One of the most in-demand physician careers nowadays is that of a cardiologist. It’s also among the tremendously competitive specialties making it a harder path for aspiring candidates.
But with the right mindset, hard work, and dedication, you can be the cardiologist you dream of becoming.
In this post, we’re going over how you can become a cardiologist as well as other essential topics that will guide and inspire you in the process.
Let’s get right into it!
What Is A Cardiologist
First, let’s tackle what cardiologist is.
A Cardiologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating various conditions of the heart and blood vessels, otherwise known as the cardiovascular system.
Cardiologists carry out tests and perform procedures to detect any cardiovascular conditions although they don’t execute heart surgeries (which really is the role of a cardiac surgeon).
If you have heart disease, suspect to have one, or just want to learn about your risk factors, you can go visit a cardiologist. Oftentimes though, it’s your primary care physician who refers you to a cardiologist should there be a need for it.
The cardio doctor will then evaluate your symptoms and medical history, recommend and carry out tests, and manage your condition with medication or other treatments. Your cardiologist may also refer you to other specialists if needed, but you remain under his or her care regardless.
How Do You Become A Cardiologist
Studying cardiology is one of the longest and most rigorous physician training. You need at least 13 years of education and training after high school to become a specialized cardio doctor.
(Note: If you want a quick reference to how long it takes to become a doctor in various specialties, read this post here.)
Here’s a breakdown of how long it takes to become one:
1. College (3-4 years)
You first need a bachelor’s degree to qualify for med school. There is no hard rule as to what pre-med bachelor degree to get, but it seems logical to opt for courses that are heavy in math or science as this will build your foundation.
To be competitive and to have a strong GPA are paramount so you get a better chance at scoring well on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Volunteering in medical outreach or medical-related activities is also a huge plus.
2. Med School (4 years)
The four years in med school is where the rigor essentially begins. The first two years will be classroom-based where you’ll take courses in the basic sciences – biochemistry, anatomy, microbiology, pathology, neuroscience, pharmacology, etc.
By the end of year two, the most important exam in your med school life comes – USMLE Step 1. The test assesses how well you understand and can apply the basic sciences concepts to the practice of medicine. (You can find more about the test here.)
The latter half of med school is where you’ll apply your learnings from the first two years in the actual hospital setting. You’ll undergo clinical rotations such as in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and General Surgery.
You’ll also be taking the USMLE Step 2 in the final year which consists of two different exams- Step 2 CK (knowledge-based) and Step 2 CS (skills-based).
During the final year of med school, you will also start applying to residency programs as well as conduct research that will strengthen your chances of securing a residency slot.
3. Residency (3 years)
Aspiring cardiologists are also required to do a three-year residency in Internal Medicine. This stage is called a ‘categorical training’ where you’ll learn to evaluate and manage various medical conditions.
(This is also where I’m in at the time of writing. If you want to know what it’s like being a new doctor in residency, check out our post here.)
It is also during this time where you’ll work your hardest to gain the best standing possible so it will be easier to secure a cardiology fellowship. You will also benefit from gaining exposure to leaders in that field who can write you good letters of recommendation.
After this basic internal medicine residency training, you can now choose to subspecialize in cardiology for yet another three years. This will be your tenth year once completed.
This journey is called the General Cardiology Fellowship where you’ll delve into a much deeper training in cardiology and start managing heart patients, performing basic procedures and monitoring clinic patients (this is when you start feeling like a real heart doctor).
If you wish to specialize further, here are the advanced sub-specialties of cardiology (more training time is required of course).
This is where you’ll manage patients with complex heart failures (heart transplant, artificial heart devices, etc.). Often, you’ll work closely with heart surgeons to take care of very ill patients.
Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellowship (1-2 years)
This one to two years of additional fellowship trains you to manage patients with cardiac dysrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms). You most likely will implant pacemakers or other cardiac devices.
Interventional Cardiology (1-2 years)
Interventional cardiologists diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease with invasive methods. Think of doctors who rush to someone who had a heart attack. They open and treat blocked arteries.
Becoming a cardiologist is a serious undertaking as evident from the years of training it takes to complete it (not to mention the years of research).
It’s no wonder why the profession is rewarded with a great salary. It’s often among the top 5 highest paying professions (alongside anesthesiologists, surgeons, and others) on various compensation data providers.
Salary.com gives us a real-time estimate of a cardiologist’s salary range. Here’s a quick summary:
|Type of Cardiologist||Average Annual Salary:||Range||Average Hourly Rate:||Range|
|Invasive Cardiologist||$422,686||$285,344- $621,768||$203||$137- $299|
|Non-Invasive Cardiologist||$388,436||$247,841- $544,766||$187||$119- $262|
|$275,264||$187,358- $418,840||$132||$90- $201|
This alone makes it a very attractive profession, even more so when we consider the bonuses and other valuable benefits (healthcare, social security, disability, pension, etc.)
Physician and surgeon jobs, including cardiology, have been in high-demand and are expected to grow 7% faster than average between 2018-2028. That’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This is mainly driven by the growing and aging populations which increases the demand for physician services. It’s growing despite improved medical technologies.
But should healthcare costs become more unaffordable for consumers, this data will likely change.
What Does The Typical Day Of A Cardiologist Look Like?
A cardiologist has one of the busiest schedules which typically involves seeing their patients and performing procedures every single day (even those out-of-hours work!).
In the morning, a cardiologist tends to patients in the hospital seeing them on ward rounds. He or she monitors their conditions, decides to update or correct the treatment, and reports back to the patients’ primary care physicians.
It’s also common to see newly admitted patients who collapsed while walking or had difficulty breathing. The cardio doctor then sees what can be done to these patients (surgery, pacemaker, etc.) and calls on colleagues to get involved.
During lunch, a cardio doctor may tend to urgent paper works with his or her secretary before starting with a busier afternoon.
The afternoon is usually spent in the laboratory reading scans, and performing angioplasty, stenting coronary arteries, inserting pacemakers and other procedures. After that are clinic visits with new patients or following up with existing ones.
It’s also often a late finish for most cardio doctors who have to spend the evening to catch up on emails, dealing issues with medical students, and others.
Note: You may want to see more detailed versions of what a typical day of a cardiologist looks like on this post or this YouTube video. Check them out!
Top Cardiologists On Instagram
If you are looking for cardiologists to follow on instagram, we’ve rounded up ten of them below. There they promote their practices as well as many personal aspects of their lives and interest. Go ahead and reach out!
- Dr. Juan Rivera, Preventative Cardiologist, Univision Chief Medical Correspondent
- Dr. Danielle Belardo, Cardiologist, Prevention and Plant-Based Nutrition Advocate
- Dr. Ali Haider, Interventional Cardiologist, Traveler, Chef
- Dr. Joel Kah, Cardiologist, University Professor, Author, Speaker
- Dr. Jay Mohan, Interventional Cardiologist
- Dr. Hafiza Khan, Cardiac Electrophysiologist
- Dr. Ozlem Bilen, Cardiologist, Assistant Cardiology Professor, Diversity Advocate
- Dr. Antonino Di Franco, Cardiologist, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Scuba
- Dr. Sandy Charles, Cardiologist, Specializing in Women’s Heart Health
- Dr. Sarika Desai, Cardiologist, Professor, Holistic Health Advocate
Top Books About Cardiology
If you are looking for cardiology books to read, here are some good ones from Amazon:
- Alpha Docs: The Making Of A Cardiologist by Daniel Munoz
- Human Heart, Cosmic Heart: A Doctor’s Quest to Understand, Treat, and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease by Thomas Cowan, MD
- Pathophysiology of Heart Disease: A Collaborative Project of Medical Students and Faculty by Leonard S. Lilly, MD
- Rapid Interpretation of EKG’s, Sixth Edition by Dale Dublin, MD
- Stop America’s #1 Killer by JD Levy, MD and Julian Whitaker, MD (Foreword)
I hope you enjoyed this post on how to become a cardiologist. May this help you on the journey you’re about to take or is now taking.
You may also want to check out these posts:
Which Medical School Should I Apply To? [4 Things To Consider]
A Typical Day Of A Medical Student
How Long Does It Take To Be A Doctor? [Detailed Breakdown]
37 Types Of Careers In Medicine
8 Jobs After Medical School Without Residency
How To Study in Medical School [Ultimate Guide]
I’d like to also share with you our step-by-step video course on how you can study in medical school faster! It’s free, just sign up here!
Finally, here’s our top-selling bundle, TheMDJourney Triple Bundle, to teach you how to study efficiently throughout medical school to not just survive but thrive in it. Go ahead and click that link!
Until the next one my friends…