Immunology is a vast and quickly growing field that integrates various types of chemistry and biology to solve large scale problems such as creation of new immunizations. The field of immunology can take an individual down many different paths including medicine, many types of research and even public health. The main focus of an immunologist in all these fields is to find way to help people fight infections, tackle pathogens, and keep the world a healthier place.
Most immunologists work in various research areas in lab settings. Here, there is a large array of responsibilities that are essential for creating productive and efficient workplace.
Immunologists must have an eye for detail and during their work in the lab they must be attentive and observant in order to correctly interpret test results and follow up with the correct procedures. On that note, immunologist are responsible for working independently (as well as with others) by applying knowledge acquired in school to real world problems and performing right tests in order to obtain answers to questions.
Immunologists are also responsible for lab safety and for keeping both themselves and their coworkers out of harms way. This can be accomplished once again by attentiveness as well as proper lab safety training.
Many immunologists work with model organisms (usually mice) for their experiments. Therefore, an immunologist is responsible for proper treatment of animals as well as execution of experiments in a manner least cruel to the animals.
For immunologists working more closely to sick patients, same safety responsibilities apply. In addition to this, the patients an immunologist may work with, is probably carrying a serious pathogen. Immunologists are responsible for helping fight the infection and keeping others safe from it as well.
An immunologist working in any field, is responsible for being able to present research and results at professional meetings and conventions. This requires proper public speaking skills as well as competency of computer technologies such as PowerPoint.
Training and Education Requirements
Preparing for a job as an immunologist can start as early as high school. Taking as many math and science courses as possible is key to grasping the more difficult material in college.
After high school, one must attend an accredited four year college to obtain a degree directly in immunology or like fields such as biochemistry, biology, or other medical sciences. During the course of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in immunology related fields, one must be sure to take labs as well as specific courses in order to be prepared for future schooling.
Most jobs in immunology require an interested person to obtain a degree following a bachelor’s degree. This usually means several more years of school in order to get an M.D, PhD or D.O. Out of all these a PhD usually takes the most amount of time: anywhere between five and seven years (post doc positions as well).
Salary and Wages
Earnings for an Immunologist vary from location, experience and job position (as with all other professional fields). Usually working in a medical setting guarantees a higher pay than working in a lab as an assistant professor or a lab technician. Almost all immunologists get paid salaries ranging from 50,000 – 200,000 USD a year. Many positions have a starting pay that increases as the individual works in the area longer and longer.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
For professors of immunology, salary increases with a tenure, publications, and increased funding from research grants.
Immunologist job certifications are first of all, test and boards that one would need to take in the process of obtaining an immunology degree.
In addition to the advanced PhD, or MD degrees an interested individual must take three – two year training programs and courses after which they must take and pass the examinations given by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. It is expected that an immunologist has vast understanding of bodily processes, treatments and therapies.
Because immunology branches out into so many different science fields (everything from biochemistry, chemistry, biomedical engineering and medicine) there are many professional associations that immunologists, universities and hospitals are affiliated with. One of the most prominent is The American Association of Immunologists. This association presents awards for exceptional work in immunology, organizes committees, conventions, and speeches. It also educated immunologists on the most up to date discoveries and technological advances.
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology is similar to the above mentioned association but different in that it deals more with the general population and not just individuals in the field of immunology. Essentially it seeks to bring people with medical problems with immunologists from all experiences to solve large problems and better the lives of thousands.
The most successful immunologists have both educational and practical experience and are deeply involved in many professional associations, always learning and expanding their understanding of the human-pathogen relationship.