This review examines the biomarker development process by using rheumatic disorders as the disease model for discussion. We evaluate the current role of biomarkers in the practice of rheumatology and discuss their likely role in the future. We define the essential components of the biomarker development pipeline and discuss the issue of fitness for purpose, i.e. what the biomarker(s) might offer in a clinical setting. As a component of this review we also highlight several emerging technologies that are beginning to provide practical solutions to support biomarker validation. In the process, we highlight some scenarios where additional biomarkers would add considerable value to clinical practice, and we review appropriate methods for each. We also emphasize some important but infrequently discussed considerations, including the need for protein variant verification. Ultimately, the adroit application of the methods of proteomics will transform the practice rheumatology and allow personalized clinical practice to become a reality.