What is an Immunologist? What Does an Immunologist Do?

What is an Immunologist? What Does an Immunologist Do?
What is an Immunologist? What Does an Immunologist Do?

An immunologist treats health issues related to the immune system and prevents immune system disorders. There are lots of common problems treated by immunologists such as food or seasonal allergies, hay fever, eczema, or an autoimmune disease. Loss of defenses against infection leads to an increased risk of developing cancer or autoimmune diseases. Therefore, the immunologist career is considered a potential job for medical students. If you are interested in this career path, explore the job description and necessary education in this post.

What Does an Immunologist Do?

What Does an Immunologist Do?
What Does an Immunologist Do?

When your immune system overreacts to an allergen (such as food, dust, or pollen), allergies will occur. Immunologists will detect and treat symptoms of allergies including coughing, sneezing, an itchy throat, or watery eyes. They also control and reduce severe allergic reactions like skin inflammation, creating hives, and eczema. They play an important role in treating and protecting patients’ health far from low blood pressure, asthma attacks, and even death.

In addition to seeing patients, immunologists perform and research the immune system and explain why it doesn’t always work properly. Besides, clinical immunologists also evaluate and diagnose children helping them manage and treat disorders.

For autoimmune disorders, immunologists will work closely with or refer you to other specialists like a rheumatologist to enhance the healing outcome.

Immunologist Education and Training

Typically, Immunologists need to spend at least 9 years training after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Below is an example of the education process

  • Medical school: 4 years 
  • Train in the specialties such as pediatrics or internal medicine: 3 years
  • Receive certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine or American Board of Pediatrics: The time depends on your knowledge
  • Take immunology and allergy fellowship (grasp first-hand experience at a medical facility): 2 years
  • Sit for a final exam to get certification from the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI): The time depends on your knowledge
Immunologist Education and Training
Immunologist Education and Training

Physicians who have ABAI certification will hold an in-depth knowledge of the immune system like immunochemistry, and immunobiology. By offering this certification, they also diagnose and treat autoinflammatory and inflammatory disorders. 

Employers also expect that aspiring immunologists will have experience and skills in other areas such as understanding the functioning of the body, medications, therapies, test materials, and surgical procedures. Therefore, you must prepare a strong foundation as well as knowledge to become a good immunologist

Common Conditions Treated By Immunologists

In addition to researching stem cells, bone marrow, organ transplants, and gene therapy, Immunologists manage and treat the following types of medical problems 

  • Respiratory diseases like asthma, sinusitis, and occupational lung disease
  • Eye diseases like allergic rhinitis or hay fever
  • Skin diseases like eczema and contact dermatitis
  • Severe reactions to medications, food, vaccines, and insect bites
  • Gastrointestinal disorders 
  • Autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis or lupus

Daily Life of Immunologists

Daily Life of Immunologists
Daily Life of Immunologists

To decide on the best course of treatment, an immunologist needs to know the root of allergic reactions by asking for a detailed description of symptoms and the triggers. 

As an immunologist, you will perform some necessary tests to identify the allergen or substance. Each test checks tiny amounts of possible allergens that may cause an immune response. Some common tests performed by immunologists including

  • Blood test: Detects and measures possible allergens in the blood.
  • Patch test: Sets a patch (containing the allergen) on the skin
  • Pulmonary function test: Evaluates how the lungs work
  • Skin test: Uses needles to prick the skin and then put an allergen on this scratched surface
  • Nasal test: Nasal smear or swabbing the nose 

When having the test results, immunologists will create an exact treatment plan that patients must take over-the-counter antihistamines (severe allergies) or simply need to avoid their triggers (minor allergies).

Immunologist Salary Range and Job Outlook

Based on the data that we collected, immunologists’ salaries range from $50,000 to more than $200,000 per year depending on the specialty they work and the location they live.

The BLS projects that the job outlook of all other physicians and surgeons including immunologists can grow by 4% between 2019 and 2029 due to an increase in the elderly population.

Conclusion

As an immunologist, you can work in various settings such as hospitals and private companies. You also obtain an M.D. as opposed to a Ph.D. to expect higher salaries. Can say that immunology is a potential career with a high job outlook for those who want to work in healthcare.