How to Become an Immunologist

November 22

Table of Contents

Our natural defensive mechanism is our immune system, a collection of cells, tissues, and organs cooperating to defend the body against infection. 

When a person is suspected of having an immune system disorder or issue, they can seek assistance from a specialist knowledgeable in all facets of the immune system, such as an immunologist.

The study of the immune system is covered by the large field of medical and biological sciences known as immunology. The defense system guards the human body against numerous illnesses and diseases. 

Immune disorders are caused by immune system dysfunction, which reduces the body's capacity to fight against 

Immunology is a fascinating career choice for medical school students because of recent advances in research and therapy options. 

This article will explain how to become an immunologist, their duties and responsibilities, and the schooling you must finish to become one.

What is an Immunologist? 

The study, diagnosis, and management of patients with illnesses caused by immune system disorders and circumstances in which immunological treatment plays a significant role in therapy is called immunology.

While some immunologists also manage combined pediatric clinics for kids with allergies and immunodeficiency disorders, others may be involved in gene therapy, bone marrow transplantation, or using antibodies or immunoglobulin to treat uncommon diseases.

In addition, immunologists oversee research and diagnostic facilities and collaborate closely with other medical professionals treating illnesses that involve the immune system. 

As a result, coworkers in different fields, such as rheumatology, hematology, or general practice, may seek them for guidance on diagnosis and treatment.

Since most diseases include immunological pathways, immunological research is essential to understanding many conditions. New developments in immunotherapy may result from ongoing research, such as the ability to control the immune system to cure cancer and create vaccines to combat new infections like Ebola.

What are the Duties and Responsibilities of an Immunologist?

Immunologists evaluate patients to determine a diagnosis and course of action for an autoimmune-related illness. 

Here are a few more examples of the kinds of tasks that immunologists conduct on the job:

  • Prescribing drugs or equipment to patients so they can live healthy lives every day
  • Educating people on their illnesses' etiology, symptoms, available treatments, and life expectancy rates
  • Diagnosing people with autoimmune disorders such as lupus, asthma, allergies, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Showing clients how to utilize inhalers, EpiPens, and other medical tool if they have allergic reactions at home
  • Reviewing lab test results from patients to look for antibodies to various autoimmune diseases or allergies
  • Independently researching immune system issues and how they affect the human body to better comprehend them
  • Reviewing a patient's medical record to look for past illnesses or complaints about their health that might be indicators of a disease
  • Reassuring patients and their loved ones of a diagnosis and providing them with extra instructions on how to manage a patient's needs at home
  • Pulmonary exams, ultrasounds, blood testing, and biopsies for their patients to confirm a diagnosis based on those patients' symptoms
  • Taking a patient's vital signs, such as their heartbeat and breathing, blood pressure, height, and weight, for their medical records and helping with diagnoses

What are the Requirements to Become an Immunologist? 

You must complete a four-year bachelor's degree, four years of medical school, and then move on to residency and fellowship programs before you may specialize in (allergy and) immunology.

It should be emphasized that becoming an immunologist requires the successful completion of a two-year fellowship program, which adds additional time to the process compared to other specializations. 

A bachelor's degree and a further nine to ten years of schooling are required to become an immunologist.

An advanced degree, specifically a Ph.D. or an M.D. degree, is required to work as an immunologist. 

Physicians must have an M.D. and two to three extra years of specialty training and study in an immunology school. In contrast, scientific research immunologists must have a Ph.D.

How Much Does It Cost to Become an Immunologist? 

Just like any other medical specialty, it can be expensive to attend medical school to become an immunologist. Tuition for medical school is not only costly, but it has risen considerably in recent years. A medical school at a public university used to cost around USD 25,000.

A private medical school costs around USD 42,000 per year. These were the prices for in-state medical students. Non-residents also spent USD 44,000 to attend public and private universities. 

Furthermore, the average four-year cost of medical school in the United States ranged from USD 255,517 to USD 337,584, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges. This could explain why, in 2023, medical students who borrowed money graduated with an average debt of USD 207,500.

How to Become an Immunologist? 

Being an immunologist requires rigorous training. Here are the general steps to becoming an immunologist:

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Getting a bachelor's degree and medical school are the first steps to becoming a research immunologist. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, college students who select a premedical major take chemistry, biology, and mathematics classes.

It would help to remember the following success advice as you complete this initial phase. An aspiring immunologist can obtain practical experience working with patients by volunteering at a neighborhood hospital or health center. Students who volunteer may also make a more substantial application while applying to medical school programs.

2. Take the MCAT

Many students retake the exam to ensure their MCAT score is competitive. The maximum MCAT score is 528, and the typical MCAT score for US medical school applicants is 511

Look at the class statistics of your prospective schools to see if your MCAT score meets their requirements for competition.

The Association of American Medical Colleges emphasizes that medical schools seek applicants with various academic backgrounds, including those in the humanities, liberal arts, and sciences. 

Still, it emphasizes that all successful candidates must achieve high MCAT scores. The physical and biological sciences, as well as writing and verbal reasoning abilities, are all evaluated on this test.

3. Enroll in Medical School

The next stage to become an immunologist is finishing medical school, which typically requires four years. The medical school curriculum consists of both theoretical and practical components.

Students in the first two years of medical school study topics like anatomy and medical ethics. 

During the last two years, they have completed rotations, which are hands-on learning experiences in various medical specialties and settings.

Medical students interested in employment in immunology should complete one of their rotations in immunology, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. According to the AAAAI, aspiring immunologists may complete a supervised research elective in immunology. They can also gain experience by compiling a report detailing a clinical case relevant to immunology.

4. Complete the USMLE

The United States Medical Licensing Examination must be taken and passed before a medical student can graduate. This three-part multiple-choice test comprises a component on psychology, a segment on critical analysis, and a section on biology and chemistry.

By passing this exam, candidates can become board-certified in a particular branch of medicine. 

Obtaining board certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine illustrates this. With this board certification, aspiring immunologists can finish a residency program and learn how to identify and treat internal diseases or illnesses.

5. Attend a Residency Program

Medical school graduates help doctors, surgeons, and other senior medical professionals with patient diagnosis and treatment during a three- to four-year residency program.

Participants can improve their clinical abilities and learn about many branches of medicine to aid in their specialty during this period. 

Before pursuing an immunology fellowship, immunologists can finish their clinical training in a residency program.

6. Obtain Fellowship

Fellowships in the fields of allergy and immunology typically last two years. 

Candidates collaborate with competent immunologists to complete patient appointments in a clinical setting throughout the first year of the fellowship.

To advance their expertise in one or more areas of immunology during the second year of the fellowship, candidates often blend clinical practice with research efforts.

7. Get Board Certified

To become an immunologist, you must pass the American Board of Allergy and Immunology certification exam and finish a medical residency and an immunology fellowship. 

You must have completed at least 24 months of practical immunology training before taking the ABAI exam. The ABIM states that this exam is often taken by medical students who want to pursue research careers in their sixth year of residency.

8. Continue Learning

As an immunologist, you must routinely participate in continuing education and activities to maintain your licenses and certifications. 

The AAAAI provides a range of in-person and online courses on cutting-edge immunology subjects such as allergen immunotherapy, pediatric anaphylaxis, and occupational asthma.

The AAAAI offers publications, industry-specific conventions, networking opportunities, and other resources for professional growth and progress in addition to continuing education.

Important Qualities Needed to Be an Immunologist

Pursuing a career in immunology is wise if you have a solid commitment to the field and can complete the necessary education and training.

If you wish to pursue a career in immunology, you must possess the following skills and qualities:


You can better understand your patient's medical issues from a unique and personal perspective by having empathy. 

Empathy encourages compassion and may result in closer relationships with patients.


Being empathetic may make it easier for you to connect with your patients and understand how their health impacts their emotions. 

When working with patients, consider why they could reject or accept specific treatment options.

Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving skills can help you navigate complicated professional settings or severe medical issues. 

Through clinical training and allergy residency programs, this skill is frequently learned.

Medical Knowledge

An immunologist's skill set must involve knowledge of medicine to comprehend how the body works, how our immune system works, and how medical regulations operate.


An immunologist can benefit from practical research and teamwork skills like communication when working on a project. 

Consider using several research strategies to help you provide accurate information.


Most immunologists work in teams to conduct research and analyze data. This calls for exceptional interpersonal and teamwork skills on your part. 

You may work with people and groups outside of your team on public health projects.

How Much Do Immunologists Make?

Prospective immunologists may earn an income of around USD 274,100 per year. 

However, immunologists' salaries might vary depending on several variables, including their education, experience level, job responsibilities, location of employment, and many more.

Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that the need for physicians and surgeons will grow by 4% between 2019 and 2029. Therefore, the employment forecast for immunologists is probably in line with the increased rate for doctors and surgeons.

Additional FAQs – How to Become an Immunologist?

Where Do Immunologists Work?

University-based research and teaching are standard among immunologists. Others work for government-run health organizations, where they often do lab research. 

Some work for pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms, contributing to creating fresh pharmaceuticals and medical treatments.

Moreover, many immunologists are clinicians who care for patients with autoimmune disorders in medical offices. 

Since autoimmune diseases are not contagious, clinical practice carries only minimal risk. Animal infections, illnesses, and immunological problems are treated and prevented by veterinarians specializing in immunology.

What is the Difference Between an Immunologist and an Allergist?

Although many employers engage both immunologists and allergists as their allergy and immunology specialists, it is feasible to concentrate solely on one area of this profession.

Immunologists may place a greater emphasis on medical research and the diagnosis and treatment of immune system disorders. 

On the other hand, allergists frequently concentrate solely on diagnosing and caring for allergy patients.

Is Immunology a Good Career?

Immunology is often a fantastic career choice for medical professionals who enjoy teaching and love science. 

The salary in the US is average, and job satisfaction is often high. There are many job opportunities in the field of immunology because there is a shortage of immunology professionals in the US.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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