As young people enter an uncertain workforce and an even more uncertain higher education experience, choosing a field of study is an increasingly important decision. Although estimates put an adult’s lifetime career changes close to 7, it’s not quite the same in the field of medicine, especially in highly specialized branches of practice. If you’re considering becoming a cardiologist, here’s some advice about how to decide if it’s right for you.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the more general field of Physicians and Surgeons is one of the fastest growing labor fields in the market, pacing at about 14% growth per year. Furthermore, the median pay of a physician grosses around $90 an hour, or $187,000 per year.

On the day to day, cardiologists are responsible for patients referred to them by their primary care physician for deeper investigation to irregular heart issues, breathing issues, and dizziness. Some cardiologists work in ERs, having to diagnose and treat in pressing and extreme situations, but others hold private practices and help patients manage their blood pressure, monitor their cardiovascular health, and find the right balance of medication and lifestyle to keep patients in ship shape.

According to a paper published in 2014, cardiology offers some unique benefits and challenges. It posits,

Above all you need to have an empathy with patients with cardiovascular disease, and not be daunted by large clinics or take-ins. Beyond this, you need to have the ability and interest in managing cardiological emergencies as well as the long-term conditions within cardiology, such as heart failure, arrhythmias and post-surgical patients. Cardiology practice is dynamic with a huge international research base driving regular updates in clinical guidelines and protocols.

The investment it takes to become a cardiologist is not small, though, and it’s important to know all the steps involved before jumping in feet-first. The schooling involved is rigorous and certainly not for the faint of heart. Often, the undergraduate requirements alone are enough to make even good students second-guess themselves in courses like organic chemistry and others that require intense memorization. All totaled, cardiologists typically need 13 full years of schooling and training after high school, including undergraduate studies, master’s studies, doctoral studies, residencies, and fellowships. Not only does this represent a huge time commitment, but all that schooling is also costly. The field of cardiology is lucrative, but the investments are steep as well.

Many enter the field of cardiology, or whatever their chosen specialty is, for personal and emotional reasons including a family history of problems in that area or the passing of a friend form a disease endemic of that field of study. These are also perfectly valid reasons to enter the field of cardiology.

The best cardiologists are equal parts professional and compassionate. Heart troubles are cause for much concern for your average citizen, so a good cardiologists has to be able to make their patients feel comfortable, listened to, and informed. Cardiologists also need to pay extreme attention to detail, as small irregularities in test results may be indicative of much larger problems. Lastly, cardiologists need to be able to stay on top of innovations in technology, medicine, and software that will help their patient achieve and maintain good heart health. As I’ve written about, heart disease is still one of the top killers in the US, and by practicing preventative cardiology, you can actively help decrease the instances of heart disease.

 
If all this sounds good, you may want to consider a career in cardiology. The hours are long and often thankless, but it’s a wonderful career with the potential to help a lot of people manage their heart concerns.