Heart specialists are physicians who are involved in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of the cardiovascular system. As internal medicine physicians, heart specialists specialize in cardiology. To become a heart specialist, you generally will need a college degree, a medical degree, post-medical school residency training, and fellowship training.
To become a heart specialist, it is important to get a college degree. You can choose any major you wish; however, it will be necessary to take college science courses such as chemistry, biology, and physics in order to fulfill medical school application requirements. Pursuing medical school can be competitive. Therefore, getting good grades in all college coursework can be essential — a high grade point average (GPA) will be something that many prospective medical schools will want to see.
During college, it can also be helpful for you to participate in an internship that involves work in a medical setting. Any type of work typically will suffice as long as it is in a medical setting. The career services department at your college should be able to help you apply for an internship. If you want to become a heart specialist, completing an internship is important because experience in a medical setting is something that many prospective medical schools will want to see in your medical school application.
Also, you will have to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) exam; the MCAT exam scores will be a part of your medical school application. The MCAT exam assesses your skills in critical thinking, problem solving, verbal reasoning, writing, and science. This exam gives medical schools a sense of how you would perform in medical school.
You could begin applying to medical schools at the beginning of your final year in college. The Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree is generally recommended for anyone who wants to become a heart specialist. The MD degree typically includes four years of medical study. These courses will give you the basic academic preparation needed to become a physician.
After successful completion of medical school, you will typically have to undergo residency training and fellowship training. Residency training usually takes three years and involves supervised experiences where you will do observation and specific training that will prepare you for a career as a heart specialist physician. Fellowship training comes after residency training and is actually similar to residency training in the sense that you will gain additional supervised experience that will prepare you to function as a heart specialist physician. In addition to residency training and fellowship training, you will have to pass the medical licensure exam in order to become a heart specialist.
Once you become a heart specialist, you have several career options. You could be a non-invasive cardiologist who performs diagnostic tests and prescribes medications or other treatment suggestions to patients with heart problems, or you could be an invasive cardiologist who does cardiac catheterization to determine if patients have blocked arteries. Also, you might choose to be an interventional cardiologist or electrophysiologist. Interventional cardiologists perform balloon angioplasties in order to open up blocked arteries. Electrophysiologists insert pacemakers, do surgical ablations to address heart problems, or implement medications to counteract heart arrhythmias.