Background: Detailed information regarding the work history of heart transplant patients is limited. Therefore, the work history and factors associated with return to work at 1 year after heart transplantation were examined in 237 heart transplant patients as part of a longitudinal quality-of-life study at two university medical centers. Patient characteristics were as follows: 81% male; 89% white; mean age 54 years (range 24 to 71); mean level of education 13 years; and 84% were married. Methods: Data were collected using the following instruments: Work History tool; Rating Question Form; Heart Transplant Stressor Scale; Quality of Life Index; Sickness Impact Profile; Jalowiec Coping Scale; Social Support Index; Heart Transplant Symptom Checklist; and Chart Review Form. Frequency distributions, chi-square, t-tests and stepwise regression were used to examine the work history of patients. Results: Pre-transplant, only 17% of patients were working as compared with 26% (61 of 237) working by 1 year after transplant (p = 0.003). Pre-transplant non-working patients (n = 197) were hospitalized more frequently, were more physically disabled, had more symptom distress, and rated their health as poorer. After heart transplant non-working patients (n = 176) had more rejection, infection and medical complications and more hospital days. Patients who were working either pre- or post-transplant were more likely to hold jobs that were less physically demanding. Factors significantly associated with return to work by 1 year after heart transplant were better functional ability, higher education, fewer endocrine problems, fewer acute rejection episodes and shorter heart transplant waiting time. Conclusions: Clinical and demographic variables influence return to work after heart transplantation. Knowledge of these variables provides the health-care team with information to assist patients in securing gainful employment. Copyright © 2005 by the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation.