Clinical Immunology Scientist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
Clinical immunology scientists study the interactions between the immune system and pathogens in order to understand allergic reactions and immunological diseases. They may also develop pharmaceutical drugs. Immunology scientists typically complete a doctoral degree program.
Job Description for a Clinical Immunology Scientist
Clinical immunology scientists research and analyze the immune system's various reactions to disorders, diseases and foreign substances. Examples of conditions studied by immunology professionals include asthma, skin rashes, gastrointestinal disorders and immunodeficiencies. Allergies and immunologic disorders can be congenital or acquired, and may be triggered by the presence of food, drugs, insects and organ transplants.
Private laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, medical schools and universities employ clinical immunology scientists, who can also work part-time as physicians. They may focus on a specific disease or reaction type. For example, an immunologist might study the interaction between cells and a particular virus or research the varying causes of intestinal inflammation. Others may develop drugs or lead clinical studies.
Duties of a Clinical Immunology Scientist
Clinical immunology scientists perform allergen provocation procedures, which may include food and drug challenges, skin and bronchial testing, and history-allergy test correlation. They develop research methodologies and collect tissue cultures to study protein chemistry and cellular reactions. Others design and oversee clinical trials for new pharmaceutical products.
They keep current with other allergy and immunology research by consulting medical journals, attending conferences and interacting with fellow immunology scientists. They prepare technical reports and oversee other laboratory workers, which might include graduate students, technicians or postdoctoral fellows. Some clinical immunology scientists travel to different hospitals to meet patients with symptoms specific to their research.
Requirements to Become a Clinical Immunology Scientist
Completion of an immunology master's degree program is the minimum requirement to secure research work. A related science program with significant immunology coursework may suffice.
Chief research and academic faculty positions require a doctoral degree. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Science Education, immunologists typically gain experience in a postdoctoral training fellowship under a senior immunology scientist before pursuing more permanent positions (science.education.nih.gov).
Clinical immunology scientists can increase their career opportunities by earning both a doctoral and medical degree. Some universities structure their programs to allow for dual degrees. Alternately, individuals can elect to train as a physician with a research subspecialty. The American Board of Internal Medicine delineates a Research Pathway for medical school graduates, which combines research training with a medical residency in internal medicine and another residency in allergy and immunology. Physicians must first pass an examination before they are licensed to practice.
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report specifically on clinical immunology scientists, it does state that employment growth for all types of medical scientists is expected to be 13% from 2012 to 2022. Overall, these scientists earned an average annual salary of $87,830 as of May 2012, the BLS states. Those employed in medical and diagnostic labs saw an average of $97,570 per year, while those in scientific research were close at $97,370 annually, according to the BLS.
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