The path to becoming a cardiologist is a long road. It takes many years of training and plenty of focus to become a cardiologist. Cardiologists are highly specialized doctors who focus on the medical treatment of the heart. Although it is difficult and takes a long time to become a cardiologist, it can ultimately be a very rewarding career. This article will outline some of the basic steps you will need to take in becoming a cardiologist.
In order to become a cardiologist, you must first get a degree from an undergraduate college or university. You will need a bachelor's degree from a four-year college or university. It is not important what you major in while you are in college, although most future cardiologists will obtain a science degree of some type. Typically, this means a biology or chemistry degree. If you are not a science major as an undergrad, you must carefully select your coursework so that it fulfills the premedical requirements to get into medical school. There are many cardiologists who have non-science degrees - anything from music to English to history are becoming more and more common.
The entrance requirements for medical school are a bit different from school to school. Almost all medical schools require a minimum of one year of biology, one year of general chemistry, one year of physics, and one year of organic chemistry. In addition, most medical schools will require at least a minimal amount of math, and even some English courses. Advanced classes in microbiology and biochemistry are common as well. To determine the exact course requirements for the medical school which you may choose to apply to, I recommend people get a copy of the MSAR book. This stands for "Medical School Admission Requirements". It is published every year, and contains up-to-date information on the admissions requirements for every medical school in the United States. It is an invaluable tool in the application process to medical school. The MSAR book is available at your university bookstore or online at places like Amazon.com (click HERE for the Amazon.com listing).
You will also need to take the MCAT exam. This stands for Medical College Admissions Test. This test is a day-long examination which focuses on the basic sciences. You will need to have mastery of these topics in order to do well in your first two years of medical school. It is a standardized test primarily involving multiple choice questions. The MCAT exam often gives students significant problems, and is one of the many ways in which potential doctors are weeded out of the medical education process. Study hard for the MCAT - if you don't you aren't going to become a cardiologist.
After you have gotten your bachelors degree, and taken the MCAT exam, you will be ready to apply to medical school. Getting into medical school can be quite a challenge. Medical schools look for academic excellence as well as solid extracurricular experiences. Working in the health-care field before applying to medical school can give you a significant advantage in your application. Many people will apply to medical school more than once before they are able to obtain admission.
Once you are in medical school, things only get more difficult. You will face four years of an intense academic curriculum which will challenge even the most motivated students. The first two years of medical school are a general science curriculum. Courses include anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, embryology, pathology, and microbiology. These courses will be extremely challenging and are the same for every medical student no matter what type of doctor they plan on becoming. There are no "majors" in medical school.
Upon completing the first two years of medical school, you will be required to take Step One of the USMLE exam. This is the national medical licensing exam which every medical student in the country takes after their first two years of medical school.
After passing Step One, you will go on to complete years three and four of medical school. These years of training focus on the clinical aspect of becoming a doctor. Upon graduating you will need to take Step Two of the USMLE exam.
In your final year of medical school you will begin the process of applying to residency programs. Residency programs are postgraduate jobs which all medical students who plan on practicing medicine must complete in order to become a licensed doctor. To become a cardiologist, you will need to apply to residencies in internal medicine. Internal medicine residencies are three-year programs designed to teach general medicine in adults. Residents are a bridge between being a student and a fully licensed doctor. You are technically a working doctor (complete with a small paycheck), but you are under close supervision.
Upon completing an internal medicine residency, you will need further training to become a cardiologist. Cardiologists must obtain a fellowship in cardiology after completion of an internal medicine residency. This fellowship can take an additional two to three years after completing the three-year internal medicine residency.
There are even specialties within the specialty of cardiology. One example is known as interventional cardiology. Interventional cardiologists followed the entire path outlined above, and continue with specialty training allowing them to do minor surgical procedures on their patients. And interventional cardiology fellowship can take an additional one to two years beyond the standard cardiology fellowship. Obviously, this can be quite time intense and many cardiologists choose not to go this route.
Becoming a cardiologist is certainly not simple. Although this is only a basic outline of what it takes to become a cardiologist, it should be apparent that it is not a simple thing to achieve. If you truly have your heart set on becoming a cardiologist, talk to a school counselor, or better yet try to find a working doctor whom you can speak with about a career.