists specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of various allergic and immunologic diseases including asthma, allergic rhinitis, eczema, allergic eye diseases, hives, chronic sinus infections, chronic cough, frequent colds, and many immune problems. Allergists also treat patients with allergic reactions to food, insects, medication, and latex. They give expert medical advice and perform and read allergy tests. They prescribe allergy shots for patients who need them. Allergists record patient history, family history, and home and work environment that could be contributing to allergies.

Allergists help patients develop plans to help prevent symptoms. They also prescribe the most effective treatments including medication, devices, and environmental control recommendations. Some allergists concentrate on allergies in children and others work with the general population.

What kind of training does an allergist need?

All physicians including allergists must complete 8 years of postsecondary education and 3 to 8 years of internship and residency. Allergists complete 4 years of undergraduate education and then 4 years of medical school. They then complete internships and residency training in internal medicine or pediatrics. Many allergists complete additional specialty fellowships in allergy and immunology, which is typically 2 additional years of education. Allergists must keep up to date on medical advances and they regularly complete continuing education and attend conferences, seminars, and workshops.

All states require allergists to be licensed and pass an exam to become board-certified. Allergists take either the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) examination or the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) examination. Many then take the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI) examination.

What are the prospects for a career as an allergist?

Employment of all physicians and surgeons is projected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1). An increasing amount of people battling allergies will drive job growth of allergists.

Job prospects should be very good especially in rural or low-income areas. Additional job openings will arise from the need to replace allergists who retire or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do allergists make?

As of September 2009, allergists with 1 to 4 years experience earned annual salaries between $98,264 and $174,086. Allergists with 5 to 9 years experience earned annual salaries between $101,736 and $174,374 (2).

A career as an allergist is an excellent choice for individuals who have an interest in helping people with allergies. Allergists must have great bedside manner along with great communication and interpersonal skills. Compassion, clear thinking, logical reasoning, and self-motivation are essential skills. Ability to handle stressful situations, good problem solving skills, and excellent decision making skills are also very important.

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