Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you are interested in becoming an allergist/immunologist, start preparing for this career in high school by taking college preparatory classes. Science classes, including biology, chemistry, and physics, are especially important. Math and English classes will help you develop skills working with numbers and research. Social science classes can give you a better understanding of people and society.

Postsecondary Training

After earning an M.D. degree and becoming licensed to practice medicine, a process that can take 10 or more years of education and training after high school, allergists/immunologists must complete a three-year residency in internal medicine, pediatrics, or both, then a minimum of two years of training in an allergy and immunology fellowship. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers a fellowship training program at 

Other Education or Training

Continuing education opportunities are provided by many organizations, including the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI); American Association of Immunologists (AAI); American Medical Association; and American Osteopathic Association. For example, the AAAAI offers a Practice Management Workshop and a a virtual patient encounter in immunotherapy. The AAI provides career development sessions, including the hands-on "Course in Big Data Analysis in Immunology."

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Certification from the American Board of Allergy and Immunology requires a valid medical license, proof of residency completion, and written evaluation from the residency director. The evaluation reviews the candidate's clinical judgment, attitude, professional behavior, and other work skills and habits. The certification exam tests the candidate's knowledge of the immune system, human pathology, and the molecular basis of allergic and other immune reactions. The candidate must also show an understanding of diagnostic tests and therapy for immunologic diseases. Dual certification is also available in allergy/immunology and pediatric pulmonology, adult rheumatology, and pediatric rheumatology. There are about 5,440 board-certified allergists/immunologists in the United States.

All physicians in the United States must be licensed to practice. Some states have reciprocity agreements with other states so that a physician licensed in one state may be automatically licensed in another without being required to pass another examination.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

There is no way to obtain direct experience in high school, but it's a good idea to take as many health and science classes as possible and participate in science clubs. During your medical training, you will gain experience by completing a three-year residency in internal medicine or pediatrics and at least two years of training in an allergy and immunology fellowship.

Allergists/immunologists should be compassionate and concerned for the well-being of their patients. They should also be careful listeners—a doctor must have a good understanding of a patient's background, environment, and emotional state to plan the best treatment. An allergist/immunologist must be prepared to deal with the stress of caring for sick patients; some of these patients may have life-threatening diseases such as AIDS, cancer, or severe asthma.