How to Become a Cardiologist

Updated on January 9, 2024


Becoming a cardiologist takes extensive training but leads to a fulfilling career caring for patients with heart conditions. First, complete a bachelor’s degree, usually focusing on pre-med requirements like biology and chemistry. Next, apply to and graduate from four years of medical school per the Association of American Medical Colleges. Subsequently, complete a 3-year internal medicine residency to gain broad medical knowledge. Then, advance your skills with a 3-year cardiology fellowship to specialize in cardiovascular conditions. This lengthy pathway ultimately enables cardiologists to diagnose and compassionately treat heart disease. Dedication and commitment make a career improving patients’ heart health tremendously rewarding.

What is a Cardiologist?

A cardiologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating diseases and conditions of the heart and blood vessels. Cardiologists diagnose and treat congenital heart defects, coronary artery disease, heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias), heart infections, and heart failure.

To become a cardiologist, a physician must complete medical school and obtain an M.D. or D.O. degree. After medical school, cardiologists complete a three-year internal medicine residency program followed by a three-year cardiology fellowship training program to specialize in diseases of the heart. Many cardiologists choose to further subspecialize through an additional one to two years of training in areas like electrophysiology or interventional cardiology.

Cardiologists use tests like EKGs, echocardiograms, cardiac CT scans, and cardiac catheterizations to diagnose heart conditions. They then:

Some focus on research to better understand and develop new treatments for cardiovascular diseases ( Most split time between patient care, procedures, teaching, and administrative work as part of an integrated medical team. The goal is to prevent the onset of heart issues through early education and intervention.

What do Cardiologists do?

Cardiologists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases and conditions of the cardiovascular system, which includes the heart and blood vessels. As heart experts, cardiologists perform a variety of important roles.

Some of the main duties of a cardiologist include:

In their day-to-day work, cardiologists examine patients, order heart tests, diagnose conditions, develop treatment plans, prescribe medications, perform procedures, and provide follow-up care. They may work closely with other medical professionals in hospitals, clinics, or private practices. Check out the American College of Cardiology’s career resources to learn more about becoming a cardiologist.

Educational Requirements to Become a Cardiologist

It’s a long training process, but it allows talented doctors to prevent/treat heart disease and work with cutting-edge technology. With passion and commitment, it opens up a rewarding career, improving patients’ cardiovascular health.

Postgraduate Training for Cardiologists

After finishing medical school, extensive postgraduate training is the next step to becoming a cardiologist. This includes completing an internal medicine residency followed by a multi-year cardiology fellowship.

Internal Medicine Residency

Before entering a cardiology fellowship, aspiring cardiologists must first complete an internal medicine (IM) residency, which usually takes three years (according to the American College of Cardiology). This provides broad training in diagnosing and treating diseases in adult patients. Residents gain extensive clinical experience treating various conditions through rotations in different medical specialties. This builds a strong medical knowledge foundation before subspecialty training.

The Internal Medicine Residency curriculum covers core topics like:

After demonstrating proficiency, residents can apply to competitive cardiology fellowship programs nationwide.

Cardiology Fellowship

The cardiology fellowship trains physicians in specialized heart care. Fellowships typically last 3 years (as per the American College of Cardiology). Through intense immersive training, fellows gain expertise in:

They rotate through different cardiology subspecialties to hone their skills. These may include general cardiology, electrophysiology, interventional procedures, advanced heart failure, and advanced imaging. Following residency and fellowship training, cardiologists are then board-certified in cardiology by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Licensure and Certification

Becoming a licensed cardiologist requires extensive education, training, and certification. After finishing medical school, aspiring cardiologists must complete additional post-graduate training:

These supervised programs provide hands-on experience in diagnosing and treating various cardiovascular conditions.

Once training is finished, there are certification exams cardiologists must pass:

According to the ABIM, certification shows a physician’s exceptional expertise in a specialty or sub-specialty. Patients can verify a cardiologist’s credentials through the ABIM website (

Maintaining certification requires ongoing education and reassessment to ensure cardiologists stay up-to-date on medical advances in the field. In summary, licensure and board certification demonstrate extensive knowledge and competency in providing cardiovascular care. Checking a cardiologist’s qualifications is an important step for consumers.

Cardiologist Salary

The number of years a cardiologist has been practicing significantly impacts their earning potential. Here is a comparison of the average cardiologist’s salary by years of experience:

Years ExperienceAverage Salary
0-5 years$225,000 – $300,000
5-10 years$300,000 – $350,000
10-20 years$350,000 – $450,000
20+ years$400,000+

Career Opportunities and Advancement

After finishing medical training, aspiring cardiologists can choose from several fellowship specialties that focus on treating specific heart conditions. Each offers unique career opportunities and advancement potential.

Interventional Cardiology


Overall, as cardiologists gain more experience and credentials, many can negotiate increased compensation, hold leadership roles in major hospitals, teach aspiring cardiologists, or drive research/innovation in heart care.


Becoming a cardiologist requires over a decade of education but brings a rewarding career helping heart patients. With a strong science background and motivation, you can commit to medical school, residency, and cardiology fellowship. The determination to learn cutting-edge cardiology techniques is vital throughout this intensive training and testing. For those dedicated individuals, a meaningful vocation awaits conducting tests, performing procedures like angioplasties, and using expertise to help patients regain their quality of life. The long path provides intellectual and emotional fulfillment in caring for those with heart conditions.

Additional Resources

Resource TypeNameDescriptionURL
OrganizationAmerican College of CardiologyExtensive info on training pathways, fellowships, career
OrganizationAmerican Medical AssociationOutlines educational requirements and skills
GuideMedical School Admission RequirementsApplication timeline, courses, MCAT exams,
OrganizationAmerican Heart AssociationInfo on different cardiology
MentorshipHospital/University Cardiology DepartmentsConnect with professionals, shadowing opportunitiesReach out to local institutions


What’s the required education and training?

A bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school, a 3-year internal medicine residency, and a 3-year cardiology fellowship. Most complete additional subspecialty training as well.

How much experience do cardiologists need?

At least ten years of intensive training, including residency and fellowship, gaining broad internal medicine experience, specialized cardiology experience in procedures, reading diagnostic tests, etc.

What is the salary outlook for cardiologists?

The average salary exceeds $412,000 per year. Invasive cardiologists earn over $525,000 on average. Reimbursement rates and location impact pay as well.

What are a cardiologist’s day-to-day duties?

Seeing patients, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, developing treatment plans for heart conditions, performing procedures, on-call hours, administrative tasks, or research.

What skills are required to be a successful cardiologist?

Exceptional critical thinking, attention to detail, communication skills, technical skills to perform procedures, stress management, and ability to synthesize complex information. Must be able to stand for long periods and have manual dexterity.

How competitive is the field?

Extremely competitive – the long training path and attractive salary lead to many applicants. Top test scores, excellent recommendations, and related experience are required.