How to Choose a College for a Pediatric Cardiology Program

To become a pediatric cardiologist, students must successfully complete medical school, a pediatrics residency, and a fellowship program that provides specific training in pediatric cardiology.

Pediatric cardiologists specialize in treating infants, children and adolescents who have heart disease. Training to be a pediatric cardiologist takes an average of ten years after earning an undergraduate degree, and includes medical school, residency and fellowship programs.

Top 10 Pediatric Medical Schools

In 2016, the following institutions were ranked the best pediatric medical schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report:

College/University Location Institution Type Tuition (In-state, 2015-2016)*
University of Pennsylvania (Perelman) Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private $52,210
Harvard University Boston, MA 4-year, Private $55,850
University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH 4-year, Public $29,680
University of Colorado Aurora, CO 4-year, Public $35,678
University of Washington Seattle, WA 4-year, Public $33,519
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 4-year, Private $48,750
Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX 4-year, Private $19,650
University of California - San Francisco San Francisco, CA 4-year, Public $32,751
University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA 4-year, Public $50,010
Washington University in St. Louis St. Louis, MO 4-year, Private $58,460

Source: *U.S. News and World Report

College Selection Criteria

Students interested in pediatric cardiology programs may want to keep these considerations in mind:

  • Students may want to look for programs that feature physician faculty who have achieved a high level of professional excellence and renown in their field.
  • Prospective pediatric cardiologists should find out how many fellows the program has graduated and what these graduates have gone on to accomplish.
  • Students should find out how much real-world exposure to pediatric cardiology inpatients and procedures such as echocardiography, electrocardiography, cardiac catheterization, chest radiography and magnetic resonance imaging.
  • If students have a particular interest within the field of pediatric cardiology, they may want to choose a program that allows them to specialize.

Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)

There is some variation in the curriculum for first-year medical students, but anatomy, biochemistry, and other medical sciences courses are standard. During the second year of medical school, requirements most often include pathology, pharmacology and dermatology. Electives and an introduction to clinical medicine usually make up the remainder of the curriculum for the first two years.

In their third year of medical school, students begin clinical rotations, most often in family medicine, internal medicine, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and surgery. Independent research resulting in a scholarly work is a third-year requirement at some medical schools. The third year is also the time when students begin to focus on their subspecialty of pediatric cardiology in preparation for their fourth and final year. Students are advised to identify a faculty member who can guide them through the complex residency application process.

During their fourth year, students choose electives in their subspecialty. For pediatric cardiologists, clinical rotations in outpatient clinics and in the intensive care unit of their school's affiliated hospitals become the learning grounds for their specialty. Some medical schools have designed the student's last year as a pre-residency program with specific required electives.

Pediatric Residencies

After medical school, aspiring pediatric cardiologists must complete a residency program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Through a residency, students receive formal, on-site training at a hospital they have been matched with. They may also receive training through outreach opportunities affiliated with the hospital. Students are matched with residency programs through the National Residency Matching Program, a system for ranking and selecting applicants for residency positions.

Residents are exposed to inpatients during clinical rotations, and their level of responsibility increases during the program. Some programs offer a research track - which allows students to participate in research projects - and a primary clinical track, which allows them to focus mainly on providing primary care. Others may offer rotations in pediatric cardiology.

Most residency programs are affiliated with medical schools, although there are a few that are not. These are known as 'stand-alone' programs. University-affiliated programs are considered by many to be more prestigious than stand-alone programs and may give an edge to students who subsequently apply for fellowship training in pediatric cardiology. Students participate in lectures, group sessions and interactive simulations.

Pediatric Cardiology Fellowships

Fellowships in pediatric cardiology take 3-4 years to complete. They integrate both clinical and research training to equip students with the skills necessary for a career in the field. Fellowship programs often allow students to specialize in areas such as dyslipidemia, adult congenital heart disease and interventional catheterization, among many others.

Students who want to become pediatric cardiologists should look for well-respected medical schools that can prepare them for residency and fellowship programs. Completion of these programs can lead to a successful career in the field.

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