Immunology Courses

By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What is Immunology?

Immunology is the study of the structure and functions of the immune system in all organisms. The immune system is the system within an organism that is responsible for protecting the organism from infection by foreign matter. The immune system has evolved to protect our bodies against infection and cancer and involves the coordinated activities of specialized cells, molecules, and genes to orchestrate an immune response.

The immune system protects us from infection through various lines of defense. If the immune system is not functioning as it should, it can result in disease. Immunologists are research scientists or practicing specialists who study, analyze and treat disease processes that involve the immune system.

Immunologists are particularly are interested in diseases that affect natural immunity. These include such diseases as allergies, sinus inflations, pneumonia, and abscesses that occur repeatedly even with treatment. Understanding how the immune system works has led to the development of new therapeutics, e.g. antibodies, for the specific treatment of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, we can now harness the immune system such that it can help to fight against infection and cancer. Many pharmaceutical companies have substantial immunology programs.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering Immunology courses in the following subject areas:

  • MSc Immunology – The study of immunological processes and mechanisms and how they contribute to disease.
  • Immunology: Biological and Biomedical Sciences – Gain an understanding of how the immune system works and how we can use our knowledge to design new therapies.
  • MSc Immunology & Global Health – The study of immunology, its importance in global health, and the factors that impact immunological intervention strategies in health and disease.
  • Infection Biology – The study of pathogens and their interaction with the host.
  • Immunology – The study of immunological processes and mechanisms, how they contribute to disease, and how they might be manipulated therapeutically.

Studying Immunology in college

When taking a course in Immunology or a related subject, students will learn about all aspects of immunology: from the cells and molecules of the immune system and how they carry out their jobs in particular diseases, through to what happens when the immune system goes wrong and starts to attack our bodies, as seen in autoimmune diseases. To fully understand the immune system, students will also cover important aspects of biochemistry, genetics, and microbiology.

Many Immunology courses take place over 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover all theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials, and taught modules. Assessments will take place continuously with written examinations and practical assignments combined to achieve a qualification.

Some courses may have work placements in a research laboratory to gain real research experience. Work Experience will not only allow you to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, but it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing a course in Immunology you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of clinical trials and research.

Working hours will depend on whether you are employed by a company with set business hours or if you are contracted to various facilities or companies. The hours are usually full-time, Monday to Friday, and, typically, these may be broken into shifts depending on where you work. You should expect to work some evenings, although weekend work is uncommon.

You’ll usually, work in specialist departments of hospitals as part of a team that includes medical doctors specializing in immunology and biomedical scientists (immunology). You will interpret test results and report them to request clinicians, advising on further testing where necessary. Self-employment is rare due to the specialized equipment and materials required to do the job.

You may choose to follow a research career, working in a university or research institute. Alternatively, you could work in the industry for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, which employ immunologists to improve their understanding of the immune system and how to apply this to the development of new medical products and therapies.

It’s also possible to work in veterinary science, researching animal healthcare and treating animals with infections or immunological disorders.

If you’re working in a laboratory-based role, you’ll liaise closely with medical and other hospital staff. In a clinical role, you’ll have more direct contact with patients and their families, as well as other clinical professionals. Jobs are available in hospitals everywhere although you may need to relocate to progress your career as there are only a few dedicated permanent positions in each laboratory. You may need to visit other hospitals or clinics, but travel during your working day is uncommon.

Related jobs include:

  • Immunologist
  • Biostatistician
  • Innovation Technology Lead
  • Data Scientist
  • Medical Science Liaison
  • Clinical Trial Manager
  • Technical Officer

Further study

After completing a course in Immunology you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skillset. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practice in certain career areas such as science communication and journalism, or science outreach. Some graduates have gone into research support positions; while others may go on to get a business qualification or law qualification to enable them to be competitive in a business/commercial setting.


Are there any skills that may be beneficial to starting a career as an Immunologist?

It is always beneficial to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills as this will allow you to work well within the team and be able to pass on findings and give advice on diagnosis to other staff as well as to give formal presentations to colleagues.

You should have the ability to organize and carry out research and an analytical and investigative mind to assess scientific, technical, and medical literature.

Effective problem-solving skills and the ability to use your initiative and work independently are a must for this line of work, as are meticulous documentation and record-keeping skills. Attention to detail and the ability to work with speed and accuracy are also vital, especially when working in busy laboratories that need to get results out quickly and accurately. The ability to work under pressure and to plan and prioritize your workload will also be of high importance in this instance.

Where can I study Immunology?

Explore your options here 

Did You Know?

· Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies against a foreign invader without actually infecting the individual with the disease. As a result, when the body encounters that infection in the future, it knows how to fight it off.

· The immune system is a complex fighting system powered by five liters of blood and lymph. Lymph is a clear and colorless liquid that passes throughout the tissues of the body. Together, these two fluids transport all the elements of the immune system so they can do their jobs.

· The most powerful weapons in your immune system’s arsenal are white blood cells, divided into two main types: lymphocytes, which create antigens for specific pathogens and kill them or escort them out of the body; and phagocytes, which ingest harmful bacteria.

· Recent studies have shown that the appendix may not be as useless as we once thought, it may house symbiotic bacteria that are important for overall gut health—especially after infections wipe out the gut’s good microbes. Special immune cells known as innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) in the appendix may help to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria and put the gut back on track to recovery.

· Not getting enough sleep can wreak havoc on the body, and the immune system is no exception. Some research even suggests that optimism can make our immune system work better.


Mariza Halliday

Oncology Courses
General Nursing


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