How Do I Become a Clinical Immunologist?

Andy Josiah

To become a clinical immunologist means getting training in the diseases or ailments triggered by malfunction of the human immune system. This is an inner biochemical defense mechanism made up of several different components that the body uses to fight disease or infection. Clinical immunologists, or immunology technologists, fall under the category of medical professionals known as clinical laboratory technologists, or people who work in clinics or laboratories under the supervision of physicians in researching, diagnosing and treating diseases. There are two educational paths that you can choose in order to become a clinical immunologist.

Clinical immunologists typically work in laboratories or clinics.
Clinical immunologists typically work in laboratories or clinics.

The more popular route that aspiring clinical immunologists take is the bachelor of science in clinical laboratory science. Immunology is a necessary component of such a program, as it is this course that teaches students about the immune system’s natural and acquired resistance to harmful agents such as viruses, bacteria, and pathogens, or germs. Students also learn about agents that neutralize these foreign objects, such as antibodies and antigens. There might also be at least one laboratory classroom component of the immunology course, which involves students gaining hands-on experience from simulation of a laboratory environment.

A clinical immunologist's research can lead to treating different immune system issues.
A clinical immunologist's research can lead to treating different immune system issues.

Other subject areas in the bachelor of science in clinical laboratory science program might include hematology, microbiology, biochemistry, vitamins and minerals, genetics and phlebotomy. Such courses are meant to give each student a more rounded education in clinical medicine en route to become a clinical immunologist. Classes such as health care administration and health care information systems prepare aspiring clinical immunologists for administrative roles in medical facilities or administrative duties such as setting appointments and entering data into computer systems. The undergraduate degree program is expected to be completed within four years at an educational institution such as a college or university.

The less common path is an associate’s degree in medical technology from a community college or technical school. Some colleges/universities and hospitals offer this educational choice. With ever-advancing medical technology and standards, employers generally prefer job candidates who have a bachelor’s degree, since it indicates a higher level of education or training. Still, one may eventually become a clinical immunologist with the combination of an associate’s degree and years of experience as a clinical laboratory technician working under a clinical immunologist.

Upon graduation, a clinical immunologist can expect to work in places such as hospitals, clinics, medical and diagnostic libraries or physicians’ offices. Some clinical immunologists can also be found in the government sector. Clinical immunologists typically learn to work in an interdisciplinary environment, meaning with professionals such as biochemists, environmentalists, geneticists, geologists and veterinarians.

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