How to Become an Immunologist

Immunology is a medical discipline that focuses on studying the immune system. Immunologists are specially trained medical doctors that focus on the function of the immune system and treating patients with immunological conditions.


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What does an immunologist do?

Immunologists are physicians that are trained to prevent, diagnose, maintain, and treat a variety of conditions related to immune system. They treat patients with many different disorders such as asthma, allergies, allergic reactions, eczema, sinusitis, autoimmune diseases, and immunodeficiency conditions. They record extensive patient medical history and perform a variety of tests such as skin tests and blood tests to diagnose conditions. They consult with the patient and family to develop an appropriate plan of treatment. Common treatments include allergy injections, medication, allergen immunotherapy, and counseling patients on avoiding allergens. Some immunologists specialize in a specific area such as pediatric immunology.

What kind of training does an immunologist need?

Immunologists must complete undergraduate education, a medical degree, and internship and residency training. Medical school provides intensive classroom and laboratory instruction and clinical rotations of major medical disciplines. After completion of medical school, prospective immunologists complete internships and residency training in internal medicine and immunology. They learn how to diagnose and treat a variety of allergies and other conditions related to the immune system. All states require immunologists to be licensed. Licensing requirements include graduating from an approved medical school, completing residency training, and passing a written examination. Many immunologists also gain board certification from the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. Immunologists must constantly up date their skills and be abreast on the current advancements in the field. They often complete continuing education and attend conferences and seminars throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as an immunologist?

Employment of all physicians is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing population and increased prevalence of conditions related to the immune system will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be very good especially for immunologists with extensive experience and specialties. Many job openings will arise from the need to replace immunologists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do immunologists make?

As of November 2009, the middle 50% of immunologists earn annual salaries between $196,197 and $266,372. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $299,906 (2).

A career as an immunologist is a great choice for people with a strong interest in providing care to patients with a variety of immune system conditions. Immunologists must have a solid understanding of a variety of immunological conditions and treatments. They must have excellent bedside manner and be able to put patients at ease. Patience, determination, critical thinking skills, and good problem solving skills are desirable characteristics. Immunologists must also have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and be able to make quick decisions in emergency situations.

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