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College Majors for Aspiring Cardiologists

A cardiologist is a physician who has completed a residency or fellowship in heart health and cardiac disorders. Cardiologists begin their education with a bachelor's degree, followed by medical school.

Essential Information

Although no specific undergraduate major is required for medical school admission, candidates might benefit by majoring in one of the sciences, like biology or chemistry, or they might opt for a cardiovascular technology (CVT) major.

Four year bachelor's degree programs in CVT train students to work with physicians and medical staff to perform diagnostic tests and evaluate the results. These programs combine classroom work, labs, and clinical experiences in medical facilities. Courses may include physics, anatomy, cellular biology, and biochemistry. Graduates can apply for professional certification in the field, which many employers require.

A common route to medical school is through a pre-med bachelor's degree program. These courses of study typically allow students the flexibility to create a curriculum that suits their needs; most aspiring physicians choose to focus on the sciences. Both degrees only require a minimum GPA score with required prerequisite coursework in chemistry and biology.


Bachelor's Degree Programs in Cardiovascular Technology (CVT)

Cardiovascular technology bachelor's degree programs provide classroom instruction and clinical experiences to students, which often involves direct contact with heart patients. Most degree programs provide the required didactic education and internship work to take the national registry exam and become a licensed cardiovascular technologist.

Bachelor's degree program students who select a CVT major normally take courses in human physiology, physics and anatomy. Some of the other classes common to these degree programs include:

  • Cellular and molecular biology
  • Organic chemistry with accompanying lab work
  • Detailed and intensive CVT training
  • Medical ethics
  • Statistics
  • Health public service policies

Pre-Med Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor's degree students can apply to medical school after graduation, regardless of their undergraduate major. Most medical schools tend to consider candidates' cumulative grade point averages and Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) scores. Students who major in science subjects, like biology and chemistry, might benefit from the inherent coursework and laboratory experiences.

Some colleges and universities offer accelerated bachelor's degree programs in medicine. These programs can typically be completed in about seven years, including a specified number of classes at the school's college of medicine, and award a combined bachelor's and master's degree.

Bachelor's degree programs with a pre-med focus incorporate general education courses along with courses in the student's selected major. A common major for those planning on entering medical school is biology. Classes typically found in this major often include:

  • Introductory courses in organic chemistry, physiology and genetics
  • Fundamentals of health care policies and procedures
  • Mathematics courses, such as algebra and trigonometry
  • Lab work in biology, chemistry and physics
  • Principles of research and writing with a science focus

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Cardiovascular technologists generally aid physicians working with patients who have cardiovascular issues by administering diagnostic tests and evaluating the resultant data. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that cardiovascular technologist and technician employment would grow by 22% between 2014 and 2024. Their median yearly wages, according to the BLS, were $54,880 in May 2015.

Medical Doctor (M.D.) and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) are the two types of physicians. The primary difference between them is that a D.O. tends to take a more holistic and preventive approach to patient care than an M.D. An aspiring cardiologist must earn one of these professional degrees before he or she can work toward a cardiology specialization.

The employment prospects for cardiologists and radiologists, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is particularly good due to the increase of elderly people and the afflictions generally associated with aging, such as cancer and heart disease. According to PayScale.com, the median yearly income for physicians working as cardiologists was $243,197 in July 2016.

Continuing Education Info

Graduates of a CVT bachelor's degree program can continue their higher educational pursuits by applying to a master's degree program or medical school. Professional development seminars and courses via organizations like the Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals, Cardiovascular Credentialing International and American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers provides another continuing education option.

Medical school is the primary goal of the majority of pre-med bachelor's degree program majors and is a requirement for aspiring cardiologists. Residency, fellowship, and certification programs are available to individuals once they become a physician, such as specific cardiology fellowships offered through the Mayo Clinic's Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education and board certification through the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Students wishing to become cardiologists or a related medical professional can most easily start their careers by entering a bachelor's degree in either cardiovascular technology or pre-medical focus. Both degrees teach foundational skills used in the field and prepare students for master's degree programs, medical school, residency, and professional certification.


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