The study of inflammation of joints, muscles, bones and internal organs (such as brain, blood vessels, lungs or kidneys) is called Rheumatology. Rheumatologists treat a range of complex diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic sclerosis and arthritis etc.

Joining this field requires years of training and education beyond college. If you are willing to invest a lot of time in preparing for this challenging field, then this article might be useful to you. It will discuss how to become Rheumatologist in the U.S.

Should I Become a Rheumatologist?

If you have good diagnostic abilities, intellectual capacity and decent interviewing skills, then you should consider becoming a Rheumatologist.

Since Rheumatology is a specialty within the medical field, thus individuals who want to establish a career in this field have to meet the licensing, skill-set, and training requirements for Physicians and Surgeons. Look at the table below to learn more about these requirements.

Education Required

Candidates have to earn a doctoral degree.


Training experience is gained through internships or residency programs.


Individuals have to be licensed in order to practice medicine.

Key Skills/Qualities

Compassion, Dexterity, Patience, Stamina, Detail Oriented, Organizational Skill, Leadership Skills and Analytical Skills.

Annual Mean Salary  – National (2020)

$210,960 (General Internal Medicine Physicians)

Job Outlook (2020-2030)

3% (Physicians and Surgeons)

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Outlook

The job outlook data reported by BLS indicates the demand for Physicians and Surgeons will grow by 3% from 2020 to 2030.

Steps to Become a Rheumatologist

Aspiring Rheumatologists have to pass through the following sequence of steps:

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s degree
  2. The first step is to opt for a pre-med track in college. Students can enroll in bachelor’s program in a science related major such as Biology or Chemistry. The undergraduate program can be completed within four years. Apart from completing the medical school pre-requisites, students should also gain some volunteer experience in a hospital or a clinical setting in order to learn more about the medical profession.

  1. Study Hard for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
  2. All medical school applicants have to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in order to get admitted to a 4-year long doctoral program. This exam tests the candidate’s knowledge of social science, biology, chemistry and life science.

  1. Complete a Doctoral Program and a Residency Program
  2. Just like other doctors, Rheumatologists have to first obtain a general medical degree, such as a Doctor of Medicine, and then have to specialize in Rheumatology. While deciding which medical school they want to enroll in, candidates should consider those programs or schools that have a good history of placing candidates into rheumatology residencies. After graduating from medical school, individuals have to complete a 2 to 3 year-long residency.

  1. Meet Licensure Requirements
  2. After completing the training requirements, candidates have to take the licensure exam. In order to further learn how to diagnose and cure patients with rheumatic disorders, candidates should pursue a 1 to 2 year-long fellowship in Rheumatology. Candidates should also take the American Board of Internal Medicine certification exam to further build their credibility.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Rheumatologist?

In order to establish a career in Rheumatology, candidates have to complete a 4-year long pre-med undergraduate program, followed by a 4-year long doctoral program. They also have to complete 2 to 3 years of residency training, and 1 to 2 years of a fellowship program. Apart from completing the required degrees and training experience, individuals also have to clear the medical licensure exam and have to become Board-certified. Thus, it can take up to 13 years to join this profession.

What Are the Requirements for Becoming a Rheumatologist

Aspiring Rheumatologists have to:

  • Complete a doctoral program from an accredited medical school.
  • Complete a residency program and a fellowship program in Rheumatology.
  • Clear the medical licensure exam and become Board-certified.


How Much Do Rheumatologists Earn?

Since the wage estimates for Rheumatologists are not published on BLS, we will use the wage data of General Internal Medicine Physicians. It was reported that these professionals made an annual mean salary of $210,960 in 2020.