How to Become a CardiologistMarch 8, 2014
Your heart is your body’s lifeline. This sensitive muscle in your body is cared for by a medical specialist called a cardiologist. As with any of the medical specialties, the road to becoming a cardiologist is a challenging, but rewarding, one. Cardiology is a sub-specialty within internal medicine. A cardiologist concentrates on the proper function of your body’s heart, blood vessels, and circulation. If you are interested in a lucrative medical career, becoming a cardiologist just might be the right path for you.
A Brief History of Cardiology
While the study of the heart dates back to the earliest practices of medicine, it was Willem Einthoven, a Dutch doctor and scientist, who invented the first practical electrocardiogram in 1903. His study and realization about the connection between electrical currents and the functioning of the heart took the study of cardiology into the 20th century. Subsequently, the field of cardiac surgery developed, and in 1961, Dr. Christiaan Barnhard of South Africa performed the first heart transplant. These two key events spurned the growth of cardiology as a critical medical specialty.
Completing an undergraduate degree is always the first step towards a medical degree. If you intend to become a cardiologist, you might consider a major that allows you to explore fitness, nutrition, and anatomy. As always, your undergraduate major does not determine your medical school admissions chances, so long as you complete the required foundational science courses. Once you’ve gained admission to medical school, you’ll spend four years completing your training. Afterwards, you’ll complete an internal medicine residency (2-3 years) and then a cardiology fellowship (2-3 years). During your fellowship, you’ll choose your cardiology specialty. Your options include Non-Invasive Cardiology, Invasive, Non-Interventional Cardiology, Interventional Cardiology, and Electrophysiology. You can even work in pediatric cardiology if you like children. You’ll be surprised to learn that cardiac surgery is a specialty quickly falling out of favor as a treatment. If you do have an interest in cardiac surgery, however, you’ll pursue a surgery specialty and NOT a cardiology specialty. To practice cardiology, you must pass the necessary state licensure exams as well as become board certified through the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Cardiologists can be employed in multiple settings, including hospitals, private practice, research laboratories, or government agencies. Your caseload is often reasonable, though with heart disease on the rise in the general population, you can expect to be busy frequently. Your daily responsibilities include diagnosing heart disease, prescribing medications, performing heart-related procedures (depending upon what type of cardiologist you become), and providing lifestyle health advice to patients to help them live longer. For your dedication to the care of the human heart, you can expect to receive a tremendous payday. Cardiologists can earn in excess of $400,000 per year.
There is a chronic shortage of cardiologists available to treat the varied demographics of patients who have heart troubles. If you are interested in a career in cardiology, consider working in a rural area, where the need for board certified cardiologists is great and employment opportunities are readily available. Your patients will appreciate your care of their body’s most critical component – the heart! — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.