Cardiologist: Job Duties, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Cardiologists are medical doctors who work to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases of the cardiovascular system. Learn about the education you'll need for this profession, get information on licensure and see median salaries and the projected outlook for job growth. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Cardiologist Do?

A cardiologist is a doctor of the heart, arteries and veins. Cardiology is considered a specialty within the broader category of internal medicine, and you can be trained in such subspecialties as nuclear cardiology, interventional cardiology, electrophysiology and echocardiography. You'll diagnose and treat cardiovascular diseases. You'll also promote heart health and provide rehabilitation to those who've undergone surgery or treatment for heart ailments. Invasive non-interventional cardiologists diagnose patients as well as perform catheterizations to examine clogged arteries. Interventional cardiologists perform cardiovascular procedures to cure or treat diseases.

What Is the Outlook for this Career?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment opportunities of all physicians to grow by 22% between 2008-2018 (www.bls.gov). That should be an increase in approximately 144,100 positions nationwide. However, the BLS doesn't provide specific job growth statistics on cardiologists. According to Salary.com, there are different ranges for different types of cardiologists. The median salary for non-invasive cardiologists was $307,898, as of May 2011. Invasive cardiologists made a median salary of $321,080, while the median salary for pediatric cardiologists was $234,426.

What Must I Study?

Becoming a medical professional requires a lot of education and clinical practice. To become a cardiologist, you must complete a pre-med bachelor's degree. The program you choose should be heavy in pre-med courses, such as anatomy, biology, chemistry and statistics. You'll then want to seek a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. This general medical degree introduces you to medicine and the medical career. Through classroom instruction and clinical experiences, you'll learn how to assess, diagnose and treat illnesses. You'll also focus on the physical sciences, medical ethics, anatomy and psychology.

After you've completed your M.D. education, you can then move into a 2- or 3-year cardiology residency. Here, you'll make rounds with experienced doctors and learn through hands-on practice. Primarily, you'll work with patients in the diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases and the prevention of illnesses. A fellowship in cardiology or a cardiovascular specialization is also beneficial to your career.

Do I Need Certification or Licensure?

According to the BLS, to practice medicine in any U.S. state or territory, you must be licensed. You must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), which tests your medical and science knowledge and assesses whether you can apply unsupervised treatment (www.usmle.org). The American Board of Internal Medicine offers certification in three cardiology areas: heart failure and transplants, interventional cardiology, and cardiovascular disease (www.abim.org).

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