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Immunologist: Job Outlook, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an immunologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Immunologists specialize in immune disease and infection research, also applying treatment methods. They may work in medical facilities or laboratories. The educational requirements vary by place of employment.

Essential Information

Immunologists focus on finding and implementing solutions to diseases affecting the immune system. Immunologists need to either complete a medical degree and a fellowship in immunology or a doctoral degree. Most immunologists work in medical or research capacities.

Required Education Doctoral degree or medical degree and fellowship
Other Requirements License to practice immunology
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14.9% for physicians and surgeons, all other
Median Annual Salary (2016)** $70,000

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Immunologist Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all other physicians and surgeons, including immunologists, will see a projected job growth of 14.9% between 2014 and 2024. Medical immunologist job growth is expected to be driven by an increase in the elderly population and the number of physicians. An increase in job opportunities for research immunologists will be spurred by new discoveries concerning genes and their role within organisms, the expansion of the biotechnology industry and the growing need to find solutions to new diseases.

Immunologist Job Duties

Medical Immunologists

Medical immunologists typically work in private offices, clinics or hospitals, coordinating with other providers to diagnose and treat immunological issues. Job duties include conducting and evaluating diagnostic tests, balancing risks and benefits to establish treatment plans and conducting immunological therapies.

Research Immunologists

Research immunologists, on the other hand, generally work in labs. They conduct scientific studies examining cell reproduction and the diseases that affect the immune system, such as allergies and cancer. Some researchers also spend time in the field, examining subjects in their natural environments to gain a better understanding of elemental causes. A career in research immunology can be stressful and demanding, because research projects are usually funded by academic institutions that set strict deadlines and conditions.

Immunologist Job Requirements

Medical Immunologist Requirements

Becoming an immunologist in the medical field involves an exhaustive training process. A student must earn a bachelor's degree preferably in biology or chemistry and complete four years of medical school to earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). The M.D. graduate then fulfills up to seven years of residency in internal medicine followed by at least a 2-year fellowship in immunology. The candidate is then eligible to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and earn a license to practice immunology.

Research Immunologist Requirements

A career as a research immunologist typically requires a Ph.D. in biology or microbiology. This entails first earning a bachelor's degree and then attending usually eight years of graduate school to complete the master's and doctoral degree programs. Research immunologists should have excellent communication skills, because they often collaborate with other scientists and oversee small teams of researchers.

A research immunologist should possess a doctoral degree, while a medical immunologist requires a college degree and completion of medical school with a lengthy residency and fellowship. These specialists could see a 14.9% increase in employment.

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