Analysis of the workforce and workplace for rheumatology and the research activities of rheumatologists early in their careers


  • The contents of this article are solely attributable to the authors, and do not reflect the views of the American College of Rheumatology or any of its officers or staff. The American College of Rheumatology exercised no role in the design or analysis of this study or in the decision to publish the findings.



To assess the workforce and workplace in rheumatology, and the research work of early-career rheumatologists.


Early-career rheumatologists were defined as practicing physicians who joined the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) in 1991–2005, were 49 years of age or younger when they joined, and reside in North America. This cohort participated in a Web-based survey distributed by the ACR. A total of 247 surveys (21.2% response) were used for this analysis. Survey questions were designed to obtain core insights about the workforce, workplace, research activities, funding, and the demographic profile of respondents.


Respondents from all workplaces—clinical, academic, federal, and industry—engaged in clinical care, teaching, administration, and research. The time devoted to these tasks was employer dependent, and workplaces shaped the scale and scope of research. Patient-oriented research was predominant across all workplaces. Disease, population, and translational research were intermediate, and few respondents pursued basic or prevention-oriented research in any type of workplace. Rheumatologists obtained extramural funds (21.3%) and intramural funds (78.7%) to pay portions of their salaries for time spent on research. Receiving a National Institutes of Health K08/K23 award was associated with receipt of a federal research project grant (P < 0.001). Respondents associated investigative work with reduced earnings, a perception validated by an estimated drop in pre-tax annual earnings of 2.3% for each half-day/week dedicated to research (P < 0.01).


The results of this study justify interventions for closing gaps embedded in investigational rheumatology. These include improved funding for clinical research, increasing the number of K08/K23 awards, and recruiting rheumatologists from underrepresented demographic groups.