How to Become an Immunologist: Career Path Guide
If you want to become an immunologist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as an immunologist:
Those who become immunologists typically have a keen interest in the biological processes of the human body and its immune system. Immunologists that are passionate about understanding what is necessary for an immune system to function properly are typically those that are successful in their careers.
Immunologists must enjoy conducting research, and they must be very comfortable expressing their professional opinion to other team members, such as those in research, management and public policy related positions.
In addition to an interest in the various elements of the profession, they must have an aptitude for academic work in the areas of molecular biology, immunology and epidemiology, as well as the intellectual and emotional stamina needed to complete the necessary education in these areas.
Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an immunologist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!
Education Needed to Become an Immunologist
To get a job as an immunologist you need an advanced degree, specifically a Ph.D. or an M.D. degree. Scientific research immunologists are required to have a Ph.D., while physicians are required to have an M.D. as well as two to three more years of specialty training and study in an immunology program.
If you are interested in becoming an immunologist during your undergraduate or high school years, be sure to take courses in university that will allow you to develop a strong foundation in biology, chemistry, biochemistry and mathematics.
Immunologist Job Description
Immunologists are responsible for studying the functions of the body’s immune system for the purpose of developing new medical therapies, treatments and vaccines, and for finding ways to improve methods for treating different conditions.
In order to effectively develop these new products and methods, immunologists must investigate the development and effects of abnormal immune responses from the body, which are associated with a variety of conditions including autoimmune diseases, immunodeficiencies, allergies and transplant rejection.
Immunologist Job Duties
• Plan and perform experiments and studies
• Analyze and interpret the results of studies
• Prepare detailed reports based on the results of studies
• Present reports at conventions, seminars, universities and other appropriate platforms
• May confer with general physicians regarding a patient’s medical history
• Examine patients
• Diagnose and treat a wide variety of immune system disorders
Certification to Become an Immunologist
Immunologist Certification Canada: To gain a Certificate of Special Competence in Clinical Immunology and Allergy in Canada, you must first complete an M.D. program. Upon completion of an M.D. program, you must complete 2 years of approved residency in immunology and allergy, not more than one of which may be undertaken during training for certification in pediatrics or internal medicine.
Immunologist Certification United States: To become a certified immunologist in the United States, you must first earn a Ph.D. or an M.D., and then complete at least two to three years of training in an accredited program and must pass an examination given by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.
Immunologist Salary: How Much Do Immunologists Earn?
The salary level of immunologists can vary depending on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, their job responsibilities, where they work, and many others.
Immunologist Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Biologists and Related Scientists occupational group earn an average wage of between $26.73 and $62.00 per hour. The mean wage for this occupational group is $39.83 per hour.
Immunologist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of workers in the Microbiologists occupational group is $65,920 (2010 figures). The lowest 10 percent of salaries in this group are less than $39,180, and the top 10 percent are above $115,720 per year.
Please Note: As immunologists can be employed as medical doctors and university professors, please see the Doctor and University Professor occupational profiles for salary information related to these professions.
Skills Required to Become an Immunologist
In order to become an effective immunologist, you’ll need a certain set of skills, in addition to your specialized knowledge and training. These skills include:
Patience: Immunologists need to have patience in the work activities; compiling data, analyzing the data, and preparing well articulated scientific reports can take time, and be very frustrating.
Communication Skills: Being able to properly communicate findings to other professionals in the field of immunology (and general medicine) is a crucial part of being an immunologist.
Organization: Sometimes the daily tasks of immunologists can be overwhelming; it is important to stay organized and have work prioritized.
Computer Skills: Being proficient in the use of computers is very important for immunologists, as they must use them for keeping track of data and communicating with other immunologists and professionals in their field.
Stamina: The work of immunologists can be very demanding, and they must be able to remain focused and have the ability to pay attention to details after working for several hours.
Who Hires Immunologists? Where Do They Work?
There are a number of organizations within clinical, academic and industrial settings that are interested in employing the skills, knowledge and competencies of immunologists, including:
Colleges and Universities: Academic institutions employ immunologists to undertake original research in the field of medicine and immunology, as well as to teach courses, and supervise graduate students in their research.
Hospitals and Clinics: Clinical immunologists are hired by healthcare facilities to diagnose patients that suffer from immunological disorders, as well as manage their care.
Pharmaceutical and Biotechnical Companies: Immunologists are employed by pharmaceutical and biotechnical companies in order to help them further their understanding of the immune system; this knowledge can then be applied to researching and developing new medical products and therapies.
Government Agencies: Federal and provincial/state government agencies may hire immunologists to conduct research for the purpose of developing new, and improving existing, vaccines.
Our job board below has "Immunologist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Careers Similar to Immunologist
Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Immunologist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.
References: How to Become an Immunologist
Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as an immunologist.
Alberta Learning and Information Service website: alis.alberta.ca
American Board of Allergy and Immunology website: www.abai.org
North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research website: www.aboutbioscience.org
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website: www.bls.gov
Scholarships for Becoming an Immunologist
Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming an Immunologist can be found on our Biology Scholarships page.
Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!
Becoming an Immunologist: Applicable Majors
Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming an immunologist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!