You might think that allergists are only trained to give scratch tests, deliver desensitization therapies (i.e. allergy shots), and write prescriptions for Nasonex and Allegra. But allergists do a lot more than simply diagnose and treat allergy symptoms. They also help to manage and treat all kids of diseases related to allergies and the immune system. After all, an allergic reaction is basically an overblown and unnecessary immune response to some type of stimulus (pollen, dust, peanuts, bee stings, etc.). So allergist may end up treating not only hay fever and hives, but also conditions like eczema, asthma, and even pneumonia. Of course, anyone who wants to specialize in this field of health care must first undergo extensive education and training. So if you’re interested in a career as an allergist, here are a few steps you’ll have to take to get your professional life underway.
In order to become an allergist you must earn your medical doctorate (MD), and this requires no small amount of schooling. Generally speaking, you’ll start with an undergraduate degree in a pre-med program. If you already have a bachelor’s degree under your belt in an unrelated field, don’t despair; there are several 1-2-year programs out there designed to inundate you with the math and science courses you’ll need to qualify for medical school, so you don’t necessarily need to start from square one. In addition, these programs will feed you into certain medical schools. Of course, your best bet is simply to take a pre-med program to begin with.
Once you have completed your undergraduate work and received a diploma, the next step is getting into medical school. Supposing you have received top marks in your undergrad program, this process should be a little easier. But you also need top scores on your MCAT in order to be considered for admission to most medical schools. These two things, combined with a great essay, should be enough to get you into your medical school, although you may not get your school of choice. From there you’re looking at four more years in order to earn your MD. Your first two years of medical school will focus on intensive coursework. This will be followed by two years of practical training through clinical work, during which time you’ll be responsible for patient care, although you will be supervised by licensed physicians.
Of course, if you want to be a specialist, more training is needed. Once you’ve got your MD, you’ll go into training to become an internist, which is another three years of education. And after that you must complete a fellowship, or an additional two years of study, in the field of allergy and immunology. But you’re not quite done yet. Even with all of this education and training under your belt, you still have to pass your board exams (issued by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology, or ABAI) in order to receive your license to practice this type of medicine. So it’s a little more complicated than simply conducting scratch tests or recommending the best air purifier for allergies. You have to be committed if you want to become an allergist, but the end result will be a challenging, rewarding, and high-paying career once you’ve completed your education and training.