Cardiologist: Job Duties, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Explore the career requirements for cardiologists. Get the facts about education, training, and licensing requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Cardiovascular Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Do Cardiologists Do?

Cardiologists are medical doctors who work to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases of the cardiovascular system. Cardiologists provide a variety of invasive and non-invasive treatments. Invasive cardiologists perform surgical procedures on cardiovascular systems while non-invasive cardiologists diagnose and examine patients for ailments. Cardiologists can also play a role in rehabilitating those who have recently undergone heart trauma or a major heart surgery. Cardiology specialties include nuclear cardiology, interventional cardiology, electrophysiology, and echocardiography.

The following chart provides an overview about becoming a cardiologist.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
Additional Training 2- to 3-year residency; fellowship
Key Responsibilities Examine patients and diagnose and treat blood vessel and heart issues; order or conduct diagnostic testing and analyze results; advise patients about treatments and healthcare
Certification and Licensing All states require doctors to be licensed; board certification is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% (for all physicians and surgeons)
Median Salary (2016)** $361,394 (for non-invasive cardiologist)
$393,113 (for invasive cardiologist)
$256,003 (for pediatric cardiologist)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Salary.com

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 and surgeons to grow by 14% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). That should be an increase in approximately 99,300 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 $361,394 as of December 2016. Invasive cardiologists made a median salary of $393,113, while the median salary for pediatric cardiologists was $256,003.

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).

What Are Some Similar Careers?

A cardiologist is a specific type of physician who specializes in the functions of the heart. Other such specialists include dermatologists, who focus on skin, and gastroenterologists, who are experts on the digestive system. In addition, there are other specialist physicians who focus on something other than one particular body part. For instance, anesthesiologists administer different kinds of anesthetics to patients before, during, and after surgery to reduce their pain. Psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental illness through therapy, medication, and various other forms of treatment. Pediatricians specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases and ailments as they manifest in children.

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