Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common inflammatory arthritis and exhibits genetic overlap with other autoimmune and inflammatory disorders. Although predominant associations with the HLA-DRB1 locus have been known for decades, recent data have revealed additional insight into the likely causative variants within HLA-DRB1 as well as within other HLA loci that contribute to disease risk. In addition, more than 100 common variants in non-HLA loci have been implicated in disease susceptibility. Genetic factors are involved not only in the development of RA, but also with various disease subphenotypes, including production and circulating levels of autoantibodies and joint destruction. The major current challenge is to integrate these new data into a precise understanding of disease pathogenesis, including the critical cell types and molecular networks involved as well as interactions with environmental factors. We predict that delineating the functional effects of genetic variants is likely to drive new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to the disease.