How to Become an Immunologist

How to Become an Immunologist

How to Become an Immunologist
Sahil Dahal

When considering becoming a doctor, you have different choices for what kind of doctor you want to be. Immunologists are one type of doctor, and they specialize in helping people who have problems with their immune systems.

This article is here to tell you more about immunologists, what they do in their jobs, how to become one, and what you can expect regarding salary and job opportunities. This information can help you decide if becoming an immunologist is the right career path for you in medicine.

Also Read: Immunology MSc

What is an Immunologist?

An immunologist, also known as an allergist, is a specialized doctor who focuses on understanding and treating health issues linked to the immune system. They help with problems like food allergies, autoimmune diseases, and more.

What Do Immunologists Do? 

Immunologists have a crucial role in healthcare because they specialize in understanding and treating health issues related to the immune system. Here are a few more instances of the kinds of responsibilities that immunologists handle:

  • Diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, allergies, lupus, and autoimmune diseases.
  • Educate patients about their conditions' causes, symptoms, treatment options, and outlook.
  • Prescribe medicines and medical devices to help patients lead healthy lives.
  • Teach patients to use devices like inhalers and EpiPens in case of allergic reactions.
  • Order tests like lab work, biopsies, pulmonary tests, and ultrasounds to confirm diagnoses.
  • Analyze lab results to detect antibodies or allergens related to immune system issues.
  • Research to better understand immune system disorders and their impact on the body.
  • Review a patient's medical history to identify previous health concerns.
  • Communicate with patients and their families, providing reassurance and guidance.
  • Maintain a busy schedule, seeing multiple patients and taking vital signs for accurate records.

How to Become an Immunologist

Becoming an immunologist is an exciting journey involving the right education and experience. Here's a simplified step-by-step guide to becoming an immunologist:

Get Your Bachelor's Degree

The first step to becoming an immunologist is to pursue a bachelor's degree, which typically takes four years. Choosing a field of study that aligns with your future career as an immunologist is essential. Here are some recommended options:

Pre-Medicine: This program is specifically designed for students who plan to attend medical school. It provides a strong foundation in science and prepares you for the rigorous curriculum ahead.

Biology: A bachelor's degree in biology offers a comprehensive understanding of living organisms, essential for understanding the human body's immune system.

Public Health: Public health programs focus on improving the health of communities and populations. This knowledge can be valuable when addressing public health aspects of immunology.

Nursing: A nursing degree provides a solid understanding of healthcare practices and patient care, which can be beneficial when working as an immunologist.

Biochemistry: Biochemistry combines biology and chemistry, giving you a deep understanding of the molecular processes within the body, including those related to the immune system.

More Details on Immunology & Microbial Sciences MPhil/PhD

Choosing the right bachelor's degree sets the foundation for your future studies and career as an immunologist. It's important to excel in your undergraduate studies to increase your chances of admission to medical school and succeed in your medical education.

Attend Medical School

During the last two years of your bachelor's program, apply to medical schools that suit your interests and finances. You'll need to pass the MCAT exam as part of the application process. In medical school, you'll spend two years in classrooms and two years doing clinical rotations in various healthcare settings.

Pass the USMLE Exam

Before graduating from medical school, take and pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), which consists of three parts covering biology, chemistry, psychology, and critical analysis. This certification allows you to pursue a residency program.

Complete a Residency Program

A residency program involves three to four years of hands-on clinical experience, where you'll work alongside experienced physicians and surgeons. It's a chance to refine your clinical skills and explore different medical areas. For future immunologists, this training is essential before pursuing an immunology fellowship.

Pursue an Immunology Fellowship

Immunology fellowships typically last around two years. You'll work with experienced immunologists in clinical settings during the first year. In the second year, you'll balance clinical work with research to deepen your knowledge of immunology.

Get Certified by ABAI

After completing your immunology fellowship, you'll be eligible for certification from the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI). To apply, you may need transcripts from medical school, reference letters from physicians you worked with during your residency and fellowship, and possibly certification from the ABIM or pediatrics board.

By following these steps, you can embark on a fulfilling career as an immunologist and significantly impact healthcare.

Immunologists Salary

Here's a table for annual salaries for immunologists in 10 different countries. 


Average Annual Salary (USD)

United States




United Kingdom



AUD 175,000









South Africa

ZAR 700,000

United Arab Emirates

AED 500,000

Job Opportunities for Immunologists

When discussing job opportunities for immunologists, we're looking at how many jobs there will be in the future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which studies jobs in the United States, jobs for doctors (like immunologists) are expected to increase by about 4% from 2019 to 2029. The job outlook for immunologists is likely to follow this same trend of growth, which means there should be more opportunities for people who want to become immunologists in the coming years.

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Career Opportunities for Immunologists

Clinical Immunologist: Clinical immunologists diagnose and treat patients with immune system disorders, allergies, and autoimmune diseases in clinical settings like hospitals and private practices.

Research Immunologist: Research immunologists work in laboratories, conducting experiments and studies to advance our understanding of the immune system and develop new treatments and vaccines.

Academic Immunologist: Academic immunologists teach and conduct research at universities and medical schools, shaping the future of healthcare through education and groundbreaking research.

Pharmaceutical Immunologists: These professionals work in the pharmaceutical industry, developing and testing drugs and therapies that target the immune system to treat various medical conditions.

Immunopathology: Immunopathologists specialize in studying the immune system's role in diseases, aiding in diagnosing and treating illnesses such as cancer and infectious diseases.

Public Health Immunologist: Public health immunologists focus on preventing and controlling diseases by managing vaccination programs, conducting epidemiological research, and advising government agencies and organizations on immunization policies.

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What does an immunologist do, and what are their responsibilities?

Immunologists specialize in diagnosing and treating health conditions related to the immune system. Their responsibilities include diagnosing allergies, autoimmune diseases, and immunodeficiency disorders, researching the immune system, and prescribing treatments to manage these conditions.

How to become an immunologist? What are the steps and educational requirements?

To become an immunologist, you typically need to follow these steps:

  • Earn a bachelor's degree in a related field (e.g., biology or pre-medicine).
  • Attend medical school and complete a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) program.
  • Pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).
  • Complete a residency program in a related medical field.
  • Pursue an immunology fellowship.
  • Obtain board certification through the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI).

Is medical school necessary to become an immunologist?

Yes, typically, you need to attend medical school to become an immunologist. A medical degree is a foundation for a career in immunology, as it provides the necessary medical knowledge and clinical training.

What are the different specializations within immunology, and how do I choose one?

Immunology has several specializations, including clinical, research, and public health immunology. To choose one, consider your interests and career goals. Clinical immunologists work directly with patients; research immunologists focus on scientific research, and public health immunologists work on disease prevention and control.

What skills and qualities are important for success as an immunologist?

Important skills and qualities for immunologists include a strong understanding of biology and medicine, analytical thinking, attention to detail, communication skills, patient empathy, and a passion for scientific research.

What is the job outlook and average salary for immunologists?

The job outlook for immunologists is generally positive, with clinical practice, research, and public health opportunities. Average salaries can vary by location and experience but typically range from $150,000 to $300,000 or more annually, depending on factors such as location and specialization.

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