Cardiopulmonary Degree Program Information

Individuals interested in cardiopulmonary science have several career options available to them in the allied health field, including cardiovascular sonography, respiratory therapy and polysomnography. A bachelor of science in cardiopulmonary science prepares graduates for each of these positions. Master's and doctoral degrees in cardiopulmonary science lead to positions in research, academia, and bioengineering.

Essential Information

A 4-year 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. Admission requirements for these programs include an associate degree or being a registered respiratory therapy. Students learn through classroom, lab, and clinical experiences, with courses and hands-on training covering topics such as anatomy, patient assessment, cardiac electrophysiology, and vascular technology. 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. Courses in these 2-year programs combine classroom work with labs and research and include studies in medical instrumentation, pathophysiology, and cardiopulmonary critical care. 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. Topics include mechanical ventilation and disease processes in cardiology.

  • Program Levels: Bachelor's; master's; doctorate
  • Program Fields: Cardiopulmonary Science, Cardiovascular Studies, and Health Science, Cardiopulmonary Science Specialization
  • Prerequisites: Associate degree or 2.5 GPA in high school coursework for bachelor's; bachelor's degree in related field for master's; master's degree for doctorate
  • Program Length: 4 years for bachelor's; 2 years for master's
  • Other Requirements: Thesis for master's; dissertation for doctorate

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 open to healthcare professionals who already hold a baccalaureate degree and interested in learning more about cardiovascular systems. They 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
  • Pathophysiology
  • Blood compatible materials
  • Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and critical care
  • Advanced pharmacological therapy

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
  • Biostatistics
  • 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
  • Echocardiographer

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
  • Biomechanists
  • 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 19% for respiratory therapists and 39% for cardiovascular technologists, cardiovascular technicians, and vascular technologists from 2012-2022. Both projections are faster than the average for all occupations. Respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of $56,730 as of May 2014, while cardiovascular and vascular technicians earned a median of $54,330.

The BLS projects a job growth of 27% for biomedical engineers from 2012-2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Biomedical engineers earned a median annual salary of $86,950 as of May 2014.

The BLS projects a job growth of 19% for postsecondary teachers from 2012-2022, faster than average growth for all occupations. Biological science postsecondary teachers earned a median annual salary of $74,580 as of May 2014.

Certification Options

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).

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