Cardiologists care for patients with heart or vascular system diseases or deformities. This position requires specialized training in addition to a degree in medicine. Cardiologists must also be licensed to practice medicine. As a cardiologist, you may find employment in private practice or in a hospital, clinic or similar medical setting.
Career Outlook and Salary
The career outlook for cardiologists, along with other physicians and surgeons, is positive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, cardiologists can expect an increase in positions by approximately 24 percent by the year 2020. According to "Forbes," cardiologists earn about $380,000 per year, though actual income varies with location and experience. The BLS says the median annual salary of all specialized doctors was $356,885 as of May 2010.
Education and Training
Potential cardiologists must complete a bachelors degree before entering medical school. While no specific major is required, most choose to focus their studies in either premedical or one of the life sciences, such as chemistry or biology. Medical school follows undergraduate education, and is a four-year educational commitment. In medical school, students typically devote the first two years to classroom and laboratory education and the final two years to completing rotations in medical specialties, including cardiology. After medical school, an aspiring cardiologist spends three years in internal medicine residency training, followed by an additional three to six years of fellowship training in cardiology.
License and Certification
All physicians who intend to practice medicine in the United States must obtain a license, including cardiologists. The would-be doctor must pass either the United States Medical Licensing Examination, or USMLE, for those with a M.D, or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States, or COMLEX-USA, for those with a Doctor of Osteopathy. Board certification is obtained through the American Board of Medical Specialties, and cardiologists must become board certified in two specialties. For example, pediatric cardiologists become board certified in pediatrics, as well as pediatric cardiology, and general cardiologists become board certified in internal medicine and cardiology.
Cardiologists schedule consultation appointments on the referral of a patient’s primary care physician or emergency room staff. Stress tests, EKGs, and echocardiograms are just a few of the many tests cardiologists require in order to provide a proper diagnosis. Each test tells the doctor something different about the patients’ heart and allows him to better tailor the medical care he provides. Arrhythmia, coronary heart disease and heart failure are common conditions a cardiologist treats. Like other surgeons and physicians, cardiologists must document everything they do for a patient. Not only does correct documentation help them better care for patients, it also ensures correct billing and covers them should a lawsuit arise.