Most people seek out the help of a doctor when they’re feeling under the weather. When a possible issue with the heart has been identified, patients are referred to doctors who have spent years learning all about the heart and cardiovascular system, and the different potential problems and treatment plans available. The Heart Foundation states that an estimated 80 million Americans have one or more types of heart disease, and heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in America. The increase in awareness and treatment technology, as well as a growing need for highly-qualified doctors who specialize in heart care, has led to a huge employment surge for cardiologists.
What is a Cardiologist?
A cardiologist is a doctor who has chosen to specialize in heart diseases, conditions and treatments. These professionals have taken their general medical educations further and have spent years studying the way the heart works in an effort to provide the best possible heart care, which involves diagnosing irregularities and conditions, as well as creating treatment plans and following the progress of treatment in their patients.
Cardiologists are trained to:
Cardiologists not only treat heart-related conditions, but many spend a lot of focus counseling individuals on how to prevent those conditions. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, cardiologist and director of the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Insitute, says, “Stents and bypass surgery in an emergency setting are absolutely lifesaving. However, for non-emergency situations an intensive lifestyle trial of 3-6 months would eliminate the need for most interventions.”
A doctoral or professional degree is the entry-level educational requirement for cardiologists.
Step by Step Educational Path of a Cardiologist
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 307,220 physicians and surgeons were employed within the US in May of 2012. Of those, 142,880 were employed in physicians’ offices. Other physicians and surgeons worked in general medical and surgical hospitals (91,860), colleges and universities (11,130) and outpatient care centers (9,580).
In a physician’s office, a cardiologist sees patients who have been referred by general physicians or emergency room doctors. They work with patients suffering from a variety of cardiac conditions, often attributed to genetics, lifestyle, disease or injury. Those working in medical and surgical hospitals see patients who come in with heart-related sicknesses or conditions, either diagnosing and treating them or referring them to a cardiothoracic surgeon for more in-depth surgical procedures.
Other facilities that employ cardiologists may include nursing homes, home health care companies and educational facilities.
Employers often look for job candidates who display the following qualities:
Cardiologists, like all physicians, must be licensed in order to practice in any state. The United States Medical Licensing Examination is divided into three different steps, all completed at different stages in the cardiologist’s medical education:
Cardiologists can potentially increase their chances of getting hired by considering the following:
The mean annual salary for physicians and surgeons was $357,000 in 2013, according to the Medscape Cardiologist Compensation Report, making them the second highest paid specialty, second only to orthopedists.
With an 18% growth rate through the year 2022 (as published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics), jobs for physicians and surgeons are increasing faster than the average for all other careers. In fact, 123,300 new positions will become available through the year 2022.
Starting a Private Practice
Practicing independently is an attractive option for many cardiologists, leading them to explore the possibility of starting a private practice. However, private practice for cardiologists is becoming more difficult in today’s economy. The American College of Cardiology states that more than half of all cardiology private practices in the US have recently made major cuts to their budget, or closed their doors completely; 40% of those have chosen to work for a hospital in an effort to increase the quality of care they are able to provide.
Those who want to move forward with their own private practice must establish significant cost-cutting strategies in order to maintain independence.
There are several pros to starting a private practice, including the ability to work independently and set the standards of care within the practice. With more and more adults requiring cardiac care as they age, there are an increasing number of patients for cardiologists across America. However, some cardiologists would point out that there are more disadvantages of starting a private practice.
The cons of starting a private cardiology practice at this point in time can be traced to healthcare reform. According to MedAxiom, a consulting firm that specializes in practice management of cardiologists, the salary for those in private practice ($424,380) is lower than those in integrated groups ($548,630). In fact, the only group that experienced an increase in salary from 2012 to 2014 was interventional cardiologists, with a rise of 6.2% in their median salary from 2012. Location is also a factor; cardiologists in the Midwest earned a median salary of $559,004 while those in the Northeast earned a median salary of $460,815.
Becoming a cardiologist enables individuals to provide excellent medical care to a large group of individuals, and joining a career field that is constantly on the lookout for highly-trained heart specialists. With the growth in this industry, professionals can rely on excellent job stability as well as economic stability both for those who start a private practice and those who integrate their services with another facility.