Difference Between an Immunologist & an Oncologist

Aspiring medical doctors have many areas they can consider specializing in. How the careers of immunologists and oncologists compare, including what type of medical issues they treat, is explored further here.

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Comparing Immunologists to Oncologists

Since the human body is complex and there are a wide range of medical conditions people can experience there are many medical doctors who specialize in treating specific illnesses or parts of the body. Immunologists focus on working with allergic reactions and how to treat those reactions. Oncologists spend their career treating patients with cancer.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)**
Immunologists Medical Degree $174,319 (for all allergists-immunologists) 15% (for physicians and surgeons, all other)
Oncologists Medical Degree $250,449 15% (for physicians and surgeons, all other)

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

Responsibilities of Immunologists vs. Oncologists

Immunologists and oncologists are both medical doctors, and their work can involve treating patients, reviewing medical data and determining how to treat a patient's condition. Immunologists often spend more of their time focused on research. They help identify the best treatment options for specific allergic reactions through testing and they may also work with patients while performing clinical trials. Oncologists see patients who have cancer. They help determine if the best treatment option for a patient is chemotherapy or another approach, such as surgery. Both immunologists and oncologists need to maintain confidentiality and must keep records of their work.


People who suffer from allergic reactions benefit from the medical expertise of immunologists. Immunologists focus on understanding allergic reactions and how to manage or prevent them. They are medical doctors, and must have a medical degree and license. They are also required to complete certification, residency and internship requirements to qualify as a specialist in immunology. Some immunologists work in hospitals while others work in medical offices.

Job responsibilities of an immunologist include:

  • Treating patients
  • Researching medications to treat allergies
  • Testing for allergic reactions
  • Performing clinical trials
  • Ordering medical supplies
  • Documenting their research and test results


Oncologists work with patients who have cancer. They are medical doctors who have specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and need a medical degree and license. They are also required to complete fellowship and residency requirements to specialize in oncology. Those who work in medical offices often work regular daytime hours, although oncologists who work in hospitals may also work evenings and weekends. Sensitivity and good communication skills are important, since they often work with patients who are very ill for a long period of time.

Job responsibilities of an oncologist include:

  • Reviewing medical and updating files
  • Assessing and diagnosing patients
  • Ordering medical tests
  • Determining the best treatment options

Related Careers

If immunology sounds like an appealing career, clinical pharmacology may also be appealing because clinical pharmacologists help create drugs to treat medical issues. For those considering a career in oncology, being an anesthesiologist may also be a career option because anesthesiologists help treat patients who are in pain, and may also work with cancer patients.

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