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How to Become a Cardiologist

Becoming a cardiologist is a very challenging but rewarding career path. These doctors specialize in disease prevention by evaluating and treating cardiovascular issues. 

Cardiologists focus on the heart and the cardiovascular system. More than 80 million Americans have heart conditions, and in some demographics, it is the leading cause of death.

Since heart disease is so widespread, cardiologists can have a significant impact on the overall health of their local community. In this guide, we will cover all the requirements, programs, and certifications that will help you on your way to becoming a cardiologist.

What Is a Cardiologist?

A cardiologist is an expert physician who specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating medical conditions pertaining to the heart and blood vessels. Among the diseases they treat are coronary artery diseases, heart failure, arrhythmia, valvular heart diseases, congenital heart defects, and aneurysms.

There are different types of cardiologists, such as adult cardiologists, pediatric cardiologists, and interventional cardiologists. It is a complex field of medicine, but a cardiologists' basic tasks can be narrowed down to diagnosing, managing, and preventing cardiovascular disease. 

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 Counselling 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. 


As a cardiologist, you must know your way around all of the arteries and veins in the cardiovascular system. You must be very dextrous to carry out the precise, delicate surgical procedures. You will need to work with very small medical tools, such as catheters, balloons, and stents. 

Written and Verbal Communication

As a cardiologist, you must be able to communicate with your patients and colleagues. Strong communication skills are necessary, as doctors need to explain complex medical procedures to patients. 


An exceptional cardiologist will know how to lead and work with a team. You should have great intrapersonal and interpersonal skills in order to relate to patients and other staff. 


This is an essential quality for any health care provider. A compassionate cardiologist can help ensure that a patient sees positive results and experiences a full recovery.

Cardiologist Salaries and Job Outlook

A cardiologist's salary will vary depending on where they work, their experience and education, and their area of specialization. It is a high paying career with a lot of growth potential. The average salary of a cardiologist ranges from $343,000 to $400,000 per year.

With many people making unhealthy lifestyle choices, the number of cardiovascular patients is on the rise. This means there will continue to be a high demand for cardiologists. 

How Long Does It Take to Become a Cardiologist?

Cardiologists can work in hospitals, at private practices, or even at university medical centers. However, before you can gain employment as a cardiologist, you must obtain a formal medical education. To get a medical license, you will first need to complete your bachelor's degree and four years of medical school. 

After four years of education, you will need to sign up for a three-year medical residency. This residency will help you meet cardiology experts who can help you develop your skills. You might also want to look into furthering your education by signing up for a specialized cardiology fellowship, which takes two years.

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. 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

Once you graduate from medical school, you will need to complete a three-year residency program in internal medicine. This is a good opportunity to make connections that will help you gain admission into a fellowship program. You should sign up for these fellowships while in the third year of your residency.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

Should You Become a Cardiologist in 2021?

If you are looking for a highly-paid and fulfilling job, it’s worth considering cardiology. Many patients rely on cardiologists to improve their livelihoods. As a doctor in this field, you will be instrumental in improving the quality of life for many and can help patients detect heart issues early on. 

As a cardiologist, you will provide essential care and treatment that your patient cannot obtain anywhere else.


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.
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