There are programs at all levels for students interested in pursuing some type of cardiopulmonary degree. Program fields include cardiopulmonary science, cardiovascular studies, health studies, and cardiopulmonary science.
A bachelor's degree program in cardiopulmonary science prepares students to work in a healthcare facility as a respiratory therapist or in cardiovascular technology, depending upon the specialty track chosen. Certification and licensing requirements vary for different occupations, but all states require that respiratory therapists be licensed.
Master's programs in cardiovascular studies are open to healthcare professionals with bachelor's degrees looking to advance their knowledge. A thesis is required.
At the doctoral level, students take core courses covering research methodology and cardiopulmonary science. They choose elective courses in the area in which they intend to focus their research and complete a dissertation.
Bachelor of Science in Cardiopulmonary Science
Cardiopulmonary science is a branch of medical science relating to the heart and lungs. A 4-year degree program is designed to provide students with the laboratory experience, didactic classroom training, and clinical internship necessary to work in the respiratory care field at a healthcare facility. A cardiopulmonary science degree program allows students to choose from a particular concentration or track, such as respiratory therapy or cardiovascular technology. Each track provides students with a background in patient assessment, cardiopulmonary anatomy, and medical ethics.
College students interested in majoring in cardiopulmonary science are first required to complete general education courses while maintaining a 2.5 GPA. Some schools also accept transfer students who have completed an associate's degree in another field and who are interested in gaining a baccalaureate degree in cardiopulmonary science. Others schools only accept registered respiratory therapists interested in advancing in their careers. Bachelor's degree programs in cardiopulmonary science include courses designed to provide aspiring cardiovascular professionals with practical training while at the same time furnishing them with a background in general education. Courses include:
- Introduction to cardiopulmonary science
- Cardiopulmonary anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology
- Patient assessment principles
- Cardiac electrophysiology and science lab
- Respiratory and echocardiography clinicals
- Vascular technology
Master of Science in Cardiovascular Studies
Graduate degree programs in cardiovascular studies are are ideal for medical engineers, health informatics specialists, or individuals in similar careers. Students enrolled in a 2-year program study advanced cardiovascular anatomy, instrumentation, physiology, and pharmacology. They are required to complete a thesis project.
A bachelor's degree is a standard prerequisite for gaining admission into a master's degree program in cardiovascular studies. Some baccalaureate degrees appropriate to the field include biology, biomedical sciences, or biomedical engineering. Seminar courses, research courses, and laboratory experiences make up the majority of a master's degree program in cardiovascular studies. Some examples include:
- Advanced clinical physiology
- Medical instrumentation, ethics, and law
- Blood compatible materials
- Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and critical care
- Advanced pharmacological therapy
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Doctor of Philosophy in Health Science, Cardiopulmonary Science Specialization
Some schools offer Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree programs allowing students to specialize in cardiopulmonary science. Students are primarily concerned with furthering research in the field and completing an academic dissertation. They complete core Ph.D. program courses in addition to completing specialized electives that are chosen with the help of an academic advisor.
Ph.D. programs in health science with an emphasis on cardiopulmonary science are only open to individuals with a master's degree. Students are eligible to apply for doctoral candidacy after completing their second year in the Ph.D. program. Many courses included within a Ph.D. program in cardiopulmonary science are tailored to each individual's chosen interest in the field. Seminar courses focus on methods of research and healthcare ethics. Other electives include:
- Clinical pathophysiology
- Cardiology disease processes
- Biomedical engineering
- Research methods
- Mechanical ventilation
Popular Career Options
A bachelor's degree in cardiopulmonary science can prepare graduates for various positions within the healthcare field. Some of these include:
- Respiratory therapist
- Cardiovascular invasive specialist
- Cardiovascular technologist
- Vascular technologist
An advanced understanding of cardiopulmonary sciences can prepare bioengineering and health informatics specialists for careers working with cardiovascular systems. It can also prepare graduate students for careers as:
- Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialists
- Respiratory therapists
- Biomedical engineers
Research, academia, and bioengineering are the common career paths for graduates of a doctoral program in cardiopulmonary science. Specific career options might include:
- University professor
- Cardiopulmonary research director
- Senior research scientist
- Director of bioengineering
Employment Outlook and Salary
Looking at only a few of the potential careers with this degree, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job growth of 12% for respiratory therapists and 22% for cardiovascular technologists and technicians from 2014-2024. Both projections are faster than the average for all occupations. Respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of $57,790 as of May 2015, while cardiovascular technologists and technicians earned a median of $54,880.
The BLS projects a job growth of 23% for biomedical engineers from 2014-2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Biomedical engineers earned a median annual salary of $86,220 as of May 2015.
The BLS projects a job growth of 13% for postsecondary teachers from 2014-2024, faster than average growth for all occupations. Biological science postsecondary teachers earned a median annual salary of $75,320 as of May 2015.
Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) both offer certification options for cardiovascular technologists with a bachelor's degree in cardiopulmonary science. Certification is not legally required, but is preferred by most employers. Respiratory therapists are required to gain licensure by passing an examination given by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC).
Whether a student wishes to work in the medical field, education, or research will help them determine what specific cardiopulmonary degree program is right for them.