An allergist is a medical doctor who specializes in the management of allergies. Allergists are trained to accurately diagnose and treat allergies, including performing detailed allergy tests, educating patients about how to manage their allergies, and prescribing medications to help relieve symptoms.
An allergist may be required to diagnose an individual’s condition before they can begin treating it. This includes identifying the substance that causes an adverse reaction and determining whether it is actually triggering an allergic response. To do this, they may use a variety of tests that look for specific markers in the blood or other bodily fluids.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be an allergist and what it takes to become one yourself.
Allergist Job Duties
Allergists are responsible for the following duties:
- Performing or requesting allergy tests including skin prick testing, scratch testing, intradermal testing, and blood testing (including RAST)
- Explaining the results to patients and determining appropriate treatment plans by evaluating patients’ medical history, lifestyle, allergies, diet, home environment, occupation, and family history of allergies
- Diagnosing and treating allergic conditions such as asthma, hay fever, food allergies, etc.
- Investigating the causes of allergies to accurately treat and counsel patients
- Prescribing medications to help relieve allergy symptoms, such as antihistamines or corticosteroids
- Educating and counseling patients on how to avoid allergens through diet changes and other preventative measures
- Recommending immunotherapy treatment where required to desensitize patients to allergens that trigger allergic reactions
Allergist Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for allergists is $180,000. Those earning higher wages tend to work in hospitals and other medical centers, and the top earners are making over $350,000 per year.
Demand for allergists is expected to grow steadily over the next decade. This growth is due to rising interest in preventing and treating allergies, as well as an increase in the number of people with allergies.
Allergist Job Requirements
The requirements for an allergist include:
Education: An allergist should hold a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree. These programs require four years of study, but an additional two to three years may be necessary for medical school applicants to complete training in their field of interest.
Training: After completing their master’s degree, an allergist must complete a three-year residency program. During this time, they will learn how to perform tests, diagnose allergies and treat the resulting symptoms. After completing the residency, an allergist can continue with more training in an allergy fellowship. This year of training allows the allergist to further develop their skills in diagnosing and treating allergies.
Certifications & Licenses: Allergists must be licensed by state boards in order to practice. You need to be first certified in internal medicine. Then, individuals are required to obtain subspecialty certification from the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.
The following skills are required for this job:
Excellent communication skills: Allergists must be able to explain complex medical information in a way that is easy for patients to understand.
Math skills: An allergist must be able to perform complicated calculations and measurements in order to determine the proper dosage of medication for each patient.
Observation skills: An allergist must be able to accurately observe patients and their symptoms so that he or she can diagnose them correctly.
Compassionate personality: The ability to empathize with patients is an important part of being an allergist. Patients may be dealing with very difficult health issues, and they will need reassurance from their doctor that everything possible is being done to help them.
Medical knowledge: An allergist must have a thorough understanding of allergies and how they affect the body. This will allow him or her to properly diagnose conditions and develop effective treatments.
Time management: This is a busy profession that requires constant multitasking and time management skills.
Allergist Work Environment
Most allergists work in an allergy clinic or in a hospital. Most allergists work regular business hours, and the workload may be heavier during seasonal allergy periods. Office space is usually well-equipped with computers and other office equipment. Allergists must be able to stand for long periods while working with patients.
There is considerable pressure on allergists because they are responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of many kinds of illnesses. As a result, they can experience stress and emotional strain due to their critical responsibility for the health of their patients.
Allergist Career Path
In the first two years, doctors-in-training are apprenticed to physicians who have established practices. They learn how to diagnose patients, treat them, counsel them on medications, and suggest changes in lifestyle. During this time, they also attend lectures and seminars that improve their understanding of medical terminology and conditions. The hours are long and the work is arduous.
Five Years Out
After five years in practice, a growing number of allergists will specialize in a particular aspect of allergy treatment. Some choose to work exclusively with children or with adults; others will specialize in immunology, skin disorders, or food allergies. Most earn a higher salary at this point. In addition, many allergists begin to win grants from pharmaceutical companies or receive consulting fees from them as well as from allergy-related start-up companies. Some doctors go on to open their own private practices.
Ten Years Out
Ten-year veterans usually have large practices with many specialized areas of expertise. They may see patients all day long or be involved in research or teaching. Many are well known in their fields and highly respected by other physicians. The hours are still long; the salary is high enough to compensate for the hours worked. Many allergists continue to write articles or books or give lectures on allergy treatment. Satisfaction is high among ten-year veterans.
Here are three trends influencing how allergists work. Allergists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
The Rise of Allergy-Aware Restaurants
The growing awareness of food allergies has led to a rise in allergy-aware establishments.
Allergy-aware restaurants provide clearly labeled menus featuring dishes that are free from common allergens like nuts, shellfish, and gluten. They also offer specific information about their allergen-free preparation methods. This trend is likely to continue in the coming years as more customers seek out safe eating environments.
Improved Understanding of Sensitivity to Allergens
While the number of people with severe allergies has been steadily increasing over the past decade, a recent study suggests that as many as 15% of Americans have milder sensitivities to allergens. These sensitivities may not be severe enough to warrant a full diagnosis, but they can still cause symptoms that range from minor nasal congestion to chronic fatigue, depending on the level of sensitivity.
Furthermore, a growing body of research suggests that environmental factors can increase one’s risk for developing allergies and other health issues. With this in mind, it’s becoming increasingly important for allergists to also have expertise in environmental medicine. This helps them offer their patients a holistic approach to treatment.
More Patients Seek Information Online
Patients who have been prescribed medication for allergies often go online to learn more about the condition and its treatment, as well as to research any potential side effects.
This trend is affecting how allergists practice medicine—for example, allergists now commonly use their own websites and social media channels to inform patients about available treatments, as well as the risks associated with those treatments.
How to Become a Allergist
1. Planning Your Career
When considering a career as an allergist, it is important to think about what you want to do in the future. For example, would you like to work with adults or children? Do you want to specialize in a particular type of allergy, such as asthma or hay fever? It is also important to think about the type of work environment you want to be in. Some offices are laid-back and casual while others require strict adherence to protocol; these factors can make or break your experience on the job.
Allergists also need to consider whether they want to work for themselves or for a larger company. For example, those who wish to work as consultants may need to build up their own client base, while those who want to work at a hospital might need to pursue additional degrees and certifications first. It’s also important to think about where you want to live; some locations offer more opportunities than others.
2. Writing a Resume
The best resumes for allergist positions should emphasize your education and training background. This includes any relevant medical degrees, clinical experience, and research projects that you have worked on. You should also highlight any continuing education courses that you have participated in to keep up with industry trends.
When describing your work experience, it’s important to include details about the patients you treated, their symptoms, and what you did to help them. If there were any cases where you were able to help an individual or group of people who were suffering from allergies, be sure to mention this as well.
3. Applying for Jobs
You should look for jobs through your local school districts, clinics, hospitals, or allergy associations. Additionally, you can check job boards, especially those that cater to healthcare jobs, to see if there are any openings that you qualify for.
In addition to looking at job postings, you can also look for connections within the field. You might know someone who is already working in the industry or perhaps someone who used to work there who might be able to connect you with the right people.
4. Ace the Interview
To prepare for an interview with an allergist, start by researching the profession. You can find extensive information about allergists on the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology’s website.
To prepare for the specific questions you might be asked during an interview, consider writing down some questions that you would like to ask. This will not only demonstrate interest in the practice, but also allow you to gauge whether this is a job that really interests you and if it would be a good fit for your personality and skill level.
You’ll be expected to answer questions about your approach to patients, which includes showing empathy and patience. It’s also crucial that you are well-versed in using state-of-the art technology in diagnosing allergy-related conditions.