Immunology Degrees and Courses

Immunologists investigate the causes and effects of conditions or diseases involving the immune system. Degree programs in immunology are usually offered at the master's and doctoral degree levels. Read on to learn more about programs and courses in immunology. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Immunologists study the immune system and diseases. Immunology is useful to doctors and medical researchers and can be studied by professionals already working in the medical field.

Degrees Mostly available for master's or doctorate degree; some biology bachelor's programs include introductory immunology courses
Courses Microbiology, cell biology, biochemistry, virology, lab courses, etc.
Certification You must be a doctor to work with patients; the American Board of Allergy and Immunology offers immunologist certification

Sources: Mayo Clinic, American Board of Allergy and Immunology

What Undergraduate Degrees in Immunology Are Available?

Most immunology programs are available at the graduate level. Undergraduate programs in immunology are rare; some biology bachelor's programs include introductory courses in immunology or microbiology. Earning a bachelor's degree in biology or a related science field could prepare you for a graduate-level immunology program. Another option is a dual Bachelor of Science/Master of Science in Immunology, Microbiology and Virology.

What Graduate Programs Are Available?

You might pursue a Master of Science (M.S.) in Immunology, an M.S. in Microbiology and Immunology or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Immunology. In some cases, you can earn a master's degree through a Ph.D. program. Dual Ph.D. and Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) programs in immunology are also available through some schools.

What Topics Will I Study?

In general, courses in a graduate degree program might include such topics as:

  • Medical microbiology
  • Signal transduction
  • Microbial pathogenicity
  • Microbial genetics
  • Biological therapy

In an immunology master's program, you'll take lecture and lab-based courses in cell biology, introductory biochemistry and virology. You'll need to write a thesis paper in order to graduate. Most master's programs require approximately two years of study.

Doctoral degree programs usually require completion of 2-4 laboratory research courses as well as courses like gene therapy, developmental biology and cancer immunology. Completion of a dissertation on a unique research topic is often required as well; you'll be expected to defend your dissertation before a faculty committee. In addition to coursework and dissertation research, some doctoral programs require students to participate in journal groups or present papers at conferences. It may take you 4-6 years to earn a Ph.D.

Combined M.D./Ph.D. programs may require 6-8 years of study. The medical school portion of your curriculum might explore topics like disease mechanisms, medical problem-solving, pathogenesis, virology and molecular biology. You'll be expected to complete clinical rotations as well as lab-based courses in immunology. Completion of a thesis or dissertation is required in order to graduate.

Will I Need To Be Licensed or Certified?

Immunologists that work in a lab don't need to be licensed or certified. Immunologists that work with patients must have a medical license. If you're a licensed doctor, you can obtain certification as an immunologist through the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI). Additional requirements for ABAI certification include a minimum of 24 months in a post-M.D. immunology residency program as well as certification through the American Board of Internal Medicine or the American Board of Pediatrics.

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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