Not sure whether immunology is the right medical specialty for you? How to become an immunologist or allergist? What career paths can you choose after becoming an immunologist? Let’s explore.
Immunology is a broad field of medical and biological sciences that covers the study of the immune system. The defense system protects the human body from different infections and diseases. If the immune system isn’t properly working, the body’s ability to defend against diseases will decrease, resulting in immune disorders.
The incredibly exciting field of immunology is constantly evolving and undergoing advanced breakthroughs in immunomodulatory treatments, and monoclonal antibody therapies. Advanced research and treatment options are also making immunology an interesting career option for medical school students.
If you are one of those medical students who are not sure whether to choose immunology or not, it is advised to learn everything about this medical specialty and make a well-informed career decision.
Here is an easy guide on how to become an immunologist.
Benefits of Choosing Immunology Specialty
Perform a Variety of Tasks
Immunologists, allergists, or immunology doctors will get the opportunity to perform clinical and laboratory work. They work with pathologists, infectious diseases doctors and general physicians. They learn how the immune system works, how immune system disorders develop and what are the possible treatment options to treat immunological disorders. They are responsible for diagnosing, managing, and treating different infectious diseases such as HIV and multiple sclerosis.
Stay Updated with the Recent Advancements
Immunology is an exciting field of biomedical sciences that covers multiple areas of infectious diseases, vaccination, management, and treatment of chronic diseases. Studying immunology helps you learn the fundamentals of life sciences and development of antibody therapies, cellular therapies, vaccines, and drugs. You will learn how the immune system works and how to treat diseases related to the immune system.
Believe it or not, immunology is an excellent career choice for students who want to explore recent breakthroughs in the field of immunology. There are plenty of career options available for immunology specialists in different work settings, including hospitals, universities, laboratories, research centers, pharmaceutical industries, etc.
Pursuing a career as an immunologist allows you to pursue different job opportunities in different fields. Career prospects for immunologists are projected to grow 17% by 2030. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average salary for immunologists is $95,310 per year.
Responsibilities of Immunologists
Immunologists can work in different fields of biomedical research and clinical specialties. From treating common illnesses to cancer, drug discovery and development of antibodies and vaccines, immunologists can perform a number of roles.
- Perform both clinical and laboratory work
- Treat common illnesses related to the immune system
- Diagnosing and managing severe infections and chronic illnesses
- Create treatment plans for allergies and severe illnesses such as HIV, multiple sclerosis, and cancer
- Monitoring the quality of laboratory assays
- Track the patient’s progress and create the treatment plan accordingly
- Interpret laboratory findings to diagnose and manage diseases
- Research in immunology and related fields
- Discover antibodies, vaccines, and drugs
- Perform different laboratory and clinical experiments
How to Become an Immunologist?
Getting an immunologist degree is a long journey. It requires extensive education and years of training to become a fully certified immunologist. If you have decided to pursue a career in immunology, follow these steps:
Complete a Bachelor’s Degree
Pursuing a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college is the first step of becoming an immunologist. You can complete an undergrad degree in pre-medicine, biology, public health, nursing, biochemistry, or any of your favorite undergrad majors. Basically, your undergrad major doesn’t matter for medical school admission if you have taken the prerequisite courses (biology, chemistry, physics, Math, and English)
Completing an undergraduate degree and taking prerequisite courses is one of the most important medical school admission requirements. Taking the prerequisite courses will also help students to prepare for the MCAT. Securing the highest possible MCAT score is another requirement for medical school admission.
Get into Medical School
Once you have completed the undergraduate degree and passed the MCAT, you can apply to a Caribbean medical school. You need to carefully check the admission requirements of all medical schools you are thinking of applying to. Getting into a top medical school is a long and challenging process. You need to perform in-depth research to create a list of medical schools and put your best efforts into creating an impressive personal statement.
Getting into a medical school and earning a four-year MD degree is an important education requirement for becoming an immunologist. During the first two years of medical school, you will learn basic medical concepts in a classroom setting. During the remaining two years, students will perform clinical rotations in different healthcare settings. Students are required to pass the USMLE step 1 and 2 before applying to a residency.
Complete a Residency in Internal Medicine or Pediatrics
After completing a four-year MD degree program, MD students need to enroll in a residency program to receive licensure. Since immunology residencies are rare, aspiring immunologists can take residency in internal medicine or pediatrics to get relevant education in immunology. These two medical specialties will prepare MD students to qualify for the allergy and immunology fellowship program. It takes three years to complete the internal medicine residency program, while the residency program in pediatrics will complete in four years. You can choose between the two specialties that best match your personal interest and career goals.
Apply for an Immunology Fellowship Program
You can apply for an allergy or immunology fellowship program if you have successfully completed a residency in pediatrics or internal medicine. Fellowship programs are tailored to provide highly advanced educational opportunities for passionate doctors who want to master their skills and gain hands-on experience. Allergy and fellowship programs are two years in length.
Get a Medical License and Practice Independently
After completing your allergy/immunology fellowship program, you need to pass the USMLE and board certification exams. Passing these exams are necessary to get the medical licensure required to practice independently in the state you want to work.
Pursuing a career in immunology is a great decision if you have a high level of dedication for the specialty and can fulfill the education and training requirement. If you want to become an immunologist, apply to Windsor University School of Medicine, and start your education journey.