Difference Between Allergist & Pulmonologist

When aspiring doctors are considering what area of medicine to specialize in, those interested in breathing issues may consider becoming an allergist or a pulmonologist. This article compares these careers' job duties, earned income, and job outlook.

Comparing Allergists to Pulmonologists

Allergists and pulmonologists focus on the lungs and chests of patients to identify and treat possible medical conditions that cause breathing difficulties. Allergists work with patients who are affected by allergic reactions, while pulmonologists focus on treating people with other breathing-related issues, such as emphysema. Further details about these careers are outlined below.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Allergists Medical Degree $174,319 (2017)** 15% (for physicians and surgeons, all other)
Pulmonologists Medical Degree $238,227 (2016)* (for internal medicine physicians) 9% (for internists, general)

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

Responsibilities of Allergists vs. Pulmonologists

Allergists and pulmonologists both see patients and perform medical tests. They review test results and they also help determine the most effective way to treat a patient. They are both qualified to prescribe medication or refer patients to other professionals if necessary. One of the key differences is that pulmonologists are qualified to perform some treatments through surgical procedures. Allergists and pulmonologists both perform other duties shared by medical doctors, such as documenting their assessments and conclusions in patient files.


People who suffer from allergic reactions may be referred to as an allergist. Allergists are medical doctors who have a medical degree and a license to practice. They must also complete residency requirements in their specialization and be certified. Allergists can also be known as allergist-immunologists, and it's common for them to work in hospitals or medical offices. Those who work in offices may work standard daytime office hours, while those who are employed by hospitals may also work in the evening.

Job responsibilities of an allergist include:

  • Reviewing patient records
  • Performing medical tests on patients
  • Identifying the allergen causing a reaction
  • Determining the appropriate treatment
  • Informing patients about how to prevent allergic reactions
  • Providing referring physicians with test results and recommendations


Pulmonologists are medical doctors who use their specialized training to work with patients with respiratory problems. They must complete four years of medical school, obtain a medical degree and license, and become certified in pulmonology. As part of their training they must also finish a residency in this field, which can take three years to complete. They may work in hospitals, medical offices or medical clinics and their hours can vary based on their place of employment. Good communication and observation skills are important in this field, and pulmonologists also need to be able to respond quickly to care for patients who are in respiratory distress.

Job responsibilities of a pulmonologist include:

  • Testing patients
  • Diagnosing patients
  • Immunizing patients
  • Operating on patients
  • Referring patients to thoracic surgeons
  • Discussing treatment options with patients

Related Careers

Aspiring allergists may also be interested in working as medical scientists, since medical scientists help develop treatments for patients and perform a lot of medical tests in their work. Another career option for aspiring pulmonologists is to become a surgeon, since pulmonologists may perform some operations or refer their patients to surgeons for further treatment.

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