An allergist is a health care professional who specializes in allergic diseases that may impact children and adults. They diagnose what patients are allergic to and help treat their symptoms. Some allergic reactions can be mild while some can be very severe so they also educate their patients on the procedures to take in case of an emergency due to an allergic reaction.
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How to Become an Allergist and Immunologist
If you are interested in becoming an allergist and immunologist, you would first earn a bachelor’s degree. This is a step you must take before you are admitted into a college program to study medicine. It helpful to choose a degree program in the sciences to gain leverage over other applicants applying for medical school. Look for degree programs that offer science courses such as physics, chemistry, and biological science.
Admission to a medical program is competitive so it’s also useful to volunteer or gain some sort of paid clinical experience that you can highlight in your application. To apply, you’ll also need to take an exam called the MCAT – which stands for Medical College Admission Test. Passing MCAT is a prerequisite to gaining admission into medical schools and you’ll need to find time to study for that exam. Then, you will complete four years of medical school and pass your medical licensing exam. This exam will test your ability to apply your clinical knowledge to the practice of medicine.
After all this, you’ll complete your residency training in pediatrics, internal medicine, or a combination of the two. This exposes you to various clinical settings while you learn from more experienced doctors. This is important as allergists must work with patients of all ages and must be thoroughly knowledgable in a wide range of allergic and immunologic diseases. After your residency program, you would complete a 24 month fellowship program that will train you to provide medical care to adults and children.
For more information about the career path of an Allergist and Immunologist, visit The American Academy of of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAI) website (link opens in a new tab).
Job Description of an Allergist and Immunologist
An allergist and immunologist would see patients experiencing symptoms and diagnose whether those symptoms are due to diseases of the immune system or allergic reactions to food, medications, and/or insects. They would then treat those conditions and educate their patients on their treatment plan to include the risks and benefits of their treatment. According to AAAI.org, common diseases they treat include respiratory tract diseases such as allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and occupational lung diseases and well as other immune deficiency syndromes.
Career Video Transcript
While many day-to-day ailments can be cured with rest and fluids or a trip to the primary care doctor, when more serious illness rears its head a physician with specialized training and experience may be called for. All physicians share essential tasks, such as examining patients; taking medical histories; using tests to help make a diagnosis; and prescribing medications. They may counsel patients on healthy habits and how to keep well. Some physicians specialize in diagnosing and treating ailments in a particular organ or area of the body, a type of illness, or a mode of treatment.
For example, allergists and immunologists treat allergic diseases and those that affect the immune system. Dermatologists help patients with skin conditions. Neurologists specialize in diseases and disorders of the nervous system. Pathologists study the causes and nature of diseases. Radiologists use X-rays and radioactive materials to identify disease. Doctors of sports medicine help athletes prevent injuries, and treat those that occur during sporting events and training. Physicians and surgeons often have long, demanding workweeks. Unlike in primary care, the patients cared for by these specialists have already been referred because of their symptoms so they are often more ill, with more serious conditions. Physicians and surgeons have extensive education and training. After a bachelor’s degree, physicians earn a medical degree, which typically takes 4 years to complete, and then 3 to 7 years of internship and residency programs, depending on the specialty.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physicians and Surgeons.
National Center for O*NET Development. 29-1069.01. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.