As a medical student, you likely were (or possibly are) overwhelmed by the number of specialties available to doctors. Should you become a cardiologist or maybe a hospitalist? Is maternal-fetal medicine right for you, or could it be occupational medicine? However, it is impossible to make a decision about which specialty is right for you if you have not learned about your options. Given that you’re reading this right now, allergy and immunology likely interests you. However, as with any specialty, this field has its own unique path toward certification. So, if you might want to become an allergist, its worth considering all of the implications!
How to Become an Allergist
Undergrad and Mecial School
The early years of your career will be identical to those of most of your physician peers. As an undergraduate student, there is not necessarily one specific major you have to study. However, it is important to take traditional pre-medical school courses in biology and chemistry.
While you’re in medical school, you will continue your education alongside other students who are likely to end up in a wide variety of specialties. Traditionally, the first two years will include extensive book study while the latter two years are primarily clinical training. Although it can certainly be beneficial to receive training in a wide variety of fields, it will be worth exposing yourself specifically to internal medicine and pediatrics throughout your clinical training.
It is important to expose yourself to internal medicine and pediatrics during medical school because you will need to complete a residency in one of these areas to eventually become an allergist. While it does not matter which of these two fields you choose, you will have to complete a three-year residency in one of them. At the end of your three years, you will have to take and pass the examination from the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) or the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP).
Once you are a credentialled internist or pediatrician, it is time to find an ACGME-approved fellowship in allergy and immunology. Usually, these programs last 24-months and allow physicians to become highly specialized in both “textbook cases” and unique cases involving allergies or immune system deficiencies. Ultimately, the education you receive in your fellowship will critical to your success as an allergist.
After completing your fellowship, you will be ready to take the American Board of Allergy & Immunology certification exam. Upon completion of your fellowship, you will be eligible for the allergy and immunology certification exam for five years. If you do not pass the exam within that five-year window, you will have to complete some additional education. However, after passing the exam, you’re ready to begin your successful career as an allergist!
Why You Should Become an Allergist
While everyone has their own reasons for pursuing this specialty, there are a few universal benefits. First and foremost, as an allergist, you will regularly treat patients for common diseases. Although they may be common, they can be extremely detrimental to a patients quality of life. In short, you can make a huge difference! Beyond helping people, if you hope to work a more consistent 9-5 schedule later in your career, allergy and immunology is a great option. Since many allergists work in private practice, you can have the flexibility of setting your own schedule. Plus, allergists are, on average, experiencing the second fastest salary growth of all doctors currently. Ultimately, there is no shortage of reasons why you should become an allergist!
Allergy & immunology is an important specialty with countless opportunities. Whether you are just starting medical school or applying for residencies, it is definitely one specialty worth exploring. Looking for an idea of what types of jobs are available for allergists? Check out our available allergy & immunology jobs! If you have any questions or comments, let us know below!