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College Majors for Aspiring Cardiologists

Higher Education Articles March 22, 2015

Get information about bachelor’s degree programs for those interested in becoming cardiologists and their education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Information for Aspiring Cardiologists

A physician who have completed a fellowship or residency in cardiac disorders and heart health is referred to as a cardiologist. The education of a cardiologist begins with a bachelor’s degree, and medical school follows. While medical school admission norms do not mandate any specific undergraduate major, one of the sciences, such as chemistry or biology, may benefit candidates, who may alternatively choose to pursue a cardiovascular technology (CVT) major.

Students enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs in CVT are trained to work with medical staff and physicians in performing diagnostic tests and evaluating the results. Clinical experiences in medical facilities, labs, and classroom instruction are combined in these four-year programs. Coursework may include biochemistry, cellular biology, anatomy, and physics. Professional certification in the field can be sought by graduates as required by many employers.

Those who seek admission to medical school must hold a bachelor’s degree in any subject. Students commonly use a pre-med bachelor’s degree program as a route to medical school. While students engaged in these courses of study are allowed the flexibility of creating a curriculum in accordance with their needs, the primary focus of many aspiring physicians is on the sciences.

It takes students four years to complete most bachelor’s degree programs; however, dual bachelor’s–master’s programs that take seven years to complete are offered by a few schools. These programs offer many courses via the school of medicine.

Bachelor’s Programs in Cardiovascular Technology (CVT)

Coursework in cardiovascular technology bachelor’s degree programs combines classroom lectures and clinical experiences, often involving direct contact with heart patients. Students enrolled in the majority of degree programs can use the classroom lectures and internship experience to prepare to sit for the national registry exam that would lead to licensure as a cardiovascular technologist.

Education Requirements

The very competitive nature of admission norms related to CVT bachelor’s degree programs typically requires candidates to complete a specific quantum of academic courses, often within a prescribed coursework. Prospective students may also need to have a minimum cumulative grade point average when they complete the said coursework.

Coursework

Students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program that opt for a CVT major select courses in anatomy, physics, and human physiology. Core coursework may commonly cover topic areas such as the following:

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

Job and Wage Outlook

Physicians that work with patients suffering from cardiovascular issues rely on the assistance of cardiovascular technologists to administer diagnostic tests and evaluate the resultant data. A job growth rate of 29% has been predicted for cardiovascular technologist and technicians over the 2010 – 2020 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2013, these professionals brought in an average annual wage of $53,990.

Continuing Education Choices

Those who successfully graduate from the CVT bachelor’s degree program can opt for continuing education by earning a master’s degree program or joining medical school. They can also attend professional development courses and seminars administered by organizations such as the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, the Cardiovascular Credentialing International, and the Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals.

Pre-Med Bachelor’s Programs

Students of bachelor’s degree programs, regardless of the major pursued, can seek admission to medical school after they graduate. Many medical schools consider incoming students’ Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) scores and cumulative grade point averages. Laboratory experiences and inherent curricula are devised to benefit students that opt for science majors such as chemistry and biology.

Some schools offer accelerated bachelor’s degree programs in medicine. Students typically complete these programs within about seven years, including some classes conducted by the school at its college of medicine and gain a combination of bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Education Requirements

Most pre-med bachelor’s degree programs do not have specific prior educational requirements other than those normally needed by applicants to a bachelor’s degree program. However, students are expected to complete coursework in science subjects such as chemistry and biology before they apply to the program.

Coursework

Coursework in pre-med bachelor’s degree programs cover general education classes, in addition to courses in the student’s selected major. Biology is a common major for those seeking to enter medical school. Core coursework may include topic areas such as:

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

Job and Wage Outlook

The two types of physicians, namely Medical Doctor (M.D.) and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), differ primarily in their approach; a more preventative and holistic approach to patient care is adopted by a D.O. An aspiring cardiologist that seeks a cardiology specialization must first complete one of these professional degree programs.

Radiologists and cardiologists in the United States have particularly good employment prospects (BLS). The optimistic projection is attributed to the rising numbers of the elderly and the afflictions that accompany aging, such as heart disease and cancer. In December 2013, cardiologists brought in an average annual wage of $204,108.

Continuing Education Choices

Most pre-med majors require students to pursue medical school, which is mandatory for those aspiring to become cardiologists. Schools offer certification, fellowship, and residency programs after they become physicians; these include the American Board of Medical Specialties administered board certification and the Mayo Clinic’s Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education’s offerings of specific cardiology fellowships.

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