Master's in Immunology and Infectious Diseases

A master's degree program in immunology and infectious diseases provides students with lab experience before working in epidemiology, public health, or medicine. Some graduates choose to go into research and development for companies working on therapies for diseases. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Degree Information for Immunology and Infectious Diseases Master's Degrees

Master's degrees in immunology and infectious diseases are excellent options for those pursuing careers in public health, clinical research, veterinary medicine, or academic research settings. Degree programs may be designed to transition to more extensive Ph.D. programs and may include the option to complete a thesis or a non-thesis track. Students have many opportunities to gain both laboratory and clinical research experience, while some also choose to use the program to add on to other advanced degrees (e.g., medicine and veterinary medicine).

Immunology

A course in immunology at the graduate level dives into the molecular and cellular basis for immune response. Students may explore the control, prevention, and eradication of both infectious and chronic diseases. Students should complete a graduate course in immunology with an understanding of immunological function and regulation that can be applied to theories of public health.

Epidemiology

A graduate-level course in epidemiology familiarizes students with the patterns and distribution of disease, often from both a biological and public health perspective. Topics may include outbreak investigations, history of infectious and chronic disease, survival analysis, and determining the validity of clinical trials. Students can learn how to create effective study designs, study the distribution and infectious nature of disease, and determine relationships between potential causes and disease.

Pathology

Sometimes called microbial pathogenesis or molecular pathogenesis, this class explores the different mechanisms microbes use to cause disease in humans and animals at the molecular level. Because understanding the root cause of disease may lead to new therapies, coursework may also cover elements of genetics, biochemistry, or physics to understand how pathogens and the host interact to cause disease.

Research Ethics

When conducting research, students need to have a clear understanding of the ethical foundations to which they must adhere - both legally and morally. Research ethics, or responsible conduct in research, is usually a multidisciplinary course for students researching in many fields. The class educates students about how research has been abused in the past, as well as how the laws and regulations currently in place have come to be. Many courses guide students through the process in place at their university to gain consent and avoid ethical pitfalls when engaging in clinical research.

Virology

Students learn about the molecular structure and functions of viruses in both humans and animals. They look at how viruses infect and interact with the host, replicate, and present in humans and the environment. Because graduate-level virology courses expand into the study of vaccines and immunology, students might also discuss possible uses for virus vectors in disease treatments like gene therapy.

Master of Science Immunology and Infectious Diseases Prerequisites

Students wishing to apply to a master's degree in immunology and infectious diseases should have a bachelor's degree in a related area, such as biology, microbiology, or chemistry, as well as an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. Students should also have taken the GRE and prepared a personal statement using the directions provided by the individual program. Some programs have unique admissions requirements, such as laboratory research experience. Applicants with limited background in the life sciences may be asked to complete a pre-requisite undergraduate course in areas like immunology, cell biology, or mathematics.

Immunology and Infectious Diseases Master's Degree Career Paths

Public Health Epidemiologist

Public health epidemiologists often work with local or state departments of health or in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control. They work to track infectious diseases, complete outbreak surveys to determine the cause and origin of an illness, and collaborate to create a plan to slow or stop its spread within the community. Public health epidemiologists also analyze statistical data regarding public health and work with local governments (and sometimes emergency planners) to create public health initiatives that improve the health and well-being of community members.

Veterinarian

While a master's degree in immunology and infectious diseases doesn't allow someone to begin treating animals (a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree is required for that), some veterinarians find specialties researching infectious diseases that are specific to animals or that animals transmit to humans. Day-to-day work for such veterinarians may be very similar to non-specialized vets, but they may also develop public health programs to designed to control infectious diseases. They might also choose to work in research positions to determine cause, treatment, and eradication of disease outbreaks in animal groups.

Postsecondary Life Sciences or Public Health Teacher

At the community college or undergraduate level, adjunct professors often need only a master's degree to teach. Such teachers may teach only a few classes each semester or may teach classes at several different colleges, and may teach either face-to-face courses or online. With a master's degree in immunology and infectious diseases, postsecondary teachers may be eligible to teach classes in the life sciences or public health.

Research & Development Specialist

Research and development specialists work with pharmaceutical or biomedical companies to investigate subjects related to immunology and infectious diseases. Job duties vary based on the type of research a company is involved with, though many positions require laboratory experience with a focus on microbiology. Experience with (or an interest in) animal testing could also be helpful. R & D specialists collaborate with a team to develop an understanding of infectious diseases and develop and test treatments.

Medical Writer

Medical writers generally work for professional publications developing and formatting written content. They may work individually or with a team to gather information and develop content and need to be able to communicate high-level data to authors and editorial teams. Graduates with a master's degree in immunology and infectious disease could be prepared to write clinical protocols, new drug applications, and clinical study reports, among other documents.

Job TitleMedian Salary (2018)*Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Public Health Epidemiologist$69,660 (for all epidemiologists) 5% (for all epidemiologists)
Veterinarian$93,83018%
Postsecondary Life Sciences/Public Health Instructor$82,550 (for all postsecondary biological science teachers)12% (for all postsecondary biological science teachers)
Research & Development Specialist$84,810 (for all medical scientists) 8% (for all medical scientists)
Medical Writer $71,850 (for all technical writers)8% (for all technical writers)

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A master's degree in immunology and infectious diseases can lead to a career in medical or pharmaceutical research and public health, or it can be a beneficial stepping stone to careers in medicine or medical writing. It can also be beneficial to those seeking to add more clinical research experience to their veterinary science, medical, or public health background.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools