No! Allergists and Immunologists are not the same, and here is why:
Allergists primarily focus on treatment and diagnostics of all forms of allergies, while Immunologists focus on researching and finding treatments that can lead to restoring immunity for all immunodeficiency disorders.
After graduating with a Doctorate of Medicine or the Doctor of Osteopathy degree and 4-year residency program, you have two options:
You will either become an allergist specialist by focusing on the treatment and managing allergies like common cases of asthma and immunologic disorders, including primary immunodeficiency disorders.
On the other hand, if you’re focused on becoming an immunologist, you may concentrate more on medical research and finding treatments to assist patients with various immune system problems.
Why Become An Allergists Or An Immunologists
Allergies can be very challenging to deal with, particularly for the reason that they don’t only affect one part of the body.
There are so many types of allergies, ranging from food allergies, allergic eye diseases to cases like allergic rhinitis (among so many others).
They can have an impact on the all parts of the body. For instance, allergic conjunctivitis affects the eyes, eczema affects the skin, allergic rhinitis affects the nose, asthma affects the lungs, and many more allergic conditions.
The causes of the allergies depend upon the nature and type of that allergy. Either way, allergists can play a very huge role in treating our reactions, whatever type they may be.
Want to become an allergist? This article will cover all the necessary information, including some of the duties that allergists perform, the salary you are expected to receive, the skills required for you to pursue this career, and many more.
Who is an allergist/immunologist?
An allergist (also known as an immunologist) is a therapeutic doctor who specializes in the diagnosing as well as treating of allergic conditions.
Besides developing an expertise to treat various allergies and immunologic illnesses, these professionals also help in managing as well as preventing the breakout of immune-related disorders. These are conditions such as autoimmune ailments and immunodeficiency diseases.
Generally, their work consists of studying the medical history of their patients, conducting an analysis based on the information, whether verbal or through tests, then prescribing the appropriate medication or treatment, under which the patient needs to be subjected.
As immunologists, they are required to do a lot of work. Some of these involve use of medical equipment to diagnose their patients.
Besides that, they also use such equipment conducting various tasks like blood tests, patch tests and many more.
As such, this requires them to have technical as well as knowledge in usage of computers and other hospital equipment.
Every so often, allergists are required to observe the state of their patients to ensure that they are responding to the medications or treatments. Monitoring also allows them to change the type of medication when the current treatment gives out contrasting reactions.
As such, this is a career that needs both proficiency and hard work. On top of that you need to have skills in organizing, communicating to patients and doctors as well detail orientation.
To become an allergist or an immunologist, you will need the right amount of education. Firstly, you need to go through 4 years of premedical college in order to learn the basics of this lucrative career.
After this, the candidate is expected to go into medical school, where he/she will earn a doctor or medicine degree.
When they graduate from medical school, they have to spend 2 years in a fellowship program from an accredited institution. After such fellowship, they are subjected through examinations offered by the American Board of Internal Medicine which, after they pass, makes them eligible for a fellowship in their field.
In total, this education and fellowships takes up a duration of about 13 years, meaning that it is essential to plan very early if you are going to become an allergist.
Because it takes so long to finally get into practice, most people tend to shy away from the career, meaning that there are a few people that actually study and finish it.
With the high and steady rising demand of allergists, it is likely that more people will be pursuing this career and the ones already in office will receive a higher pay and many other benefits. As such, this is one of the most rewarding careers.
What is this career like?
In this section, we want to give you a general scope of the allergists’ and immunologists’ day to day duties. These have be outlines below
Performing allergy tests
Allergies and immunologists are required to perform tests in their office, particularly for people who have environmental or food allergies. These are typically called prick tests, scratch tests or of course, allergy tests.
During the allergy tests, the allergy doctor or specialist uses a device that is immersed into an allergen formula and pricks the skin with the device (which is why this is also called the prick test).
Food allergies tests
The prick usually takes a few seconds and the most common foods that are used for tests are foodstuffs such as eggs, wheat, milk, shellfish, and many others. Peanuts are another examples of the likely foods that can be tested as well. These fall under the category of food tests.
Environmental allergy tests
When it comes to environmental allergy tests, they are conducted in the same way as the food tests.
The only difference here are the variables that are used during the tests. In environmental allergy tests, the allergist uses variables such as dust, grass, cats, dogs and many other environmental factors.
When the test is completed (in this case, when the skin is pricked), the allergists waits for a reaction to cultivate on the skin. This waiting can take anywhere from 12 minutes to around 15 minutes.
The part of the skin then shows either a bump or the formation of some redness. The size of the reaction usually determines if the person is allergic to something or not. Either way, he/she is required to give you a report on the findings.
As such, this is a very simple test. Also, it can be performed on people of all ages, even children that are as young as a year old.
In terms of the part of the body, the allergy or prick test can be performed either on the back or the arms of the patient.
Conducting research on new medications and treatments
The allergists and immunologists are required to continue doing a deep research either on blogs, magazine and expert publications.
Not only does this enable the allergist to learn about new allergy cases though. He/she can also learn about the new treatments that are being manufactured from time to time.
Assessing the patient’s reaction to an administered treatment and tests
Since the allergist will be conducting tests (such as the prick tests we talked about earlier), the allergist is supposed to closely monitor the reaction that the patients will have with that particular test or treatment.
Overseeing junior allergists and new immunologists
This point mainly applies to the allergists and the immunologists that are in senior or managerial positions.
They are supposed to overlook all the tests and various treatments that are being administered by intern or new allergists.
In this way, he/she will ensure that all the allergists are performing the right assessments and using the commended techniques.
Communicating to the patient and family members on examination results and treatments
As an allergist, he/she is supposed to make sure that the patients as well as the family members are notified about the patient’s allergies and the recommended treatment.
Ordering the equipment for the job
The allergists’ and immunologists’ offices are supposed to be equipped with the right equipment. If the equipment isn’t available, the allergist is required to make an order.
Coordinating with other allergists or medical doctors on diagnosis and treatment
On any tests and treatments that are performed, the allergist is required to communicate this information with other medical professionals to ensure that all members are kept in the loop. This is particularly common in cases where the allergist works with a team.
A large percentage of allergists as well as immunologists work in private institutions. This is because working in private institutions increases the chances of advancing to a managerial or supervisory role.
Yet, other medical doctors may consider staying in the academic field, which will allow them to gain more knowledge and expertise. They may then choose to become university lecturers or doctors.
In terms of the time required, most allergists work the regular 9 to 5 time frame, though it is not unusual to work irregular hours.
A lot of this depends on the patient’s condition, the need for further research on a diagnosis and many other factors. As such, the allergists and/or the immunologists who are new to the profession may find the job rather fatiguing.
This mainly happens because in the first years of practice, the allergists and immunologists still undergo the specialized trainings in the allergy and immunology field, which we will talk about below.
After they have stayed in office for a while, they may get used to the job and be able to enjoy the flexibility of their work schedule. The allergists and immunologists that work at an organization may work on a full-time basis.
On the other hand, most allergists may consider opening a practice of their own. The advantage of such a method is that they can be able to set their own worth schedule.
This means that they will be able to adjust their time based on their preferences, which makes this system very flexible.
What skills are needed?
In this section, we are covering the several skills that you need to have to succeed in your career in allergy and immunology. Here’s a look at the top skills that allergists should have:
As an allergist, you need to be able to get information from patients when you are diagnosing them.
On the other hand, you need to ensure that the patient and the family members are kept informed about the conditions as well as the treatments that the patient will receive.
Those who work in research also need good communication and leadership skills because they will work with other medical professionals and may need to provide direction on research projects.
This is one of the most important skills that an allergist needs to have, especially because most of their job involves ruling out several possibilities before they can recognize the suitable treatment of their patient’s illnesses.
Allergists often need to do a lot of research to find out which treatment will best suit their patients’ illnesses.
This research may involve talking to a lot other experts, looking up information on the internet as well as reading various publications. This takes us to our next point.
Their various researches may take a weeks, months or several years in order for them to find the correct diagnosis and treatment. As such, they need to exercise a lot of patience and consistency along the way.
Attention to detail
Allergists need to pay close attention to their patients in order to find the correct diagnosis. Alternatively, paying attention to detail will allow them to successfully observe their patient’s responses to the type of medication administered.
Most allergists work their way towards managerial positions, especially in private medical institutions. This means you have to be able to lead a team of other medical professionals.
What is the pay?
Just like most medical fields, a career in this field is likely to attract a higher pay and other great benefits.
In fact, a research on statistical data showed that allergists received an average annual salary of $228,622 in 2019.
However, the salary may greatly differ depending on a couple of factors, including the state that you are located in. Some states are said to pay more than others.
For example, allergists and immunologists earn close to $214,265 in Florida, especially in Orlando. In Minnesota, immunologists earn roughly $218,180 per year.
On the other hand, the wages of those hired in the New York-Manhattan region are averaged at roughly $255,755 annually.
Besides their salaries, allergies are often showered with other benefits such as life insurance coverage paid sick leaves, or holidays as well as paid vacations.
On top of that, most immunologists may receive additional benefits like educational expenses, which allow them to continue their schooling while they work.
What is the career outlook?
The demand for allergists and immunologists is said to be climbing. A report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that allergists and immunologists were receiving an average median remuneration of about $206,500 in 2016.
Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that allergists and immunologists would experience a job growth ranging from 7% to as high as 10% in a period of 10 years- that is from 2018 to 2028. This growth rate is faster than that of most occupations, both in and outside of this industry.
This steady increasing in job growth can be backed up with the fact that there are fewer qualified allergists and immunologists compared to the demand for such professionals.
Correspondingly, it can be agreed that it takes quite a long time for a person to acquire the specialization in this complex field. In detail, it takes a total of 13 years.
Compared to the time required to specialize in many other professions, this is relatively high. As such, most people consider going for less lengthy programs in order to be able to go into practice.
On this account, the employment viewpoint of allergists and immunologists is favorably high, particularly for professionals working in remote areas.
Besides having the right certifications and eligibility requirements, allergists and immunologists need to demonstrate that they are well-organized and have good communication skills. This will likely make them stand out in their profession as well as in the face of employers.
What education is required?
Overall, allergists spend about 13 years in medical training before they can finally become qualified professionals. As such, it is important to plan this during the high school education.
After high school, the candidates first have to go through 4 years of premedical college, which should set a great foundation for your next education.
This has to be followed by the standard 4 years of medicinal university. When a student completes this medical school, he/she will earn Doctor of Medicine (or the Doctor of Osteopathy) degree.
After this, a candidate will be required to undergo the 3 years of residency training in pediatrics or internal medicine. The residency training which usually lasts for about 3 years.
Furthermore, a successful completion of the residency training will result into a fellowship program, which has a duration of 2 years.
After they complete the residency training, these pediatricians will need to pass the examination that are provided by the American Board of Pediatrics,
As of interns, they are required to pass the exam which is provided by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Once students pass these examinations, they become eligible to specialize in the field of their choice which, in this case, is immunology or allergy.
For them to specialize, they need to undergo a fellowship program in either immunology or allergy. This program is said to last for about 2 years.
After they have completed the fellowship program in their field, candidates must pass the examination offered by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology, after which they become certified allergists and immunologists.