How to Become an Immunologist


Career Path Guide

To become an immunologist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you:


You'll need to have a keen interest in the biological processes of the human body and its immune system. Being passionate about understanding what is necessary for an immune system to function properly is also critical for success.  


You must enjoy conducting research, and must be very comfortable expressing your 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, you 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.



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 start taking an interest in this field as a possible profession 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. 





General Job Description of an Immunologist

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.



Typical 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 Needed to Become an Immunologist

Certification in 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. 


Certification in the 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.



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. There is no salary information available for this specific profession from reputable sources. We can however, get a good idea of what they might earn by looking at the salary level of general occupational groups to which they belong.


Immunologist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of workers in the Physicians and Surgeons occupational group (to which immunologists may belong) is greater than $208,000


Immunologist Salary Canada: According to the 2017 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Specialist Physician occupational group earn an average salary of $94,842 per year. According to WorkBC (Government of British Columbia), those in the same occupational field earn an annual provincial median salary of $126,078. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (October 12, 2019).


Please Note: As immunologists can be employed as medical doctors and university professors, please see the Doctor and University Professor occupational profiles on our website for salary information related to these professions. 





Skills Required to Become an Immunologist

To be 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 Employs 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. 



Current Job Postings

Our job board below has "immunologist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia:




Similar Professions

Listed below are career guides for professions in our database that are similar in nature to "immunologist". They are similar in that they involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Medical Scientist


Molecular Biologist






Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as an immunologist.


Occupations in Alberta:Specialist Physician.” (March 24, 2015). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 12, 2019.

Explore Careers:Specialist Physician.” (December 11, 2018). WorkBC website - Province of British Columbia . Retrieved October 12, 2019.

Occupational Outlook Handbook - Healthcare:Physicians and Surgeons.” (September 10, 2019). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved October 12, 2019.

Bioscience Careers:Immunologist.” (n.d.). North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research website. Retrieved October 12, 2019.

Become Certified:About Certification.” (n.d.). American Board of Allergy and Immunology website. Retrieved October 12, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming an Immunologist

Scholarships in our database that are relevant for becoming an immunologist are all of those that are found on our Biology Scholarships page.



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


Top Banner Image: 
Top Banner Image Title: