If you are in the healthcare field, you may be considering which specialty you want to pursue. Two specialties you may want to consider are rheumatology and endocrinology. Although there is some overlap between the two, their primary focuses differ considerably. Here’s what you should know about the difference between a rheumatologist vs endocrinologist, as well as their respective career outlooks.
What is a rheumatologist?
A rheumatologist is a doctor who has specialized training in rheumatic, or inflammatory, diseases. Although rheumatologists are often associated with arthritis—specifically rheumatoid arthritis—they also treat musculoskeletal conditions. There are over 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions, including more than 30 inflammatory rheumatic diseases such as lupus and gout. Other diseases that rheumatologists can diagnose and treat include:
Rheumatologist education and training
Rheumatologists must first complete four years of medical school, followed by a residency in either internal medicine or pediatrics. Then, they must complete another two to three years of specialized rheumatology training. Rheumatologists must also pass a national exam, either through the American Board of Internal Medicine for rheumatologists who will treat adult patients or through the American Board of Pediatrics for pediatric rheumatologists.
Rheumatologists generally work in outpatient clinics, and referrals are not usually required for a patient to make an appointment. They are usually affiliated with a local hospital so they can treat patients who have been admitted for rheumatic diseases.
Rheumatologist career outlook in Connecticut
Currently, the rheumatology workforce is facing a shortage that is projected to worsen within the next 10 to 15 years, according to an article in the Journal of Rheumatology. While the COVID-19 pandemic played a role, one study highlighted that burnout was also a major contributing factor to the lack of rheumatologists, especially among millennial and female rheumatologists. Previously, the American College of Rheumatology estimated that the demand for rheumatology services would increase by 46%, while the number of practicing rheumatologists would only increase by 1.2%.
The average salary for rheumatologists in Connecticut is $195,685 and ranges from $135,000 to $282,000 according to zippia.com. The demand for these specialists is still high, particularly in rural areas that often struggle with recruiting specialists.
In Connecticut, the average salary for a rheumatologist is $264,256, but it ranges from $234,604 to $300,266, according to Salary.com. How much you can make as a rheumatologist in Connecticut will depend on the city you practice in as well as factors like education and time spent in the profession.
What is an endocrinologist?
An endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating hormone-related conditions and diseases. Hormones, which are secreted by the endocrine glands, play a major role in controlling sleep, mood, stress, body temperature, and other bodily functions. Endocrinologists treat several different conditions that affect the endocrine system, including:
- Diabetes and other metabolic conditions
- Endocrine cancers and tumors, such as adrenal tumors and pancreatic cancer
- Thyroid conditions such as Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s disease
- Sexual development, function, and reproduction, including amenorrhea, ovarian cysts, and hypogonadism
Endocrinologist education and training
Endocrinologists must first complete four years of medical school, followed by a two to three year residency in internal medicine. Once residency is completed, an endocrinologist must complete a two to three year fellowship program, after which they must become certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). They must also complete an additional endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism exam and get a second certification from the ABIM.
Endocrinologists may work in hospitals, clinics, or private practice. They usually work on referrals from primary care providers. Sometimes patients with diabetes may see an endocrinologist if their PCP is unable to help them manage their condition.
Endocrinologist career outlook in Connecticut
Endocrinology, like many other specialties, is facing a workforce shortage. There are currently just over 8,500 practicing endocrinologists in the United States, despite the fact that there are more than 34.2 million Americans living with diabetes. More than 85% of Americans who live with diabetes rely on their primary care physician or general practitioner to manage their condition. However, PCPs do not receive the amount of training necessary for treating diabetes as endocrinologists.
In Connecticut, the average salary for an endocrinologist is $266,475, according to Salary.com. However, the salary can range from $232,419 to $310,412 depending on the city, education, years spent in the profession, and other factors.
Where do rheumatology vs endocrinology overlap?
Although their primary focuses are different, rheumatologists and endocrinologists both work with patients who have autoimmune conditions. It’s also not unusual for rheumatologists to treat patients who have endocrine or thyroid disorders; similarly, patients with rheumatological conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis may also have diabetes.
How to choose between medical specialties
If you are considering either rheumatology or endocrinology as a specialty, you may be wondering how to decide which one is the right fit for you. While salary is an important factor in any career decision, you may also want to consider the educational requirements beyond medical school, as endocrinology requires a fellowship and two certifications.
You should also consider which field interests you more. Are you fascinated by the endocrine system and the role hormones play in bodily functions, or do you have more of an interest in inflammatory diseases? You may also want to think about the patient populations you will work with, as well as the type of environment you may work in. Whichever field you choose, you can make a big difference for patients who need specialty care.
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