Cardiac Rehabilitation Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in the field of cardiac rehabilitation. Read on to learn more about career options along with education and salary information. Schools offering Rehabilitation Sciences degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Careers Are Available in Cardiac Rehabilitation?

Individuals who want to work in the field of cardiac rehabilitation, helping patients recover from major cardiac events, can choose from several different career tracks. For instance, registered nurses may meet with patients after heart trauma in order to instruct them on what to do for recovery, such as getting rest, taking medications and adopting healthy lifestyle habits. Nutritionists and dietitians can help clients develop a dietary plan that promotes heart health by including lower amounts of saturated fat and sodium, and higher amounts of fruits and vegetables. Physical therapists can teach their patients exercises that can help them reduce pain and expand their range of motion after a debilitating cardiac event.

Career options in the cardiac rehabilitation field can include nutritional counseling, nursing and physical therapy. The following chart gives an overview of what could be expected from these careers.

Nutritionist/Dietitian Nursing Physical therapist
Degree Required Bachelor's degree with options for continuing education Associate's degree, bachelor's preferred Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree
Education Field of Study Dietetics, nutrition, food service management Nursing Physiology, physical therapy
Training Required Nutrition coursework, internships Clinical hours Physiology coursework, clinical hours
Licensure Required Required Required
Job Growth 16% 16% 34%
Average Salary (2015) $58,410* $71,000* $85,790*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is Cardiac Rehabilitation?

Patients who have suffered from a heart attack or other trauma to the heart, including surgery to treat heart disease, need to rebuild the strength of the heart and cardiovascular system. This recovery process involves a variety of treatments, including establishment of an exercise program and nutritional counseling. Professionals in the cardiac rehabilitation field help patients develop a healthy lifestyle to prevent further heart disease. Psychological counseling may be part of the process of establishing new habits.

How Do I Establish a Career in This Field?

Several medical fields hold professions related to cardiac rehabilitation. As a physical therapist you would guide the patient in the proper exercises to strengthen cardiovascular health. To become a physical therapist, you would be required to obtain a Doctor or Physical Therapy degree. However, you could become a physical therapy assistant with an associate's degree focused on related physiology coursework. As a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant, you would be required to obtain the license and certifications required by your state health board.

If you choose to become a dietitian or nutritionist, you would counsel the cardiac patient on dietary habits and direct the patient to develop eating habits that support a healthy heart. For this position, you would be required to hold a bachelor's degree in foods and nutrition or dietetics. Licensure by your state board of health is necessary to practice. You many choose to become certified by the American Dietetic Association.

Another option for a career in cardiac rehabilitation may be in the field of nursing. You could become a registered nurse and pursue employment at the cardiac centers of hospitals and outpatient clinics. To become a registered nurse, you must first complete an educational program such as an Associate of Science in Nursing, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or a nursing diploma program. To obtain employment, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and meet the licensing requirements of your state.

What Is My Income Potential?

If you choose to become a nutritionist or dietitian, you could earn an average annual wage of about $58,410, based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimate for 2015. For a registered nurse, the average wage was $71,000. As a physical therapist, the BLS estimates that you could expect to earn about $85,790 on average.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Individuals who are interested in directly treating patients with heart problems may consider becoming physicians specializing in cardiology. For this job, it is necessary to complete a four-year Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, an internal medicine residency and a cardiology fellowship. At a lower level, you might think about becoming a cardiovascular technologist, where you would operate equipment for cardiovascular diagnostic procedures like cardiographic sonography and stress tests. These tests can detect cardiac abnormalities early, so patients can make lifestyle changes before they experience a traumatic event that requires rehabilitation. A job as a cardiovascular technologist usually only requires the completion of a postsecondary certificate program.

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