How to Become an Infectious Disease Specialist

Recently there have been a lot of movies and TV shows depicting a catastrophic outbreak of a deadly disease. Whether it’s a realistic take on the issue (Contagion, Quarantine) or something a little more far-fetched (The Walking Dead, World War Z), it seems like the infectious disease has been streamlined into our everyday lives. While these are merely works of film, there is often plenty of truth buried under the special effects and makeup. With viruses new and old popping up on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that infectious disease specialists are some of the most valued healthcare positions to date. But, before you can start battling those infected zombies, let’s take a look at how to become an infectious disease specialist.

How to Become an Infectious Disease Specialist

What is an Infectious Disease Specialist?

Before you can figure out how to become an infectious disease specialist, you might want to know exactly what the job entails. An infectious disease specialist will focus on diseases that are rarer than your everyday cold or flu. In the cases where expert knowledge is needed, an infectious disease specialist may need to investigate the disease. They’d also be tasked with researching the diseases as well as recognizing symptoms and making a diagnosis. Finally, they’ll be asked to make treatment recommendations to help prevent the spread of the disease.

how to become an infectious disease specialist

In addition to working with patients, you also might be tasked with embarking on some research of your own. This will happen especially if an unfamiliar disease presents itself. They may work alongside public health officials or the Center for Disease Control, depending on their role in the community.

Education Requirements

Many who want to know how to become an infectious disease specialist will often ask about education. Since an infectious disease specialist is such a niche career, you can expect to put in some extra time during your schooling. A bachelor’s degree is the first step in the educational path of an infectious disease specialist. You should try to take classes that contain science labs so you can be prepared when you need to take the MCAT. You may also want to choose a biology major to get a head start on some of the education that you’ll receive later.

Next, you’ll need to go to medical school. These programs can be extremely competitive so you’ll need to dedicate yourself to your education. You’ll split time in medical school between traditional classroom learning, and rotations. After that, you’ll be required to complete a three-year internal medicine residency. Residents may experience inpatient and outpatient environment. They will likely work a variety of schedules and come in contact with a large range of patient types and needs.

Finally, you will be given a three-year fellowship that will allow you to dedicate all of your time to becoming a board-certified infectious disease specialist. If you want to know how to become an infectious disease specialist, just remember it’s a lot of education.

Work Environments

One of the biggest perks of an infectious disease specialist career is the variety of settings they can work in. When many wonder how to become an infectious disease specialist, they’re often wondering about the places they can work as well. Some will opt to work in a hospital setting. Here they can treat patients with various diseases and ensure that they have an expert providing the best possible care. Others will opt to work in a lab setting where they can work on finding vaccines.


Although you’ve put a lot of time and effort into your schooling, we think that an infectious disease specialist career will pay off financially. The average infectious disease specialist makes upwards of $200,000, so it’s certainly a lucrative gig.

We hope this provided some guidance on how to become an infectious disease specialist. As always, if you’re looking for an infectious disease specialist assignment, check out our “jobs” page! If you have other tips on how to become an infectious disease specialist, feel free to drop them below!

Author: Troy Diffenderfer

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