Cardiologists are doctors who diagnose issues related to people’s hearts. They also treat patients for these conditions and identify ways to improve the quality of life for patients. As a sub-specialty of internal medicine, cardiology is one of the world’s most respected medical niches. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, which equates to one in every four deaths.
A career in cardiology may be right for you if you have the self-discipline, determination, and compassion required of the job. Earning your credentials as a cardiologist is not as simple as getting a four-year degree. You will be required to take subjects in a variety of disciplines to develop both the theoretical and practical skills needed to interact with patients and identify the cause of their problems.
If you are interested in becoming a cardiologist, you can expect to spend a minimum of 13 years post-high school immersed in courses and programs designed to build your expertise in the field. The journey includes earning your bachelor’s degree, getting into medical school, obtaining a medical license, completing a residency program, and finally, completing a cardiology fellowship.
Earning your bachelor’s degree is the first step on your path to becoming a cardiologist. In these first three to four years (depending on how many subjects you take each semester), you can expect to take courses like biology and organic chemistry. You will gain an introductory and working knowledge of the human body along with the fundamentals of science and the scientific process.
You will also complete general requirement courses like English, physical fitness, and fine arts, as bachelor degrees are intended to be well-rounded.
Once you are nearing the end of your undergraduate years, you will begin to apply for medical school. Medical school is the next rung on the cardiology ladder. You will take courses that are more involved than your undergraduate ones were. Subjects can include pathology, pharmacology, and biochemistry. A hospital rotation is also part of the curriculum, and you will be introduced to various disciplines including psychiatry, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.
Examples of courses and skills taught in the Yale University cardiology program are:
- Molecular biology
- Lipid disorders
- Diagnostic techniques
- Electric cardioversion
Your next three years will be spent participating in an internal medicine residency. This residency will help you to focus on all the fine details of becoming a cardiologist. For example, the Tulane University program helps students gain real-world knowledge at the Tulane Doctors Heart and Vascular Clinic and various other medical centers around the nation.
The Yale Cardiovascular Medicine fellowship training program lists its extensive training program options. These options include general cardiovascular medicine, adult congenital heart disease, cardiac imaging, and interventional cardiology. Once you complete your fellowship program, you can continue on with cardiology, but if you wish to pursue an advanced subspecialty, you may need to apply for another fellowship program.
As current estimates suggest that one American dies of heart disease every 37 seconds, the importance of cardiology cannot be overestimated. Cardiologists take responsibility for people’s health and lives, and their high salaries compensate them for the amount of time and effort they put into investing in their career. Glassdoor estimates that the mean salary for cardiologists in the United States is $343,000 per year.
While becoming a cardiologist involves over a decade of post-high school education, for adults who have the time and dedication to pursue this career, the benefits are rewarding. After the initial investment in time, cardiologists’ well-deserved salaries and feelings of accomplishment for helping others only continue to grow with time.