Headache diagnosis and treatment is the most important focus or concentration area for practising neurologists in America. The American Headache Society, formerly the American Association for the Study of Headache, is made up predominantly of neurologists. Recognition of the importance of the teaching and practice of headache medicine, especially migraine, is still incomplete at many academic teaching institutions. Suggestions that this results from inadequate academic hierarchies and education at graduate and post-graduate levels have been made. We therefore undertook a survey of academic practitioners of headache medicine in departments of neurology with membership of the American Headache Society. Subjects and addresses were identified using the 1999–2000 membership directory of the American Headache Society. Practice characteristics and time distribution were assessed. Teaching in undergraduate and resident programmes was also assessed. Fifty-five surveys from 46 institutions in 25 states were judged as adequate for this report. Academic neurologists with interest in headache medicine spent most of their time in clinic, with less than 25% spent doing either research or teaching. Medical schools had an average of 1 h of preclinical and 2 h of clinical teaching in headache. Neurology residents received an average of 3 h of didactic instruction in headache. This report is the first of its kind to review the practice characteristics and culture of headache medicine in the setting of academic departments of neurology. It describes a clinical practice similar to those of other non-academic American neurologists.