Although there are no master's degree programs specifically in cardiac rehabilitation, interested students may pursue a master's degree in physical therapy with a specialization in the field. In addition to general training in the remediation of physical impairments, these programs familiarize students with common cardiac conditions and treatments, patient assessment techniques, and medical documentation standards.
In order to apply, students must hold a bachelor's degree and submit standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. The strongest applicants usually have aptitudes in biology, anatomy or exercise science, and many have also participated in research.
Masters Degree in Cardiac Rehabilitation
As with most master's degree programs, students can expect a heavy emphasis on research. The program typically culminates in a thesis or comprehensive exam. Classes combine didactic learning with hands-on experience working with patients in need of cardiac rehabilitation. Common course topics include:
- EKG machine operation and interpretation
- Physical therapy ethics
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical statistics
- Cardiac disorders
- Cardiac therapy methods
- Cardiology and body systems
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts the employment outlook for physical therapists will increase 34% between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the average growth for all occupations. The median annual salary for physical therapists was $84,020 as of May 2015. The highest-paid physical therapists earn upwards of $119,790, while the lowest-paid earn $57,060 or less (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education and Certification
Many schools offering master's degrees in physical therapy also offer doctoral degrees in the same field. Doctorates typically require more research and clinical hours. They usually take three years to complete and result in a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) designation. All states require physical therapists to earn a license before they can practice, and each state sets its own requirements for licensure.
By earning a master's degree in physical therapy with a specialization in cardiac rehabilitation, students gain the theoretical knowledge and practice experience they need to help patients cope with and recover from a wide variety of conditions, especially heart-related issues.