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Immunologists investigate the human immune system and to develop new treatments, therapies or vaccines to control infections, illnesses and cancer.

The origins of modern immunology date back to the turn of the 19th century when Edward Jenner developed a vaccine against smallpox.

What does an immunologist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Immunologists are scientists or clinicians who specialise in the body’s defence system. The work may be laboratory-based or patient-facing.

Responsibilities in laboratory-based work include:

  • undertaking original medical research
  • designing, planning and carrying out controlled experiments and trials
  • devising and testing hypotheses using appropriate analytical techniques
  • analysing and interpreting data
  • writing reports, reviews and papers
  • applying for research funding
  • attending conferences throughout the world
  • keeping up to date with current research within the field

Responsibilities in patient-facing work include:

  • diagnosing and treating patients with immune disorders or allergies
  • prescribing drugs and therapies
  • analysing patient samples
  • monitoring transplant patients
  • giving advice to other medical staff about tests and treatments

Typical employers of immunologists

Immunologists are employed by the NHS, private healthcare groups, universities and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Vacancies are advertised online (including the NHS careers website), by recruitment agencies and careers services, in newspapers and in scientific publications such as New Scientist, Nature and Science Magazine.

  • The recruitment process is likely to involve a technical interview. Read our article on technical interviews to find out what these involve and how you can tackle them.
  • If you'd like to find out what your salary might look like, take a look at our article on how much you might earn in science on our TARGETcareers website.

Qualifications and training required

Vacancies require a good honours degree in an appropriate life, medical or physical science. Possession of a relevant postgraduate qualification is beneficial, and normally essential for research posts. Read our article on scientific postgraduate study to explore your different options.

Candidates should also possess membership to the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP) or equivalent. All candidates must have a good scientific background and practical laboratory work experience.

Key skills for immunologists

  • A logical and independent mind
  • Meticulous attention to detail
  • Excellent written English
  • Communication skills
  • Good teamworking abilities

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In Partnership

This content has been written or sourced by AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, and edited by TARGETjobs as part of a content partnership. AGCAS provides impartial information and guidance resources for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.

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