Cardiologists are doctors who treat diseases, disorders, and injuries involving the heart and blood vessels. Cardiology is a speciality in the field of internal  medicine.

Cardiologists examine patients and perform diagnostic tests to identify the nature of ailments. The next steps are determining, and conducting, the appropriate surgery or other medical procedure.

Most cardiologists work in doctors’ offices and clinics. Health-care organizations and networks also employ these physicians. A medical degree, special training, and other requirements must be met to become a cardiologist. It is one of the most prestigious and highly paid positions in medicine.

Cardiologist Job Description

Cardiologists diagnose and provide treatments for coronary heart disease, heart failure, clogged arteries, arrhythmia, and other conditions. The treatments range from prescribed medications to invasive surgery.

The field of cardiology features several subspecialties. Noninvasive cardiologists are concerned only with diagnosing ailments. They do not conduct surgery or provide other treatment. Interventional cardiologists perform invasive tests and procedures to diagnose and treat cardiac disease.

Cardiovascular surgeons operate on the heart, veins, and arteries. Invasive noninterventional cardiologists perform cardiac catheterizations by placing a tube through a blood vessel to obtain a picture of the diseased portion of the heart. Other subspecialties include echocardiography, electrophysiology, and nuclear cardiology.

Among the types of medical equipment cardiologists use to make diagnoses are x-rays, electrocardiograms, magnetic resonance imaging, and ultrasound imaging. A cardiologist also conducts angiography, arteriography, and stress tests; and draws and examines samples of patients’ blood.

Education is part of the job. Cardiologists explain tests and procedures to patients. They also teach people about diet, exercise, and other components of a healthy lifestyle. These doctors work with a wide range of patients, from children to seniors.

The cardiologist job description includes:
  • Meet with patients to learn about their medical histories and symptoms
  • Conduct diagnostic tests to determine the cause and nature of disease
  • Examine and interpret test results, and explain them to patients
  • Discuss with patients possible treatment methods
  • Prescribe medication, conduct noninvasive procedures, and perform surgery
  • Coordinate medical staff for tests and procedure
  • Recommend postoperative care, and educate patients about how to lead healthier lives
  • Keep patient records
  • Obtain continuing education by attending conferences and reading medical publications

How to Become a Cardiologist

Cardiologists, especially those who perform invasive surgery, literally hold patients’ lives in their hands. This is a stressful position, because mistakes can result in death. Focus and attention to detail must be maintained while conducting tests and procedures.

Cardiologists spend a lot of time on their feet, especially during lengthy surgical procedures. Many work 60 hours or more per week, and are sometimes on call to respond to emergencies.This requires physical stamina. Cardiologists also must possess excellent communication skills to deal with patients and medical staff.

Cardiologist Education

Anyone wishing to become a cardiologist needs to understand that the position requires many years of education and training. It all starts in high school, when students interested in a medical career are advised to take classes in the sciences, including anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, and physics; and advanced math, such as algebra.

A four-year bachelor’s degree in a life science, from an accredited college or university, is the next step. During this time, pre-med students take courses in biology, chemistry, English, math, and physics. Many of them gain practical experience by volunteering at hospitals or clinics. Competition to enter medical schools are extremely fierce; consequently, only candidates with high grades, successful interviews and top scores on the MCAT exam land a spot.

Students entering any medical school are required to enrol in four years of an intense academic curriculum consisted of classwork and clinical experience. The first two years entails general science studies including anatomy,  embryology, microbiology, physiology, pharmacology, and pathology. After completing the first two years of medical school, students are expected to take part 1 of the USMLE exam. Upon passing the exam, students will continue with the remaining two years focused on clinical training.

After medical school, successful graduates wishing to become a cardiologist must enrol in a residency program in internal medicine. These are three-year programs. Resident doctors work alongside of licensed doctors under close supervision, but they are able to carry out the same functions and tasks. In addition, a two to three years fellowship in cardiology must be obtained before one can become a licensed cardiologist.

There are specialties within the cardiology program. These specialties are:

  • Cardiac electrophysiology:  study of electrical activities of the heart
  • Echocardiography: study of the heart using ultrasound technology
  • Interventional cardiology: study of structural and ischemic diseases of the heart using catheters
  • Nuclear cardiology: study of the heart using nuclear medicine

Specialties can often require students to take extra years beyond the standard cardiology fellowship. For example, interventional cardiology takes an additional one to two years to complete.

Cardiologist Certification

Every state mandates that cardiologists be licensed. Proof of having obtained the required education and training, and passing the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination, are the usual requirements. For information, visit the website of a state’s medical-licensing board or department of health.

The American Board of Medical Specialities provides certification for cardiologists. These doctors must obtain certificates in two specialties, such as cardiology and internal medicine.

Cardiologist Salary

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Cardiologist Job Description Summary

Here is a short recap of the cardiologist job description:
  • Sedate patients during medical surgery or examination
  • Work with surgeons and other specialists
  • 4 year bachelor’s degree
  • 4 year of medical school
  • 3 years of residency program
  • 2 to 3 years of fellowship program
  • Must be licensed to practice
  • 18% employment growth by 2022