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How Much Does a Cardiologist Make

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Cardiologists to Be in Greater Demand as Population Ages

Hold onto your hat... or heart. If you’re considering cardiologist as a career, you’ve chosen one of the highest paying specialties in an already high-paid profession. This means that cardiology is among the highest paid occupations in the U.S. But money isn’t everything. Like all physicians, cardiologists spend many years in school and rack up considerable debt while doing so. They spend additional years as bleary-eyed residents learning about many different specialties before they get to cardiology and more time learning that specialty. Those who persevere, however, know they’re caring for patients who have problems with what is perhaps the most important organ in the human body. If you view the career as an opportunity to make a difference in patients’ lives, becoming a cardiologist may be right for you.

Job Description

As a cardiologist, your day might include seeing regular patients for checkups, administering tests to help with diagnoses or consulting with new patients. You’ll explain test results to some patients and answer their questions. You may prescribe medications and order tests. During the afternoon, you might drive to another office and see a steady stream of patients there. In late afternoon and into the evening, you might see patients at a hospital. An exhausting, yet rewarding day.

Education Requirements

Students who want to become cardiologists, or any type of physician, must first earn a bachelor’s degree. No specific major is required, but an emphasis in science and math courses is ideal. Those who register as pre-med majors are recommended or required to take specific coursework to stay on track for medical school. Excellent grades in all coursework is expected, because competition is intense for medical school admission. To apply to medical schools, graduates must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Scores from this test and grades are the most important factors considered for admission. Letters of recommendation are also required.

Medical school takes another four years to complete. During the first two years, you’ll be mostly in the classroom, taking courses such as anatomy, physiology, medical ethics and medical law. During your last two years, you’ll work more with patients under the supervision of physicians in hospitals and clinics. You will rotate through various specialties, which is when you may decide you’re interested enough in cardiology to make that your specialty. If so, you’ll spend three or more years as a resident in cardiology. Afterwards, you must take and pass the national licensing exam. If you want to become board certified in your state, you must first pass a state licensing exam, too.

Residents in cardiology were paid an average salary of $60,000 in 2015, according to Medscape, a medical consultant company that surveyed residents in all specialties. Salaries varied from $53,000 for internists and family practice residencies to $62,000 for critical care residencies. Practicing cardiologists earned salaries averaging $512,000 in base pay, which is significantly higher than the $189,000 earned by family practice physicians. Some 59 percent of physicians report having accumulated between $100,000 to $200,000 or more of debt by the time they finish school.

Years of Experience

Gaining experience at a first job is different for cardiologists and other physicians than it is for other occupations. Your residency is your first job. Like most first jobs, residencies are typically low paying for the work hours expected. Typically, salaries start lower for the first year and increase modestly with each successive year of residency.

Job Growth Trend

Although 59 percent of cardiologists work in private practice, either solo or as part of a group practice, the situation has experienced rapid change over the past several years. Private practices are having difficulty staying afloat as they deal with shrinking insurance reimbursements and rising overhead costs, according to the American College of Cardiology. Many practices have reduced their staff or the practice’s hours as cost-cutting measures. Another step is to take fewer new Medicare patients, as Medicare reimbursements are typically less than those from non-government insurance companies for the same services. Many private practices are choosing to affiliate with hospitals to remove the direct financial burden. They give up the practice’s independence in deciding their own policies, services, hours, etc. in exchange for fewer financial issues and the ability to share patient care while gaining more leisure time.

The need for physicians overall is expected to grow 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is more than twice the rate of jobs in general. As the baby boomer generation ages, physicians that treat diseases relating to age will be in high demand, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So if you choose a career as a cardiologist, your skills will be in high demand.