Becoming a cardiologist is no easy task. Cardiology is a competitive and challenging discipline, not for the faint of heart!
When dealing with issues of the heart, extensive education and training is required for cardiologists. Cardiology is not a surgical specialty, but they are the go-to doctors for heart attacks and other pathologies such as irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The journey to becoming a cardiologist starts with obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a science-related or medical background. Many undergraduates choose biology or chemistry as their major, however some schools offer degrees focused on cardiovascular technology.
After completing a four-year program, students prepare for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). The majority of medical schools require applicants take the MCAT in order to gain admission to a graduate program. Upon entering into a graduate program, students have the option to pursue a Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. An M.D. diagnoses and treats symptoms and issues that are specifically presented to them, taking a more targeted approach, while a D.O. takes a more holistic approach. Using the same conventional methods as an M.D., a D.O. will take into consideration all parts of the body, including the patient’s mind and emotions during treatment.
The first two years of graduate school are spent studying subjects relative to cardiology, such as pharmacology, psychology, and anatomy, as well as learning how to interview patients, review medical histories, and perform examinations. The final two years of graduate school are spent in clinical rotations under the supervision of doctors. This gives the students firsthand knowledge of how to diagnose and treat their future patients.
Upon graduation from medical school, physicians must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination. Once passed, future cardiologists take part in an internal medicine residency program to further their knowledge on their subspecialty of choice. These programs take about three years to complete.
Once a cardiologist finishes their residency, they will apply for a fellowship. A fellowship offers a cardiologist advanced training and the ability to develop additional skills in their subspecialty. Once completed, the next step is to become board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. If passed, a cardiologist is officially board certified to practice.