Becoming a cardiologist takes great commitment. The process involves years of training, expensive medical school and a lot of hard work. However, if this field of medicine is fascinating to you, you may also find it very rewarding. Cardiology is a subspecialty of internal medicine that concentrates on the heart, blood vessels and circulation, explains the American College of Physicians. Cardiologists are also familiar with general medical procedures and are capable of performing routine examinations and running tests such as urinalyses or X-rays. Physicians who specialize in internal medicine earned an average of $205,000 a year in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
After graduating from high school, you must earn at least a bachelor's degree in science or arts at a college or university, says the American Medical Association, or AMA. Your major doesn't necessarily have to be health-related; however, your degree must have covered courses in chemistry, biology, physics, English and math, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in order to prepare you for medical school. While earning your degree, it's important to make good grades and an excellent reputation for yourself as a person with high moral character. Getting into medical school is difficult and competitive. If you spend your college years partying, skipping classes and flunking exams, you won't be admitted.
The first step toward being admitted to medical school is to take and pass the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT. Then, send your college transcripts and letters of recommendation from people such as former teachers. The board members of the medical school you apply to will make an examination of your character as well, taking into account your personality and participation in after-school activities. Once you're accepted, you'll spend your first two years focusing on classwork. The final two years expose students to the real world of medicine, where they see patients under the supervision of experienced physicians in a variety of medical specialties.
Medical Degree and Residency
One you've graduated from medical school, you've earned your doctor of medicine degree, MD, or doctor of osteopathy, DO. However, you still aren't ready to practice medicine on your own. You must then enter a residency program under the tutelage of a licensed and experienced physician. Now is the time to choose your specialty, which in this case is internal medicine. Residency program lengths depend on which specialty you choose. Internal medicine residency programs last three years, says the AMA.
Subspecialty and Fellowship
Now it's time to choose your subspecialty, which is cardiology. Delving deeper into this field of medicine requires entering a fellowship, says the AMA, which can take from one to three years. At the Stanford School of Medicine, for example, a general cardiology fellowship lasts three years. There are even opportunities for advanced fellowships that dissect the cardiology field even further into subspecialties such as interventional cardiology and advanced heart failure. Once you've completed your fellowship, you must obtain a license through your state's medical licensing board by providing proof of your education and experience, and passing a licensing exam. When you're licensed, you have the right to practice cardiology independently.
- American College of Physicians: Cardiology
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Physician or Surgeon
- American Medical Association: Requirements for Becoming a Physician
- Stanford School of Medicine: General Cardiology Fellowships
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgeons: Pay
- Stanford School of Medicine: Advanced Fellowships
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