How to Become a Cardiologist

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The heart is a vital muscular organ that pumps blood throughout the body and is necessary for life. Cardiology is a specialty area in the medical field that deals with heart disorders. Cardiologists are physicians that specialize in this field and diagnose and treat heart conditions.

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What does a cardiologist do?

Cardiologists provide care to prevent, diagnose, and treat conditions and diseases of the heart and related cardiovascular system. They perform a broad range of tasks everyday such as using medical imaging studies to diagnose a heart condition and collaborating with a cardiac surgeon to create a plan of treatment for a patient requiring surgery. Cardiologists typically perform a variety of diagnostic tests to diagnose heart conditions. These tests include cardiac catheterization, stress tests, electrocardiograms, radiology studies, and many other methods. Once a diagnosis is made, cardiologists talk to the patient about the condition and the options for treatment. Treatment options include medication, lifestyle changes, pacemakers, and surgical procedures. If surgery is required, cardiologists provide follow-up care after the procedure.

What kind of training does a cardiologist need?

Cardiologists must have a bachelor degree and medical degree (M.D.) from an accredited medical school. After completing medical school, cardiologists complete 3 years of residency training where they concentrate on internal medicine. They then enter cardiology fellowship programs that typically last 2 to 3 years. Cardiologists are trained to treat patients with heart failure, heart attacks, heart disease, and serious disturbances in heart rhythm. They are also prepared to make decisions regarding balloon angioplasty, heart catheterization, heart surgery, and other procedures.

All states require cardiologists to be licensed. Licensing requirements including graduating from an accredited medical school, completing 1 to 7 years of graduate medical education, and passing a licensing examination.

What are the prospects for a career as a cardiologist?

Employment of all physicians is projected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1). An increasing and aging population and demand for specialty heart procedures will drive job growth of cardiologists.

Job prospects are expected to be very good, especially for cardiologists with extensive experience and expertise in specialty procedures. Job openings will also arise from the need to replace cardiologists that retire or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do cardiologists make?

As of September 2009, the middle 50% of cardiologists earned annual salaries between $215,657 and $370,889. The highest 10% earned annual salaries of more than $439,891 (2).

A career as a cardiologist is an excellent choice for individuals interested in providing patient care regarding the heart and its related systems. Cardiologists must be extremely knowledgeable about cardiology practices and have the desire to serve patients. They must have great eye-hand coordination, be self-motivated, and be able to handle the stress and pressure in the medical environment. They must have good bedside manner, be sensitive to problems, and pay close attention to detail.

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