What is a Rheumatologist?

In the world of medicine, many specialties exist. From cardiologists who treat heart issues to podiatrists who offer foot remedies, many doctors seek to specialize in a certain area of medicine for a variety of reasons. One such specialty is rheumatology, which is the study and treatment of rheumatic diseases. Rheumatologists perform a valuable service in the medical field. The following outline offers a better understanding of what rheumatologists do, how they earn this distinction and some of the benefits of this type of career.

On the Job

Rheumatologists diagnose and treat medical conditions centered on rheumatic issues. Rheumatic issues include arthritis, other joint ailments and illnesses affecting internal organs like the lungs and blood vessels. Primarily, rheumatic ailments center on bone and joint issues, the most common being arthritis. There are a wide variety of rheumatic issues, however, and rheumatologists hold the specialty experience necessary to study, diagnose and treat these conditions. Like other physicians, they diagnose by listening to patients’ complaints and studying diagnostic imaging to determine the cause of rheumatic symptoms. They prescribe treatment and monitor a patient’s reaction to the treatment to determine whether extra steps might be needed. They work with both children and adults.

Education & Training

Becoming a rheumatologist takes several years of advanced education and training. They begin their career by completing a bachelor’s degree in a pre-med subject. From there, they attend medical school for four years followed by a three-year specialized program in either pediatrics or internal medicine. In order to practice in their field, rheumatologists must also endure intensive residency training in a fellowship program for two or three years as well as pass national board exams administered by a medical board depending on their specialty of internal medicine or pediatric. In essence, a rheumatologist receives a total of around 14 years of post-high school education and training in order to become a licensed practitioner.

Average Pay & Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, rheumatologists are classified under the blanket category of “Physicians and Surgeons” as of March 2012. In the next ten years, this occupation should see 24% growth, which is faster than the national average for other occupations. Rheumatologists might earn more or less depending on other factors, but according to the Bureau, they earned a salary greater than or equal to $166,400 per year in 2010. With a growing demand and increased outlook, rheumatologists will continue to earn a substantial living.

Benefits of Becoming a Rheumatologist

Owing to their specialty, rheumatologists are highly sought-after for their expertise in bone and joint issues. Since many joint and bone ailments share similar characteristics, rheumatologists must work with their patients to diagnose effectively. This means that they have a close relationship with their patients and share intimate knowledge of their individual predicaments. Those who work with children not only bond with their young patients but also with the patients’ families. In addition to the emotional benefits of being a rheumatologist, specializing in a difficult field encourages research and development of new treatments and innovative solutions to common ailments. Rheumatologists enjoy a creative career among other physicians and surgeons.