Cardiologists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating heart problems. As well as enjoying a fulfilling career, cardiologists are among some of the highest paid professionals in the U.S. Want to know how much a cardiologist makes? Read on, as we’ll take a look at a cardiologist’s average salary, key responsibilities, typical work environment and career path.
What is the average salary for a cardiologist? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary in 2012 was $55,210 per annum. The top 10% of earners in this field made $84,940 annually, whereas the lowest 10% earned $28,110.
Salary is determined by a number of factors. Annual income varies with specialization. Generally, cardiac surgeons who perform invasive procedures undertake more training and have more responsibility, thus command higher salaries than cardiologists who carry out non-invasive treatments. Income also rises proportionally with job experience. Entry-level positions come with starting salaries of around $28,110. Professionals employed in private clinics tend to earn more than those contracted by hospitals. Lastly, earnings also vary by state; the top 5 paying states are Alaska, District of Columbia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington.
On top of their salaries, cardiologists enjoy generous benefit packages, consisting of health care, social security, pension plans, and time-off.
Cardiologists treat problems of the heart and associated blood vessels. Before scheduled appointments, a patient’s medical history must be reviewed, as previous problems can help cardiologists analyze the patient’s current condition. They will then perform an array of diagnostic tests to determine the problem. Each test tells the doctor something different, allowing them to better tailor the medical care they provide.
Diagnostic tests can be non-invasive, which include ultra-sound scans and other imaging, or invasive. A common invasive procedure is cardiac catheterization. Thanks to anesthetics, it’s a painless process which involves inserting a catheter into a major blood vessel, such as in one’s thigh. The catheter is a tube which allows other instruments to be inserted and guided into the heart. From these instrument’s readings, doctors can accurately gauge the patient’s heart condition.
After diagnostic testing, cardiologists review their results, and based on their findings, formulate a treatment plan. Treatment can also be both non-invasive and invasive. Cardiologists perform non-invasive procedures such as prescribing medication and helping patient’s lead healthier lifestyles that promote heart health. On the other hand, cardiac surgeons may implant pacemakers or defibrillators which help to regulate heart functions.
Cardiologists work in clean, well-lit, sterile environments. They are typically employed in private offices or clinics, and work alongside small support teams of nurses and administrative staff. Their time is divided between office settings, to complete paperwork or review records, and their assigned hospital in which they treat patients.
The profession is known for its long hours, as many professionals consistently work over 40 hours per week. When doctors are on call, they may have to rush off to hospital to provide urgent care, as people can have heart attacks at any time. Thus, work schedules are often outside of normal business hours, with many doctors being called out on weekends or during the night.
The profession is both emotionally and physically demanding. Days are typically long and hectic, as cardiologists juggle administrative tasks and treating patients. They spend a lot of their day on their feet, and travel frequently between different hospitals and offices. Frustration comes from dealing with patients who are unwilling, or struggle, to change their unhealthy lifestyles, which undoes the cardiologists’ good work.
Professionals also rank their occupation highly in job satisfaction, which is attributed to seeing the positive results of their work, and often saving lives in the process.
How to become a Cardiologist
The road to a career in cardiology is not for the faint-hearted. Individuals can expect to be in education and training for as long as 16 years before becoming a licensed professional.
Obtaining a license involves first becoming a general medical doctor. This is an 8 year process, split into a 4 year Bachelor’s degree program, then 4 years in medical school. Bachelor’s degrees can be attained in a variety of fields, such as biology, chemistry or physics. Competition for places in medical school is notoriously high, with admissions teams assessing applicant’s leadership skills, grades, personality and extra-curricular interests. Additionally, admission requires you to make it through an interview process, as well as passing an entrance exam.
The first two years of medical school combine laboratory work and classroom study, with students taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, and pharmacology. The remaining two years are spent working with patients, under the supervision of licensed doctors. Students rotate through different disciplines to gain experience in an array of fields. After medical school, graduates complete 2-4 year internships specializing in cardiology, and may opt to complete a further 4 years in residency, gaining additional training and experience.
Graduates can then apply for licensure. Requirements vary by state, though all require graduation from an accredited medical school, as well as passing relevant licensing exams.
Now is a great time to enter the profession. Employment opportunities are expected to grow by 24% in the 2010-2020 projection period (BLS). Demand is fueled by multiple factors.
As the baby-boom population ages, more cardiologists will be needed to treat age-related heart conditions. Also, as life expectancy increases, more treatment is needed throughout people’s lifetimes, which drives demand for all medical professions.
With current emphasis on preventative healthcare, cardiologists will be needed to educate the general public on living healthy lifestyles which reduce risks of heart problems. Additionally, they are increasingly needed to perform preventative surgery, such as implanting pacemakers.
Like all other health-care occupations, job prospects are sensitive to current health care legislation. With health care funding expected to rise, hospitals will be able to employ more cardiologists.
Anesthesiologists are doctors who administer anesthetic drugs, providing pain relief for patients in surgery. During operations, they carefully monitor a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and breathing, and adjust the dose of anesthetic accordingly. Their work is often needed during childbirth and in intensive care units. Entering the profession involves graduating from medical school and then specializing in anesthesiology. The average salary is $270,000.
Surgeons treat patient injuries and diseases by operations. They use a variety of different instruments to correct physical deformities and repair bone or tissue. Surgeons can specialize in a number of different fields such as orthopedic or neurological surgery. Operating on patients demands a great deal of concentration, and surgeons must also be calm under pressure if something were to go wrong. The average salary of a surgeon is $240,463 according to PayScale.