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What does an Immunologist do?

By Mandi Rogier
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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An immunologist is a medical specialist who works with the immune system, the system in the body responsible for protecting it from infection and disease. The branch of medical science that this individual works in is known as immunology. The field requires an understanding of a variety of scientific fields, chief among them biology and chemistry.

A Ph.D. or M.D. is required to become an immunologist, with the specific degree required depending on the area of work. In the US, the American Board of Allergy and Immunology certifies these professionals.

When someone talks about an immunologist, he is usually thinking of the specialist who works in hospitals and medical offices, treating patients. This type of doctor holds a medical degree as either a general practice physician or pediatrician, but has specialized training in immunology. This medical professional will typically treat patients with autoimmune disorders or complicated allergies.

Allergic reactions of all types fall under this specialty. Patients may experience respiratory symptoms, gastrointestinal discomfort, or skin rashes. There are allergies for everything from drugs and food to environmental factors, such as pollen or even the sun.

Not all immunologists treat patients directly, and some focus on scientific research. These professionals direct their attention toward finding new treatments for various disorders of the immune system. They also perform continuing research to better understand this part of the body. A scientific researcher will work primarily within a laboratory setting.

Some immunology professionals may also choose to split their work between hands-on practice and research. They might spend part of their time in a laboratory performing research and put that research into practice by treating patients. Such individuals would likely specialize in a very specific area rather than working with all types of immunological disorders.

Scientific researchers must have an in-depth understanding of their area of study. A medical degree is not required for those who do not work directly with patients, but they are required to have a Ph.D. in their field.

A third option for immunologists is a career in education. As a college instructor, this person can educate the next generation of scientific researchers and immunological specialists. Those who are interested in teaching should have strong communication skills and the ability to share their knowledge clearly and effectively with others. This job requires either a Ph.D. or an M.D.

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Discussion Comments
By anon994198 — On Jan 23, 2016

Do Immunologists treat liver and spleen enlargement wherein laboratory test done to patient are all normal and the MRI and ultrasound results show the liver is really enlarged, but liver enzymes are normal and say the liver is functioning well?

By anon316451 — On Jan 28, 2013

Does anybody happen to know if immunologists can help a Crohn's patient?

By nextcorrea — On Jun 04, 2011

Negative allergic reactions are fundamentally immune reactions so I would imagine that immunologists work with allergies in at least some capacity. You may want to contact an allergy clinic and see if the have an immunologists on staff. Surely they will have a dedicated allergy doctor that can help you with your condition.

They have made big breaks in allergy treatments lately and there is no reason to go on suffering

By gravois — On Jun 03, 2011

Do immunologists ever perform allergy testing? I have a terrible pollen allergy and I have been looking for any kind of relief for years. Maybe I need to see a specialist?

By truman12 — On Jun 02, 2011

My dad has rheumatoid arthritis which is an auto immune disorder. He goes to see both an immunologist and a rheumatologist in order to get treatment. There seems to be some overlap between the expertise and the work that they do for my dad but I don''t know all the details.

What I can say for sure is that the treatment is working. Before my dad started seeing his 2 current doctors he was in almost constant, debilitating pain. Now, after only a few months with these doctors, he has a much greater quality of life and can do things that were impossible until only recently. A great doctor can really work miracles.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Jun 01, 2011

Immunologists are really incredible doctors. There are so many conditions that effect the immune system in so many ways. The areas effected and the variety of symptoms are spread across a huge range. These kinds of doctors have to understand how every system in the body works because they are all subject to the forces of the immune system.

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