Cardiopulmonary Degree Program Information

Get information on bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in cardiopulmonary science. Keep reading to find out about prerequisites, course and clinical requirements and career options for graduates.

Essential 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 can prepare graduates for each of these positions. Master's and doctoral degrees in cardiopulmonary science can lead to positions in research, academia and bioengineering.

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 might 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 who want to advance their knowledge. Courses in these 2-year programs combine classroom work with labs and research and may include studies in medical instrumentation, pathophysiology and cardiopulmonary critical care. A thesis is usually required.

At the doctoral level, students take core courses that cover general topics in research methodology and cardiopulmonary science. They then choose elective courses in the area in which they intend to focus their research and complete a dissertation. Topics can include mechanical ventilation and disease processes in cardiology.

Bachelor of Science in Cardiopulmonary Science

Cardiopulmonary science is a branch of medical science that relates to the heart and lungs. A 4-year degree program in the field 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 often 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.

Education Prerequisites

College students interested in majoring in cardiopulmonary science are often 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 who are interested in advancing in their careers.

Program Coursework

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. A list of example courses can be found below.

  • Introduction to cardiopulmonary science
  • Cardiopulmonary anatomy and physiology
  • Cardiopulmonary pathophysiology
  • Patient assessment principles
  • Cardiac electrophysiology
  • Cardiopulmonary science lab
  • Respiratory clinical
  • Echocardiography clinical
  • Vascular technology

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

Job 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 28% for respiratory therapists and 29% for cardiovascular technologists, cardiovascular technicians and vascular technologists from 2010-2020. Both projections are faster than the average for all occupations. Respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of $55,870 as of May 2012, while cardiovascular and vascular techs earned a median of $52,070.

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).

Master of Science in Cardiovascular Studies

Graduate degree programs in cardiovascular studies are open to healthcare professionals who already hold a baccalaureate degree and who are 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 may be required to complete a thesis project.

Education Prerequisites

A bachelor's degree is a standard prerequisite for gaining admission into a master's degree program in cardiovascular studies. Some baccalaureate degrees that are appropriate to the field include biology, biomedical sciences or biomedical engineering.

Program Coursework

Seminar courses, research courses and laboratory experiences make up the majority of a master's degree program in cardiovascular studies. Some specific examples might include:

  • Advanced clinical physiology
  • Medical instrumentation
  • Pathophysiology
  • Medical ethics and law
  • Blood compatible materials
  • Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation
  • Cardiopulmonary critical care
  • Advanced pharmacological therapy

Popular Career Options

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

Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS projected job growth of 62% for biomedical engineers from 2010-2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Biomedical engineers earned a median annual salary of $86,960 as of May 2012.

Doctor of Philosophy in Health Science, Cardiopulmonary Science Specialization

Some schools offer Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree programs that allow students to specialize in cardiopulmonary science. Students are primarily concerned with furthering research in the field and completing an academic dissertation. They generally complete core Ph.D. program courses in addition to completing specialized electives that are chosen with the help of an academic advisor.

Education Prerequisites

Ph.D. programs in health science with an emphasis on cardiopulmonary science are only open to individuals who hold a master's degree. Students are typically eligible to apply for doctoral candidacy after completing their second year in the Ph.D. program.

Program Coursework

Many of the courses included within a Ph.D. program in cardiopulmonary science are tailored to each individual's chosen interest in the field. Common seminar courses focus on methods of research and healthcare ethics. Other electives might include:

  • Clinical pathophysiology
  • Cardiology disease processes
  • Biomedical engineering
  • Biostatistics
  • Research methods
  • Mechanical ventilation

Popular Career Options

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

Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS projected job growth of 17% for postsecondary teachers from 2010-2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Biological science postsecondary teachers earned a median annual salary of $74,180 as of May 2012.

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