Careers with an Immunology Degree

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue with a degree in immunology. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and education information. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Career Options for Immunology Graduates?

If you are that curious individual who wonders how humans and animals cure themselves when they have a virus or disease, then immunology may be the career field for you. Immunologists are medical scientists who study the immune systems of living beings. Usually they are involved in biomedicine and study the cell structures and the effects of outside agents on the immune system. Biological scientists are research specialists who study the reaction on life by outside influences like food and viruses. Medical microbiologists can work in infectious disease and develop drugs or better sterilization procedures to combat viral infections. Biological technicians need less education but work closely with these medical researchers in tests, experiments and data collection to aid in positive results.

The immunology field focuses on how animals and humans defend and protect themselves from viruses and bacteria. See the table below for some job facts on three careers that one could pursue in immunology: biological scientists, medical microbiologist, and biological technicians.

Biological Scientists Medical Microbiologists Biological Technicians
Degree Required Doctorate Doctorate Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Biology or immunology Biochemistry, cell biology or immunology Biology, cell biology, biochemistry or immunology
Key Responsibilities Perform immunology research, study disease prevention, cellular research Cellular and immunology research, study disease prevention Assist biological scientists and medical microbiologists
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% (for all medical scientists, except epidemiologists)* 4% (for all microbiologists)* 5% (for all biological technicians)*
Median Salary (2015) $75,150 (for all biological scientists)* $67,550 (for all microbiologists)* $41,650 (for all biological technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Training Do I Need to Work in Immunology?

Almost all jobs related to immunology require at least an associate's degree and more likely a Bachelor of Science degree. To be a biological scientist or microbiologist conducting research, you'll probably need a doctoral degree. There are many undergraduate and graduate immunology programs to choose from.

In your undergraduate studies, you would get a general education in the natural sciences and then focus on topics related to immunology, such as microbiology, cellular and molecular biology, virology, biochemistry and genetics. Labs play an important role in teaching techniques for examining immunological defense mechanisms.

Doctoral programs feature student participation in real, ongoing research sponsored by the university or federal grants. These programs usually culminate in a research thesis. Some schools are associated with a nearby medical center, with projects based on the center's medical specialties, such as AIDS, tumor immunology or asthma. Doctoral programs are meant to produce graduates who intend to make research a career.

What Jobs Are Similar to Immunology?

With an undergraduate degree, you would be prepared for many jobs in the fields of immunology, microbiology, molecular medicine, biochemistry, virology and animal science. You might seek work as a science technician, lab assistant or pharmaceutical representative. Medical or veterinary school is also an option, as is teaching.

With a doctoral degree, you would be able to conduct immunology research in an academic or government laboratory, hospital or biotechnology company. While you'll likely research disease, you might want to undertake the problem from the other side by also looking at the immune system. Some researchers may explore the development and workings of cells, while others focus on the prevention and vaccination of diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.

What Could I Earn?

Your earnings would vary with your position, employer and training. Biological scientists, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), earned a median annual wage of $75,150 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). In that same year the BLS reported microbiologist, including medical microbiologists, made a median salary of $67,550, while the median annual wage for biological technicians was $41,650.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

With the diversity of immunology there are many related career fields like biochemists or biophysicists. Both jobs require a doctorate and require you to work with other research scientist or medical doctors in studying the chemical and physical reactions of living things through heredity, cell development, growth and disease. A master's degree could help you become an epidemiologist who are public health professionals studying the causes and patterns of disease. With a bachelor's you could work as a chemical technician or food science technician. Chemical technicians help chemists with techniques and testing of research and data. Food science technicians work with agricultural and food scientists running measurements, and analyzing the quality of man made products or farm fresh foods.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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