Clinical Immunology Scientist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Clinical immunology scientists require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

With a master's degree in immunology it may be possible to be hired for research work in the field of clinical immunology. Typically, a clinical immunology scientist is required to have a doctoral or professional degree for senior positions or advancement. Some may opt to become medical doctors and complete a fellowship in immunology.

Essential Information

Clinical immunology scientists use their knowledge and specialized equipment to study the relationships between pathogens and the immune system. After studying these interactions, these scientists can develop pharmaceutical drugs, and understand more about allergic reactions and immunological diseases. Some medical conditions these professionals focus on include skin rashes, asthma and gastrointestinal disorders. This profession typically works with medical schools, pharmaceutical companies or private laboratories. Students who are dedicated to research in hopes of bettering the lives of people would fit into this career path. Students must complete a master's degree and sometimes a doctoral degree to be considered for one of these positions.

Career Medical Scientist
Education Requirements Doctoral or professional degree
Other Requirements Licensure required if prescribing medicine
Job Growth (2014-24)* 8%
Mean Salary (2015)* $93,730 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for a Clinical Immunology Scientist

Clinical immunology scientists research and analyze the immune system's various reactions to disorders, diseases and foreign substances. Examples of conditions studied by immunology professionals include asthma, skin rashes, gastrointestinal disorders and immunodeficiencies. Allergies and immunologic disorders can be congenital or acquired, and may be triggered by the presence of food, drugs, insects and organ transplants.

Private laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, medical schools and universities employ clinical immunology scientists, who can also work part-time as physicians. They may focus on a specific disease or reaction type. For example, an immunologist might study the interaction between cells and a particular virus or research the varying causes of intestinal inflammation. Others may develop drugs or lead clinical studies.

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Duties of a Clinical Immunology Scientist

Clinical immunology scientists perform allergen provocation procedures, which may include food and drug challenges, skin and bronchial testing, and history-allergy test correlation. They develop research methodologies and collect tissue cultures to study protein chemistry and cellular reactions. Others design and oversee clinical trials for new pharmaceutical products.

They keep current with other allergy and immunology research by consulting medical journals, attending conferences and interacting with fellow immunology scientists. They prepare technical reports and oversee other laboratory workers, which might include graduate students, technicians or postdoctoral fellows. Some clinical immunology scientists travel to different hospitals to meet patients with symptoms specific to their research.

Requirements to Become a Clinical Immunology Scientist

Completion of an immunology master's degree program is the minimum requirement to secure research work. A related science program with significant immunology coursework may suffice.

Chief research and academic faculty positions require a doctoral degree. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Science Education, immunologists typically gain experience in a postdoctoral training fellowship under a senior immunology scientist before pursuing more permanent positions.

Clinical immunology scientists can increase their career opportunities by earning both a doctoral and medical degree. Some universities structure their programs to allow for dual degrees. Alternately, individuals can elect to train as a physician with a research subspecialty. The American Board of Internal Medicine delineates a Research Pathway for medical school graduates, which combines research training with a medical residency in internal medicine and another residency in allergy and immunology. Physicians must first pass an examination before they are licensed to practice.

Career Information

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report specifically on clinical immunology scientists, it does state that employment growth for all types of medical scientists (except epidemiologists) is expected to be 8% from 2014 to 2024. Medical scientists earned a mean salary of $93,730 annually, according to the BLS in 2015.

Clinical immunology scientists study how the body's immune system reacts to diseases, disorders and foreign substances. They may also be involved in developing pharmaceutical drugs. Although it may be possible to be hired for research with a master's degree, chief researchers and academic faculty are required to have a doctoral degree.

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