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Cardiac Rehabilitation Graduate Programs

Although graduate programs specifically for cardiac rehabilitation don't exist, there are a few graduate degree options that will prepare you for a career in cardiac rehabilitation. Read on to learn about available programs, course topics, online availability, and career options.

What Kind of Degree Do I Need to Work in Cardiac Rehabilitation?

While graduate degrees in cardiac rehabilitation aren't specifically available, you may find concentrations in the field through master's degree programs in exercise physiology or exercise science. If you're planning on applying to a master's degree in exercise physiology, you'll need a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. Your undergraduate major may not have to be in an allied health related field, although you may need to complete prerequisite courses, such as anatomy and physiology or exercise physiology.

Degree Programs MS in Exercise Physiology or Exercise Science (with concentration in cardiac rehabilitation)
Common Courses Electrocardiography, physical education, adult fitness program development
Online Availability No programs in cardiac rehabilitation are available online, though certificates in fitness or personal training are available
Possible Careers Clinical exercise specialist, registered clinical exercise phsyiologist, cardiac rehabilitation team member (in hospital)
Median Salary (2018) $49,270 (for all exercise physiologists)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 13% growth (for all exercise physiologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Courses Are Required?

Courses in a master's degree-level exercise physiology program that specializes in cardiac rehabilitation prepares you to work with patients and other healthcare professionals to address risk factors that lead to heart problems. The courses also include education on developing exercise programs and healthy lifestyle plans that can prevent heart disease. In addition to taking courses, you'll also need to complete a clinical experience. Some of the course topics you can expect to explore include these:

  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Electrocardiography
  • Physiology of exercise
  • Adult fitness program development
  • Physical education

Are Programs Available Online?

Due to the nature of the courses and to the amount of lab-intensive coursework involved in this field, programs offering cardiac rehabilitation specializations are not available online. However, you may find online certificates in fitness or personal training.

What Will My Career Options Be?

With an education in cardiac rehabilitation, you may pursue careers in hospitals, clinics or other healthcare facilities working with patients who have suffered from heart attacks or who have other heart related issues. You may also pursue certification through the American College of Sports Medicine which leads to a designation of Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist (CES) and Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP) for individuals working in cardiac rehabilitation (www.acsm.org). Cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation certification is also available for licensed physical therapists from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.

Hospitals also have cardiac rehabilitation teams, which consist of doctors (commonly heart specialists), advanced practice nurses, physical therapists and nutritionists, in addition to exercise professionals. Each career requires a different educational path, however, with doctors having completed medical school and a specialty residency. Graduate programs are available in nursing, physical therapy and nutrition, and such degree programs can prepare you for a role in a hospital's cardiac rehabilitation team.