Rheumatologists are medical doctors who specialise in treating rheumatic diseases that can include joint, skeletal and muscle disorders. Autoimmune diseases are commonly the underlying cause of these conditions. Rheumatologists are expected to train about 13 years for these positions but can earn a lucrative income once they are in private practice. The 2003-2006 Allied Physicians Salary Survey as reported by the Student Doctor Network reveals the average annual salary for a rheumatologist was £149,370 in 2008.
Aspiring rheumatologists must first obtain an undergraduate degree before applying to a four-year medical school, then undergo a three-year residency in internal medicine and a two-year residency in rheumatology, according to the American College of Rheumatology.
As of June of 2011, internal medicine residency programs paid their residents approximately £30,286 during their first year, £31,766 during their second year and £33,229 their third year, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Rheumatology fellows receive approximately £34,262 during the first year of their fellowship and £35,597 during the second year of their fellowship.
The median salary reported by all medical specialists in the United States as of May of 2008 was £220,829, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The average salary reported by attending rheumatologists in the United States is £148,850, according to the Student Doctor Network, reporting on the findings of the 2003-2006 Allied Physicians Salary Survey. The highest reported salary was £245,700 and the lowest reported salary was £116,350.
Rheumatologists almost never have to be on call which means they don't have to leave their homes unexpectedly for emergencies, according to Division of Rheumatology at The University of British Columbia. These physicians can work almost anywhere because they don't need specialised equipment for their practice, unlike a trauma surgeon who must work for and at a hospital.
The salary of a rheumatologist in private practice depends largely on the number of patients they see. Thus, some rheumatologists choose to work in a metropolitan area instead of a rural area because it gives them the opportunity to see more patients. New rheumatologists who wish to avoid the start-up costs of a medical practice can consider joining an existing practice.