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Cardiac Nurse Education Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a cardiac nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about job duties and outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

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Cardiac nurses are the health professionals who specialize in treating and assisting patients with cardiovascular-related medical conditions. As registered nurses, they will need an associate's or bachelor's degree and a nursing license from the state. Those looking for advancement in the cardiac nurse field have options of becoming either cardiovascular specialists or cardiac nurse practitioners.

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Essential Information

Cardiac nurses work with patients suffering from cardiovascular medical conditions such as coronary artery disease, angina, congestive heart failure, cardiac dysrhythmia and cardiomyopathy. They are employed by coronary care units, operating rooms and cardiac surgery wards; some also work in research settings. All cardiac nurses must be registered nurses which requires specified schooling and passing an exam. Cardiac nurses may further their careers by completing voluntary certification or a graduate degree program.

Required Education Associate's degree at minimum, bachelor's degree required for some positions
Additional Requirements State nursing license; specialty certification from a national organization may be required by some employers
Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024) 16% for registered nurses
Average Salary* (2015) $71,000 annually for registered nurses

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Education Requirements for Becoming a Cardiac Nurse

The two most common nursing degrees are the Associate of Science in Nursing, a 2-year program, and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a 4-year program. Nursing programs provide students with core courses in nursing, including anatomy, ethics, nutrition, health assessment and nursing research. In addition to coursework, students will complete clinical experiences.

Licensure

All nurses, regardless of which specialty they plan to practice, must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This exam is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, a non-profit organization. Passage of the NCLEX-RN allows the candidate to practice nursing as a registered nurse (RN).

Career Information

Most employers require cardiac nurses to have additional training in cardiac nursing. The minimum education required beyond the RN certification is basic life support and advanced cardiac life support. The American College of Cardiovascular Nurses offers training and professional development beyond these life support certifications. A bachelor's degree program in nursing also provides specialty training in cardiac nursing.

Voluntary Certification

There are several different avenues for certification. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association, recognizes cardiac-vascular nursing as a specialty and offers a 5-year renewable certification. The American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine offers certification for cardiac nurses in acute and non-acute care.

Certification involves taking an exam, which covers manifestation of vascular and cardiac disease, legal issues and ethical issues for cardiac nurses. Although certification is not mandatory, the ANCC maintains that board certification increases earning potential.

Advanced Practice Cardiovascular Nursing

Opportunities for advanced practice in cardiac nursing include becoming a cardiovascular specialist or cardiac nurse practitioner. Training involves obtaining a master's degree, a program generally lasting two to three years. Students take courses and participate in clinical practicums and residencies, gaining valuable hands-on experience in cardiac nursing.

Salary and Career Outlook

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that registered nurses will experience a 16% increase in employment from 2014 to 2024. Registered nurses earned an average salary of $71,000 annually in 2015, per BLS.

Cardiac nurses are a subcategory of registered nurses who specialize in treating patients with cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure. Much like other registered nurses, they are expected to have received either an associate's or bachelor's degree from a nursing program and be licensed with the state. This is a currently growing job market with an expected growth rate of 16 percent over the next decade. Those employed in the field earned an average salary of $71,000 a year in 2015.

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