How to Become a Rheumatologist

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Rheumatology is a sub-specialty of the internal medicine and pediatrics medical fields that deals with the study, diagnosis, and treatment of rheumatic and musculoskeletal conditions. Rheumatologists are specially trained medical doctors that deal with a variety of issues that involve joints, soft tissues, and connective tissues


Hey, I'm Joshua T. Osborne

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What does a rheumatologist do?

Rheumatologists examine, diagnose, and treat patients with many different rheumatic conditions, injuries, and diseases. They review patient medical histories, perform diagnostic tests, and discuss treatment options with patients. They use many different tests such as chemical pathology and x-rays. Rheumatologists treat patients with conditions such as arthritis, sports injuries, fibromyalgia, joint disorders, osteoporosis, and chronic fatigue syndrome. They provide a variety of treatment options such as medications and occupational and physical therapy. Many rheumatologists conduct research to gain a better understanding of the causes of conditions and to develop improved treatments.

What kind of training does a rheumatologist need?

Rheumatologists must complete an undergraduate degree, medical school, internship, residency training, and fellowship training. Medical school provides intensive instruction and clinical rotations of all major medical disciplines. After medical school prospective rheumatologists complete an internship and residency training internal medicine in pediatrics. They then complete fellowship training in rheumatology. Some rheumatologists choose to complete additional training to further specialize in a specific type of rheumatology such as pediatric rheumatology. All states require rheumatologists to be licensed in the state in which they intend to practice. Most rheumatologists also become board certified from the American Board of Internal Medicine. Certification requirements include minimum education and experience and passing a rigorous examination. Rheumatologists must keep their skills current and stay up to date on advancements in the field. They often complete continuing education and additional training throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as a rheumatologist?

Employment of all physicians is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing and aging population and increased prevalence of rheumatic disorders will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be very good especially for rheumatologists with extensive experience. Some job openings will arise from the need to replace rheumatologists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do rheumatologists make?

As of December 2009, the middle 50% of rheumatologists earn annual salaries between $165,768 and $214,075. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $239,852 (2).

A career as a rheumatologist is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in rheumatology and providing care to many different patients. Patience, self-motivation, eye-hand coordination, and manual dexterity are essential characteristics. Rheumatologists must have excellent bedside manner and the ability to help patients feel at ease. They must have good communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to work with a variety of patients and other professionals. They must be able to work in stressful situations and make effective decisions in emergency situations.

Joshua T Osborne

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