Cardiopulmonary Careers: Salary and Job Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in cardiopulmonary medicine. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Cardiovascular Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Do Cardiopulmonary Workers Do?

Cardiopulmonary medicine specialists treat patients with heart and lung conditions that affect breathing and blood circulation. Depending on the level of education you pursue and your interests, you may choose a career such as cardiovascular technician or technologist, respiratory therapist or cardiac nurse. Cardiovascular technologists and technicians help surgeons as they operate on the heart. They may also conduct some medical tests for the patient. Respiratory therapists help examine, test, diagnose and treat patients suffering from a variety of breathing complications. Cardiac nurses specialize in caring for people who undergo heart surgery, as well as those suffering from various kinds of heart disease. The table below may help you decide if a career in cardiovascular medicine is for you

Cardiovascular Technologist/Technician Respiratory Therapist Cardiac Nurse
Degree Required Associate's or Bachelor's Associate's but Bachelor's may be preferred Associate's but Bachelor's may be preferred
Education Field of StudyCardiovascular technology Respiratory therapy Nursing
Licensure RequiredNo All states except Alaska Yes
Job Growth (2018-2028)7%, faster than average* 21%, much faster than average* 12% (all registered nurses), much faster than average*
Median Salary (2018)$56,850* $60,280* $71,730 (all registered nurses)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are Some Job Opportunities in Cardiopulmonary Medicine?

Cardiovascular technologist, cardiovascular technician and respiratory therapist are some potential job titles within the field of cardiopulmonary medicine. As a cardiovascular technologist or technician, you will help physicians diagnose and treat patients with heart or blood vessel problems. Your primary job responsibilities will be to schedule patient visits, monitor patient vital statistics during procedures and operate testing machinery. If you specialize in a field like invasive cardiology or electrocardiography, you may assist with more advanced procedures and have more specific patient-related job responsibilities.

As a respiratory therapist, you will diagnose and treat patients with breathing or respiratory problems. You may consult with physicians or other health professionals to develop and maintain treatment plans. Your responsibilities may include caring for patients on life support, testing patients' lung capacity and measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in blood samples. If you specialize in home treatment respiratory therapy, you may be responsible for assessing and monitoring medical equipment in a patient's home to ensure the patient can be sufficiently cared for outside of a healthcare facility.

Are there Nursing Jobs in the Field?

As a registered nurse, you can choose to specialize in cardiovascular care. Cardiac nurses focus on patients with heart or lung diseases, assisting physicians with procedures and treatment plans. You will likely be responsible for recording patients' medical histories, performing basic diagnostic tests and assisting with testing equipment. As a cardiac nurse, you may work in a specialty care unit of a hospital or an outpatient care facility to assist patients who have recently had heart surgery.

How Do I Begin Working in the Field?

Some careers in cardiopulmonary medicine, like electrocardiograph specialist, may only require minimal education credentials and on-the-job-training. However, in order to work as a cardiovascular technologist, technician or respiratory therapist, you will likely need a least an associate's degree. At a community or technical college, most degree programs in these fields can be completed in two years. Education for technologists or technicians usually consists of one year of general coursework, followed by a year of specialized training in a particular branch of cardiac medicine.

Additionally, in order to work as a respiratory therapist, you must be licensed with your state, unless you are working in Alaska or Hawaii. In order to obtain your license, you will need to meet the certification requirements of the National Board for Respiratory Care. Cardiac nurses also need to obtain a license before beginning work. In order to become a registered nurse, you will first need to obtain a nursing diploma, an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. Then, to obtain your nursing license, you need to fulfill any additional requirements of your state's nursing board and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

How Much Could I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2018, most cardiovascular technologists and technicians earned between $29,340 and $93,100 annually ( These salaries ranged according to type of work environment and state of employment. In the same year, the average annual salary for respiratory therapists working in general medical and surgical hospitals was $62,570. Registered nurses, including those specializing in cardiac care, earned a bit more on average. Most registered nurses in May 2018 made between $50,800 and $106,530 annually.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A handful of related careers that require an associate's degree include radiologic and MRI technologists, radiation therapists and nuclear medicine technologists. Radiologic technologists use medical machines, like x-rays, to create diagnostic images of a patient's body, per the instruction of a physician. MRI technologists also create diagnostic images, but they specialize in using MRI or magnetic resonance imaging machines. Radiation therapists are responsible for conducting radiation treatments for patients who may be suffering from diseases such as cancer. Nuclear medicine technologists use special radioactive drugs in patients to capture images that cause abnormal parts of the body to stand out. Their work is also used in the diagnosing process.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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