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How to become an Allergist - Six steps after high school

Posted by Callie Torres
July 16, 2023

Unfortunately for a lot of us, allergies are part of daily life. They can start early in life and come from the most common things around us, like food products and the surrounding environment. Lucky for us, Allergist and Immunologist physicians come to our rescue. In this article we will discuss how to become an Allergist and what it takes to receive the training and education to be licensed and certified in this rewarding career path. In addition, we will provide answers to frequently asked questions about Allergy - Immunology as a medical specialty.

Quick Navigation Links and FAQs

  1. What is an Allergist?
    What do Allergy Immunology specialists do? 
  2. How to become an Allergist?
  3. How many years to become an Allergist?
  4. How much do Allergy Immunology physicians make?
  5. What is the best undergraduate major to become an Allergist?
  6. Do Allergists/Immunologists have an bachelor's degree?
  7. What are the differences between an Allergist and an Immunologist?
  8. Do Allergists go to Medical School?
  9. How long is Allergy Immunology Fellowship?
  10. What is the job outlook for Allergy specialists?
  11. How to get started in medicine?

What is an Allergist?

An Allergist is an Allopathic (MD) or Osteopathic (DO) trained Physician that treats allergic and immunologic medical disorders. Their training grants them the skills and experience to manage the care of diseases and disorders the immune system, including the prevention and treatment of allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and inherited immunodeficiency diseases. Allergists work with their patients on both the screening, treatment, and prevention of their medical conditions. Allergies are the 6th most common chronic illness in the US, with over $18 billion in annual cost yearly, and over 50 million Americans being affected by them.

What do Allergists do?

An allergy is an immune response that occurs when the environment a person is in has substances, often called an allergen, that they react to. Most times these allergens are harmless to others. In addition to environmental allergens, the consumption of foods or drinks can also triggers some allergies. Allergies are often discovered during childhood or infancy but can impact anyone at any age. Allergists are trained and certified to treat and care for patients of all ages.

An Allergist may perform the following with patients under their care:   

  • Recommend tests for allergies from food, beverages, molds, pet dander, and pollens such as weeds, grass, plants, trees, or other possible triggers.
  • Perform a physical examination.
  • Analyze data and interpret medical tests.
  • Diagnose immunodeficiency disorders.
  • Diagnose asthma through tests such as a lung function test.
  • Explain lab results related to a patient’s health condition.
  • Prescribe medications and create treatment plans to help patients know how to prevent, treat or reduce the severity of allergic reactions and/or asthma attacks.
  • Implement required therapies for patients with autoimmune disorders or allergies to avoid symptoms.

How to become an Allergist? - Allergists education and training.

Assuming you have passed your GED or received a high school diploma, there are the six steps to becoming an Allergist/Immunologist.

Step 1: The 1st step in becoming an allergist is to determine if allergy/immunology is a career worth pursuing as this job will involve a long amount of training in order to care for patients with health issues.

Step 2: The 2nd step is to begin your education with a 4-year bachelor’s degree and pass the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). One must also know the prerequisites college courses required for Medical School, as each medical school may have different requirements.

Step 3: The 3rd step is to apply into medical school once all the requirements and courses are completed. The application process is challenging and competitive, so it’s often best to research the process while in college and consult with an academic advisor on which medical school to choose as well if you will pursue a DO, MD degree, or both.

Once accepted, it takes four years to complete most medical school programs. The first two years are spent covering general science courses, while the remaining two years are spent in the hospital and often help to narrow down interest in different medical specialties. In the 2nd year of medical school, students take the 1st United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). There are a total of 3 USMLE exams to be taken. Most students take the 2nd exam in their 4th year of medical school before residency.

Step 4: The 4th Step is residency. Residency is where hands-on training and application of skills learned during medical school start. It is also during this time that the 3rd and last USMLE is taken. For a career in allergy and immunology, one must complete either an internal medicine or pediatrics residency. At the end of residency, one will also need to become board certified by passing either American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) or the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM).

Step 5: The 5th Step after completing either pediatrics residency (three years) or internal medicine residency (three years) is to apply to and complete an allergy and immunology fellowship program, which takes two years to complete training.

Step 6: Finally, the last step is to pass the board certification exam administered by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI). Once you are board certified, one will still need to obtain a medical license before you start clinical care. Some states have different requirements for licensure, so it is important to check all requirements carefully.



How many years to become an Allergist in the United States?

After completing High School, it takes on average 13 years of education and training to become an Allergist Immunologist. This includes:

  • Undergraduate education (Bachelor’s degree) – 4 years. During this time medical school prerequisite courses are completed as well as additional non-academic activities such as research, leadership, and volunteering experiences.
  • Medical school – 4 years. During this time at either a MD or DO program, you will learn the bulk of your broad medical knowledge as well as basic hands on medical skills.
  • Residency program – Residency lasts three years in both Internal medicine and Pediatrics programs. This is where advanced hands-on experience is gained and where more specialized medical knowledge is learned.
  • Fellowship – 2 years. Allergy and Immunology fellowship provides the most in depth focused knowledge, training and skills within the specialty.

Allergist salary - How much do Allergist Immunologists make?

There are many online sources that quote Physicians' income. We have found two sources that appear to be very reliable: Medscape and AAMC.

According to the Medscape Physician Compensation Report of 2023, Allergists make on average $282,000 per year.

AAMC Careers in Medicine provides information for Doctors in Academic settings and reports the following median incomes for Allergy Immunology doctors:

  • Academic Medicine - Assistant professor - $182,862 per year

  • Academic Medicine - Associate/Full professor - $237,058 per year

What to major in to become an allergist?

There is no specific undergraduate major that a medical school will require graduates to complete before starting a healthcare career as an allergist. There are, however, commonly required college courses for medical school and each medical school has a unique list of prerequisite requirements. It is common for prerequisites to include Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and other science fields. It is best to research the medical school you are targeting to apply to and know in advance their requirements. These preparations will also aid in taking the MCAT.

Do most Allergists/Immunologists have a bachelor's degree?

Yes, most Allergists/Immunologists do have a Bachelors degree. As mentioned previously, aspiring allergists/immunologists would need to first complete their bachelor’s degree program as the first step before continuing their education in medical school. Traditionally, nearly all major universities offer students premed programs. However, other programs or degrees such as Biology, Chemistry, and Physics are commonly completed prior to medical school.


What is the difference between an Immunologist and an Allergist?

Immunologists and allergists can be comparable and often share similar tests and conduct various assessments to determine the best approach to treat their patients. They both take into consideration the patient’s medical history or health records, prescribe therapy or medications, and discuss the diagnosis and treatment with the patient and their family.

Allergists’ primary concern lies with patients who are having allergic reactions. They often review patient’s medical history and run allergy testing to determine diagnoses. From there, they can suggest an appropriate course of treatment.
Conversely, Immunologists are physicians whom have specialized in immunology, which focuses on immune system illnesses or disorders. Immunologists often spend a lot of time assessing clinical studies and research. A research immunologist focuses more on analytical skills and problem-solving in their career, while a clinical immunologist may interact with more patients.

Do Allergist go to Med School?

Yes all allergists or immunologists must attend medical school. Admission to medical school will have many requirements, including completing all the prerequisites, as well as  taking and passing the Medical College Admission Test or M.C.A.T. After taking the MCAT and graduating from an undergraduate program, one can start medical school, which takes 4 years to complete.

How long is Allergy-Immunology fellowship?

An allergy/immunology fellowship lasts two years. Before completing an Allergy and Immunology Fellowship, one must complete a residency program in internal medicine (3 years) or pediatrics (3 years). The (AAAAI) American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology website provides  a listing of allergy/immunology fellowship programs, which is completed following residency.

During the fellowship years, allergists and immunologists gain hands-on experience performing outpatient consults and supervising inpatients. During this time they learn to interpret  diagnostic tests, communicate medical information to their patients and counsel those with disorders. During the fellowship, the allergist’s skills are enhanced and refined to prepare them to pass the board certification exam administered by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI)


What is the job outlook for Allergist?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) foresees that between 2019 and 2029, there will be a general 4% job growth among surgeons and physicians.  The BLS also indicates that from 2020 to 2030, allergists would see a job growth rate of 1-5% or higher which is slightly slower than the average for all occupations.

Getting started in Medicine

Becoming an Allergist/Immunologist or any other physician begins with getting accepted into an allopathic or osteopathic medical school. The University of Medicine and Health Sciences (UMHS) is an allopathic medical school and confers upon graduation the M.D. degree. For more information, please check out our Caribbean Medical University overview page. Submit your AMCAS or AACOMAS here.


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Posted by Callie Torres

Callie Torres is a resident physician working at a top tier institute in the Midwest. She is a freelance health and medical writer as well as an author of many peer reviewed medical articles. She additionally serves as a Captain in the United States Air Force.

Topics: Medical Practice

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