Is becoming an immunologist right for me?
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How to become an Immunologist
Students wanting to become a doctor of immunology must first complete a bachelor's degree, preferably in the sciences. Pre-med majors include chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and biology. They then need to successfully pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).
The first two years of medical school are spent in both the classroom and the lab, learning about human body systems, disease, pharmacology, medical ethics, and skills such as how to properly conduct a patient examination. For the next two years, students complete clinical rotations and have an opportunity to diagnose and treat patients under the supervision of a licensed physician.
Immunologists must then complete a residency, usually in internal medicine or pediatrics. During the residency, they will have an opportunity to complete an immunology rotation that focuses on disorders of the immune system, which includes intensive, supervised lab work to learn immunological testing methods and interpretation of clinical results.
A fellowship in immunology generally lasts three years. Residents have a chance to see patients with immunological disorders and diseases under the supervision of a licensed physician. They may also delve into a specialized area such as rheumatology or allergies.
Once individuals have completed their studies and training, they become eligible to obtain a license from their state's health board or similar governing body. Immunologists must be certified by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) or the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) as a prerequisite for being certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI).
Many immunologists find their place researching and teaching as opposed to practicing. While this branch of immunology provides a strong participation in research, it requires a personality suited to instructing as well as guiding.
Research immunology centres on teaching medical students and expanding society's understanding of immune system physiology and pathology. Scientific research immunologists are required to have a doctoral degree in life sciences — such as biomedical sciences, biology, microbiology, genetics, or biochemistry.
In addition to a Ph.D., at least two to three years of training in an accredited program and passing an examination given by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology is required.