Explore Rheumatology

What is Rheumatology?

Unlike other specialties that can be described in one word (i.e. cardiology – study of the heart), rheumatology requires much more explanation. Rheumatology is a specialty of internal medicine and pediatrics devoted to the diagnosis and management of over 100 complex and interesting diseases. Rheumatology is the study of inflammation that occurs in the bones, muscles and joints and sometimes the internal organs (e.g. kidneys, lungs, blood vessels, brain). The most common rheumatic disease is arthritis. Other complex diseases on the rheumatology spectrum include systemic lupus erythematosus, systemic sclerosis and Sjogren's syndrome, just to name a few.

What is a Rheumatologist?

Rheumatologists care for a wide array of patients—from children (yes, kids get arthritis too!) to senior citizens. Rheumatologists aim to help patients with rheumatic diseases have the best possible quality of life.

What does a Rheumatologist do?

The role of the rheumatologist is to diagnose (detect), treat and medically manage patients with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. These health problems affect the joints, muscles, bones and other internal organs. Because these diseases are often complex, they benefit from the care of an expert. Only rheumatologists are experts in this field of medicine.

The rheumatologist assesses:

  • Signs (from a physical exam) and symptoms (what you see and how you feel), including systemic (whole body) involvement by a rheumatic disease
  • Joint disorders
  • Overall function, including physical, mental well-being and level of independence
  • Results of advanced imaging and lab tests
  • Treatment options
  • Need for more assessment and treatment, such as
    • referrals to other health care providers
    • orthopedic aids (splint, brace, cane, etc.) or corrective surgery
    • hospital stay

Rheumatologists also advocate for the patient in all aspects of health care and in the community. As a group, these doctors support laws that promote patient rights and patient-centered care. The rheumatologist teaches the patient, family and community about health information and how to live with a chronic (long-term) rheumatic disease. Topics can include medications, coping mechanisms, techniques for preventing disability or regaining function, and ways to improve quality of life.

What type of training is required?

Rheumatology Training

Rheumatologists receive years of education and training beyond college. After they earn a medical degree (four years of medical school), they complete a residency program in internal medicine or pediatrics. They have another two to three years in specialized rheumatology training.

After completing their rheumatology fellowship training, they must pass a rigorous national exam. For adult rheumatologists, the subspecialty exam is conducted by the American Board of Internal Medicine. For pediatric rheumatologists, the American Board of Pediatrics conducts the exam.

Why I chose Rheumatology!

Choosing Rheumatology could be one the best decisions you’ll ever make! As a rheumatologist, you can look forward to developing genuine long-term friendships with your patients, take part exciting research opportunities and enjoy time with your family and loved ones. What’s more - you will be happy in your profession. For the past five years, rheumatologists have ranked in the top five among the happiest specialist according to Medscape’s lifestyle reports.

Read why others chose rheumatology as their specialty.

Careers in Rheumatology

Mapping out your career can be very daunting and nerve-racking period of your life. It’s a lot to think about. Don’t stress! To make things easier, we mapped out the many career opportunities in rheumatology to give you a better idea what a life in rheumatology looks like.

Want to learn more about the field? Become an ACR student or resident member!

ACR Membership is available to students enrolled in a graduate-level program in medicine or a related field and students enrolled in a residency program who are interested in rheumatology as a specialty or field of research. Become a student or resident member and instantly expand your network for only $25. The ACR represents more than 9,400 rheumatology health professionals and provides access to leading education, research and practice information.

Award and Scholarship Opportunities

There are numerous award and scholarship opportunities available for you to explore rheumatology!

The Rheumatology Research Foundation offers a wide range of awards and scholarships for medical students, residents and rheumatology health professionals. Learn more here.

Pediatric Rheumatology Residents Program
This program is designed to introduce and motivate pediatric residents to the possibility of specialty training in pediatric rheumatology at an early period in their residency. Learn more about the eligibility, application process and deadlines.

Rheumatology Research Workshop
This two-day workshop is designed to promote interaction between young and established investigators to foster collaboration and career mentoring. Learn more about the eligibility, application process and deadlines.