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What are the Different Cardiology Careers?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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There are many cardiology careers that include a number of subspecialties in cardiology studies that are held by doctors. Yet this field is not just limited to physicians — people interested in cardiology careers could be medical assistants, medical technicians or technologists, nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants. Main areas of cardiology, which could employ any of these trained medical workers, are split between cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery. Furthermore, there is a distinction made, in most cases, between people who work in cardiology/cardiac surgery and pediatric cardiology/pediatric cardiothoracic surgery.

People who plan to work as doctors in adult cardiology typically spend three years after becoming doctors learning about internal medicine before taking on a three-year cardiology residency. Those who stop at the three-year point in this residency are typically simply called cardiologists, and would be most likely to work in doctor’s offices with patients who need examination and medical intervention. Cardiologists do have the option to specialize in some types of intervention or testing, though it should be noted that not all doctors specialize and they may still perform many of the exams or procedures cardiology subspecialists do. Moreover, a doctor who further specializes might have a thriving practice and treat patients who don’t necessarily need the doctor’s area of specialty.

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With additional studies, a doctor could become an echocardiologist, and his/her career might most include studying and performing echocardiograms (sonograms or ultrasounds of the heart), which can be performed directly on the chest wall, or by using a Doppler exam in the esophagus, called transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). Another cardiology career that can become an area of specialty is interventional cardiology. Interventional cardiologists may be most expert at performing procedures like cardiac catheterization and any related enlargement of veins through balloon angiography or through stent placement.

In contrast, electrophysiologists are most expert at diagnosing rhythm problems in the heart and treating them. Treatment may include catheterization that reaches the heart to ablate or get rid of tissue causing arrhythmias. Other cardiologists specialize in nuclear cardiology and are expert in performing tests like stress tests that may diagnose various types of heart disease or damage.

These same subspecialties repeat in pediatric cardiology but the path and focus is slightly different. Pediatric cardiologists finish medical school and then compete a three-year residency in pediatrics. A three-year residency in pediatric cardiology follows this and the decision to pursue a subspecialty may mean one to two more years’ study. Cardiothoracic surgeons follow different training paths too, learning general surgery first, before specializing in cardiology or pediatric surgery and then cardiothoracic surgery.

Trained medical professionals support any practice of cardiology and cardiology careers exist for acute care or pediatric nurse practitioners. Some physician’s assistants can specialize in this area too. Intensive care nurses could work specifically in cardiac units and thus have cardiology careers. A variety of technician and technologist jobs become cardiology careers too. There are echocardiogram technicians, for instance, who have been trained in radiology and received advanced training on performing echocardiograms, which are then reviewed by physicians.

In surgery, the additional cardiology careers are no less diverse. Nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants and nurses may assist surgeons or anesthesiologists who principally work in cardiac cases. In particular, nurse practitioners often work in pediatric cardiology surgery as an additional layer of communication between surgeons and families who have children requiring surgical procedures. Operating rooms are also filled with a variety of surgical assistants and nurses.

It’s fairly obvious to see that there are many cardiology careers. Which ones are of most interest may depend on the individual and how much time it would take to train for each job. Those considering cardiothoracic surgery or simply any physician cardiac specialty can expect to take years mastering the skills needed. While these jobs sit at the top of the pay scale, there are also good paying cardiology careers that require less training, like registered nursing or echo technology. Many find these fields areas of work quite interesting, and know their work is vital to the practice of this medical field.

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