How to Become a Cardiologist in the US

Cardiology is a specialty in internal medicine that focuses on the heart. Cardiologists are physicians who diagnose and treat strokes, atherosclerosis and other disorders, injuries and diseases involving the earth and blood vessels. If you are an aspiring cardiologist, you must be prepared to undergo many years of education and training.

What do cardiologists do?

The duties of cardiologists include:

  • Performing diagnostic tests to diagnose heart diseases – Examples of tests used to detect heart diseases include nuclear imaging, ultrasound, invasive testing and physical examination.
  • Determining the causes of the diagnosed diseases.
  • Holding discussions on possible treatment methods with patients.
  • Performing surgeries and administering other treatment methods to treat the diagnosed disease.
  • Advising patients on how to avoid or manage heart conditions.

Work environment

Like many physicians, cardiologists have irregular work schedules. They can attend to patients during the day, night or weekend. To thrive in this profession, you must be dedicated to saving lives. When on leave, you are still expected to report to work when required.

Cardiologists in private practice, however, have more control over their work schedules.

The job can be physically draining, since cardiologists spend long periods of time on their feet, especially when conducting surgeries.


Cardiology is one of the most lucrative professions in the world. After spending several years in medical school, your efforts will be reward handsomely. The following table highlights the average annual salaries for various cardiologists:


Annual wage

Cardiac/Thoracic Cardiologists

$360,000 - $522, 875

Invasive Cardiologist

$272,000 - $402,000

Pediatric Cardiologist

$189,000 - $230,900

Depending on mode of practice and level of experience, the annual wage could rise to as high as $811,000.

Source: Healthcare Salaries

Education and training

The educational requirements for becoming a cardiologist are pretty much similar to those of other types of physicians, except in the advanced stages.

As such, you must complete the following steps:

  • Earn a bachelor of science degree, preferably in biology, chemistry, physics or nursing (3-4 years)
  • Join medical school and pursue a medical degree (4 years) –You must first pass the Medical College Admission Test
  • Complete a residency program internal medicine (2-6 years)
  • Complete a fellowship program in cardiology (1-3 years). Here, you can specialize in echocardiography, nuclear cardiology, interventional cardiology or cardiac electrophysiology
  • Obtain a license to practice from you state’s board of medicine.

At this point, you can attend to your first patient!

Important qualities

It takes more than the education and training to be a well-rounded cardiologist. You need the following skills and abilities:

  • The ability to interpret specialized test results
  • The ability to concentrate for long without losing focus
  • The confidence to make decisions during emergencies
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Good eye-hand coordination
  • Manual dexterity
  • The willingness to undertake continuing professional education
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Practical and technical skills.

Career development

Given the high salaries cardiologists earn, it is not surprising that most of them spend their entire careers practicing cardiology.

This does not mean there aren’t any advancement opportunities. If you are ambitious, undertake the following steps:

  • Obtain a certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine
  • Pursue a post-doctoral program in cardiology

Job opportunities

The employers of cardiologists include:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Healthcare organizations

With experience, you can move into private practicing by establish your own heart clinic. If you wish to nurture future cardiologists in medical schools, the post-doctoral degree will enable you to do so.

If you though the salary was the only rewarding thing about cardiology, hold on! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of health diagnosing and treating practitioners will grow at a faster-than-average rate (20 percent) from 2012 through 2022.

So if you are keen on helping people keep their hearts healthy, your only hurdle is to complete the educational and training requirements.

Image: iStock