How to become

How to become a Cardiologist

How to become a Cardiologist


Cardiology is the medical field that focuses on conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. You may also counsel patients regarding cholesterol management and cardiac fitness. Cardiology is the study and treatment of disorders of the heart and the blood vessels. A person with heart disease or cardiovascular disease may be referred to a cardiologist. Cardiology is a branch of internal medicine. A cardiologist is not the same as a cardiac surgeon. A cardiac surgeon opens the chest and performs heart surgery.

A cardiologist specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the cardiovascular system. The cardiologist will carry out tests, and they may perform some procedures, such as heart catheterizations, angioplasty, or inserting a pacemaker.

What Does a Cardiologist Do? 

Cardiologists use their skills to diagnose, assess, and stop the spread of heart disease. Below are a few of the main roles of cardiologists.

  • Perform Physical Examinations

Cardiologists conduct many tests to determine a patient’s prognosis. These tests include electrocardiograms, known as ECG or EKG, ambulatory cardiograms, exercise tests, stress tests, echocardiograms, and cardiac catheterizations. All of these tests are essential in establishing which heart defect a patient has, which determines the appropriate treatment method.

  • Recommend Lifestyle Changes

Cardiologists must also help their patients make drastic lifestyle changes to get healthy. They give advice on the diets that will help patients maintain a healthy weight, and how to manage blood pressure and stress. They also advise the best type of physical activity for each patient. 

  • Prescribe Treatments

After a cardiologist diagnoses an ailment, they must prescribe the correct medicine for the patient.

  • Provide Counseling Services

Counseling services are vital for helping patients prevent further heart and blood vessel damage.

  • Ensure Compliance

Cardiologists ensure that their colleagues and medical residency students adhere to relevant health care rules and regulations.

Essential Cardiologist Skills 

Becoming a cardiologist requires more than just a certificate. You will need to develop a set of soft and hard skills. Many doctors have extensive knowledge about the cardiovascular system but never land their dream job. This can be due to a lack of interpersonal skills, so it is important to develop skills in all areas.

Below are the essential skills you must possess to become successful in medicine.

Complex Problem Solving

Hospitals treat patients with a wide variety of ailments. As a cardiologist, you will need to identify the problems your patient is facing to make sure you are administering the proper treatment. There are many types of cardiovascular ailments, so it can be difficult to determine which specific problem a patient is suffering from. 

Critical Thinking

A cardiologist must know which ailment a patient is suffering from, the treatment they require, and what types of follow-up sessions are necessary. A cardiologist must be able to think critically, as a small mistake in diagnosis can be fatal. A high level of knowledge and discernment will help a cardiologist select the most appropriate procedures and treatments.

Ability to Perform Very Complex Surgical Techniques

Cardiologists must have a range of movement involving their bodies, especially the hands since mistakes can be fatal. To increase agility, they should work out their hands, repeatedly stretching their thumbs, opening and closing motions of the entire hand and strength-building exercises like squeezing a ball. They must also practice hand-eye coordination since their work in small areas with extremely sharp tools and equipment. 

Good Communication Skills 

Having good communication skills is essential for you to have with patients and staff. Their terminology is complex, yet they must give detailed explanations for why things are done. There are several benefits to a cardiologist having good communication skills. Some of those are:

  • Good communication builds trust between the doctor and patient.
  • Good communication improves patient satisfaction and understanding of their ailments.
  • Good communication increases the patients’ compliance with advice.

Attention to Detail

Attention to detail ensures the best health for your patients. As a cardiologist, your work is detailed and precise in the office and operating room. They must pay attention to all details and be able to spot and treat problems quickly and efficiently. 

Organizational Skills

As a doctor dealing with complex information, confidential data, and medications, a cardiologist must have concise and well-organized records to manage different patients. Good organizational skills will save a doctor from misdiagnosis or missing important information and clues about treatment and care.


Cardiac surgery can take many hours. Therefore, stamina to handle long days on the surgical floor in a hospital ward is imperative. 


Patience is a required skill for cardiologists since patients’ problems cannot usually get resolved overnight. A care plan for some take time to get used to, and patience will save the doctor a lot of frustration


Compassion is critical for any health care provider but especially a cardiologist. Understanding that many patients are in life-threatening circumstances makes having a heart during this time even more essential.


Knowledge-based confidence is noticeable, and patients want to know that their doctor knows what he is doing with their treatment. Although there is a fine line, confidence does not include cockiness or arrogance. Instead, knowing the information to substantiate your treatment plan for the patient conveys confidence.

Pros and cons of becoming a cardiologist

Pros of becoming a cardiologist:

  • Pay

Doctors’ salaries are high in the United States; it’s one reason why everyone’s mother wants them to become a doctor. Cardiologists can earn over $386,000 annually.

  • Respect

“Doctor” is the most-respected profession in the United States.

  • Save lives

To quote a TV doctor, Derek Shepherd of Grey’s Anatomy fame, “It’s a beautiful day to save lives.” You’ll get to do exactly that as a cardiologist.

  • Specialization

A complex system like the heart and blood vessels opens the doors to specialization. Whether it’s interventional cardiology or pediatrics, you’ll likely find a cardiac specialty with study and practice.

Cons of becoming a cardiologist

  • Cost

Becoming a cardiologist isn’t cheap; the average medical school debt is over $200,000 .

  • Time

Undergrad, med school, residency, fellowship—all combined, it can take 15 years (or more) to become a practicing cardiologist. These medical school tips can help you along your way.

  • Hours

You will work long hours as a cardiologist, and you’ll often be on call overnight and on weekends.

  • Bearer of bad news

You will frequently have to deliver bad news to patients and their families. It can be emotionally challenging.

  • Malpractice

Even doing your job perfectly—and who does any job perfectly?—there’s no guarantee you won’t be sued. According to Medscape, 60 percent of cardiologists are named in a medical malpractice lawsuit at least once in their careers, according to a 2017 study.

  • Stress

It seems obvious, given the aforementioned hours, heavy emotional toll, and potential legal issues. As a cardiologist, the responsibility of saving the lives of patients can put stress on your own heart, and even raise your blood pressure.

What Patients Look for When Choosing a Cardiologist

As stated above, some patients don’t get a choice in selecting a cardiologist because they are rushed to the hospital in an emergency situation. However, now that you know how to become a cardiologist, consider what patients who have the opportunity to look at when making the personal decision and selecting the right doctor for themselves.

  1. Patients research a doctor’s credentials
  2. Patients use referrals from their primary care doctor
  3. Patients consider the cardiologists experience
  4. Patients examine the doctors communication style
  5. Patients research the hospital or doctors office reputation
  6. Patients read other patient reviews
  7. Patients figure out what office/care their insurance company will cover

Types of Cardiologists

With the United States having over 80 million people who suffer from complex heart issues, there is great need for these specialists. Within the discipline, there are several different types of cardiologists. Some of those subspecialties are:

  • Clinical cardiologists

Clinical cardiologists are doctors who diagnose, confirm and manage heart disease. If you develop an abnormal heart rhythm or angina or have had a heart attack, a clinical cardiologist is necessary for your care. Clinical cardiologists also coordinate patient care with physicians and surgeons.

  • Interventional cardiologists

Interventional cardiologists are trained to “intervene” with additional minimally invasive procedures to treat coronary artery disease, valve disease, peripheral artery disease, and carotid artery disease. They specialize in invasive but non-surgical procedures for cardiac patients. 

  • Electrophysiologist 

An electrophysiologist or EP is a specialist primarily concerned with electrical activities in the heart. They perform catheter ablations and implanted electrical devices like pacemakers to develop fast or slow irregular heart rhythms. 

  • Heart failure specialists

Heart failure specialists have expertise in managing symptoms and delaying the progression of a patient’s heart failure. They monitor the severity and counsel patients on treatment. 

  • Cardiac imaging specialists 

Cardiac imaging specialists are doctors who use advanced imaging machines to diagnose heart disease. The test includes a stress test with imaging, echocardiography, and cardiac MRI and CT scans. 

  • Congenital heart specialists 

Congenital heart specialists detect and treat abnormalities that occur in birth called congenital heart problems. These problems are detected at birth, early childhood, or late adulthood and are an ovale or hole in their hearts. 

  • Cardio-oncologists 

Cardio-oncologists are cardiologists who treat cardiac patients with cancer. Cardio-oncologists are needed because some chemotherapy agents and certain forms of radiation therapy are toxic to the heart. Cardio-oncologists do what they can to help minimize more damage to the heart as they get cancer treatment. 

  • Preventative cardiologists 

Preventative cardiologists treat patients with a high risk of cardiac failure or have had a heart attack or stroke at a young age. They evaluate a patient’s risk and develop plans.

  • Cardiac rehabilitation specialists 

Cardiac rehabilitation specialists are cardiologists who design and monitor exercise and nutritional programs for the patient to have a robust and healthy heart.

  • Cardiac surgeons 

Cardiac surgeons perform heart surgeries such as bypass grafting, surgery on the aorta, or a valve replacement or repair that cannot occur through a catheter. 

  • Pediatric cardiologist 

A pediatric cardiologist is a cardiologist for a pediatric patient. Pediatric cardiologist patients range from a fetus or infant to early adulthood. Pediatric cardiologists deal with heart issues that are hereditary or acquired.

  • Cardiothoracic surgeons 

Cardiothoracic surgeons are specialist cardiologists trained to perform surgery on the heart, lungs, and thorax. They fix or repair damaged or faulty heart valves and aneurysms in the chest.

Required Education to Become a Cardiologist

There are several prerequisites to enrolling in medical school. You must have at least one year each of biology, math,  biochemistry, humanities, and clinical experience. You should also meet your chosen school’s minimum MCAT score requirement. Then, you can complete your total of six years of general and specialized medical training.

How to Become a Cardiologist: A Step-by-Step Guide

This guide will help you get familiar with the steps you need to take to become a cardiologist.

Step 1: Get a bachelor’s degree

To start pursuing a career in medicine, you will need to first complete an undergraduate health or science-related degree. Prior to entering medical school, you need to have completed premedical courses as an undergraduate. These courses include inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and biology. The coursework of these programs will be focused on math and the sciences. You must perform well in all of your undergraduate classes to be considered for admission to medical school.

Step 2: Take the Medical College Admissions Test

This is a standardized multiple-choice assessment test. It is used to assess critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and general science knowledge. Medical schools will require that you present your MCAT scores for admissions consideration. The minimum score necessary for entrance varies from one medical school to the next. 

Step 3: Enroll in medical school

The next step is to attend a medical school program. You can choose whether you want to become a medical doctor or a doctor of osteopathic medicine. In the first two years of school, you will take basic science courses such as anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, and microbiology.

In your third year of medical school, you will apply your knowledge and skills in a hospital setting. In this portion, you must complete clinical rotations in medical specialties such as gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and general surgery.

Step 4: Complete the United States Medical Licensing Exams

After you have finished your first two years of medical school, you can sit for the first part of the USMLE. This 300-question test takes up to eight hours. You will complete the second and third parts of the examination in your final year of medical school. 

Step 5: Complete a cardiology residency

You’ll begin your postgraduate training with a 3-year residency in internal medicine. During your residency, you’ll complete a series of clinical rotations in different internal medicine specialties, such as respiratory medicine, cardiology, oncology, endocrinology and gastroenterology. Participating in research during your residency may make you more competitive when applying for fellowships.

Step 6: Get certified by the board

Now that you have completed your residency, you can get certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.If you plan to earn subspecialty certification in cardiology, you must first earn board certification in internal medicine after completing your residency. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) regulates board certification for allopathic physicians, while the American Osteopathic Association is the osteopathic counterpart. 

Step 7: Join a fellowship program

Once you are certified, you can join a general cardiology fellowship program, which will take up to three years to finish. At this stage, you will learn more about preventing, diagnosing, and managing heart and cardiovascular conditions. You will learn everything from simple procedures such as how to analyze heart rhythms to complicated procedures such as heart catheterization.  

Best Programs and Courses to Become Cardiologist

There are plenty of resources and courses online that will help you become a cardiologist. Enrolling in an accredited school is vital to success in this field. Below is a list of some of the best available courses and programs for cardiologists.

  • Masters in Cardiovascular Science

Provider: University College London

Time: 1 year

Cost: N/A

Prerequisites: N/A

In this program, students will learn about molecular and cellular cardiovascular science. The class also covers cardiovascular biology and heart functions. By the end of this course, you will have gained valuable research skills and also learned the ethical and social aspects of developments in cardiovascular disease.

  • Master in Cardiovascular Research

Provider: Vrije University

Time: 2 years

Cost: $2,900

Prerequisites: N/A

This program teaches students how to diagnose and treat heart diseases. It focuses on significant heart diseases such as thrombosis, myocardial infarction, and diabetes.

  • MRes in Biomedical Research: Cardiovascular Sciences

Provider: University of Birmingham

Time: 2 years

Cost: $12,400

Prerequisites: N/A

In this course, you will study the key elements in biomedical research, scientific writing, and critical analysis and presentation skills. You will also complete a module on experimental cardiovascular techniques. 

  • It Starts with Your Heart: Understanding Heart and Circulatory Diseases Course

Provider: British Heart Foundation

Time: 3 weeks

Cost: N/A

Prerequisites: N/A

This is an excellent course if you want to learn more about cardiovascular ailments. It covers how to explain cardiovascular diseases, describe the factors that led to the condition, and discuss treatment options with a patient. The course is taught in London and is open to anyone.

  • ECG Assessment: an Introduction for Healthcare Providers Course

Provider: St. George’s / University of London

Time: 2 weeks

Cost: N/A

Prerequisites: N/A

This is a great introductory course to ECGs. In it, you will learn what ECGs are, how they are used, and how to make records of them. You will also study how to recognize normal sinus rhythm and troubleshoot ECG challenges. The course is open to all health care providers.

  • Cardiologist Certificates

Below are the top certificates you should consider to advance your knowledge and expertise as a cardiologist. The American Board of Internal Medicine is the main certification agency for cardiologists.

  • Interventional Cardiology Certification

To get this certificate, you must complete formal training and meet procedure requirements in the clinical training pathway. You must also prove your area of specialization. 

  • Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology Certification

To get this accreditation, you must demonstrate clinical competence, procedural skills, and ethical behavior in a clinical setup. 

  • Advanced Certificate in Clinical Cardiology

This certificate course covers all common cardiological conditions. It teaches basic and advanced life support and gives students access to global case studies. It takes up to three months to complete and costs $692.

Cardiologists Job Growth Trends and Salaries

As an in-demand career, cardiologists typically work in both doctor offices and in hospitals. In offices, they see patients who are referred by other doctors for either maintenance of heart related issues or those suspected of having heart related issues. In a hospital, cardiologists are the first line of care for those coming in emergency cases or already in active heart attack or stroke mode. 

The national average salary for a Cardiologist is $3,86,026 in United States. Filter by location to see Cardiologist salaries in your area. Salary estimates are based on 447 salaries submitted anonymously to Glassdoor by Cardiologist employees.

Cardiologist is a career with a better than average outlook. Expected growth of 13 percent is expected until 2026. The drivers of growth in this field is populations and rise in aging. Technological advancements also make it easier for people to get non-invasive and invasive cardiology treatments and services. 

Salary ranges vary based on the state where you practice and experience but average salaries range is:

Years of Experience Expected Salary Range

  • 1-2 Years $354,337 – $394,412
  • 3-4 Years $357,420 – $397,495
  • 5-6 Years $359,475 – $399,550
  • 7-9 Years $365,640 – $404,688
  • 10-14 Years $378,999 – $422,557
  • 15-19 Years $392,357 – $441,916
  • 20 or More Years $397,495 – $449,361 

Cardiologist FAQ

What is the work environment of a cardiologist?

A cardiologist can work in many different locations. You may choose to work individually in private practice, as part of a cardiovascular group, or in a variety of hospitals.

What shifts do cardiologists work?

The shifts of a cardiologist vary. Most work 50 to 60 hours a week. However, this depends on the number of patients and their specific needs. Most cardiologists work weekends, evenings, and holidays to ensure their patients receive the best care.

Do cardiologists conduct surgery?

Cardiologists are responsible for diagnosing, treating, and preventing conditions of the heart using medication. They do not perform surgery. However, they often work in conjunction with cardiothoracic surgeons to carry out surgery to correct a cardiovascular issue.