This article provides a straightforward description of each type of cardiology job, helping you to understand the differences between each one.
Cardiologists provide a wide range of services to study, prevent, diagnose and treat heart problems including heart failure, cardiac arrest and coronary artery disease.
Cardiology is a specialist area of medicine and there are various types of cardiologist. This means that cardiology covers a range of career paths and specialisms. Some cardiology jobs involve invasive procedures and heart surgery, others involve diagnosing conditions and supporting patients, and other cardiology jobs are more research-based. Some cardiology jobs involve treating patients with ongoing cardiac problems whereas others perform emergency treatments for patients such sudden life-threatening conditions.
If you’re interested in becoming a cardiologist then it’s important to understand the different types of cardiology job. This will help you to plan your career accordingly and work towards the area of cardiology that best fits your skills and interests.
Cardiology jobs for non-physicians
Most cardiology jobs require a full medical degree and extensive post-qualification training. The cardiology team also includes non-physician jobs, although these too require extensive qualifications and experience.
A Cardiac or Cardiovascular Nurse requires a nursing qualification rather than a medical degree.
Cardiac Nurses are a key part of the cardiology team. They assist physicians in diagnosing heart conditions, arranging surgeries and other procedures, and providing expert aftercare to patients. They are responsible for monitoring patients’ progress and ensuring they are as comfortable as possible. Many Cardiac Nurses assist cardiac patients in their rehabilitiation, supporting them to make a quick recovery and make any lifestyle changes that will help to prevent future problems.
Registered nurses can pursue a career as a Cardiac Nurse by undertaking specialist advanced training programmes.
Cardiac Physiologists – also known as Cardiac Technologists and Cardiac Technicians – do important diagnostic work with patients who have suspected or known heart problems. They work as part of the cardiology team, performing a range of tests such as EKG’s, echocardiographs and cardiac stress tests on behalf of the cardiologists who request them. They also analyse the test results and report to the patient’s physician.
A cardiology job as a Cardiac Physiologist may also involve assisting with fitting pacemakers and providing follow-up care for patients with pacemakers.
The requirements for Cardiac Physiologist jobs depend on the employer. They usually include a degree in Cardiac Physiology as well as work experience in a medical or cardiology environment. Additional credentials and membership of relevant associations may also be required.
Cardiology jobs for qualified physicians
The more senior cardiology jobs are for qualified physicians with extensive cardiology training and qualifications.
Non-Invasive Cardiologist jobs focus on a wide range of cardiology tasks that do not involve invasive procedures or heart surgery.
The bulk of a Non-Invasive Cardiologist’s job will consist of office-based work such as performing cardiology consultations and running patient clinics. The work focusses on supporting patients to prevent, diagnose and manage potential heart problems.
A Non-Invasive Cardiologist may arrange or perform a range of tests to diagnose heart problems. This includes echocardiograms, EKG’s (electrocardiographs), cardac stress tests and nuclear tests (in which the patient is injected with radioactive dye and the heart is photographed using a special ‘nuclear camera’). They can interpret cardiac test results and advise the patient of the options. If the condition can be managed with diet or medication then the Non-Invasive Cardiologist will continue to support them by providing advice and/or prescribing medication. If the condition requires an invasive procedure or surgery then they will refer the patient to an appropriate cardiac specialist.
An Invasive Cardiologist job involves everything in a Non-Invasive Cardiologist’s job description, and they are also trained in cardiac catheterization and other minor surgeries. This is a diagnostic procedure used to locate blocked arteries in the heart. If a blockage is discovered then they will refer the patient to an Interventional cardiologist for any additional procedures.
An Interventional Cardiologist is qualified to perform more advanced cardiac procedures than Invasive and Non-Invasive Cardiologists.
Interventional Cardiologists perform a range of cardiology tasks as part of their job. This includes invasive procedures such as heart catheterizations, stent placements in closed or diseased arteries, plaque removal (atheroectomy), valve repairs, placing mesh stends into narrowing arteries and balloon angioplasty to open blocked arteries.
Less frequently, an Interventional Cardiologist’s job will include non-invasive procedures that do not include opening the chest, such as valve replacements. Some Interventional Cardiologists are also involved in transesophageal echocardiograms and pericardiocenteses.
As well as their direct work treating patients, Interventional Cardiologists will spend part of their job in the office. As well as keeping up to date with paperwork, they perform preparatory and follow-up consultations with the patients they are treating.
Cardiac SurgeonExperienced surgeons can obtain additional qualifications in order to get a specialist cardiology job. They perform major operations on hearts, major blood vessels, veins and arteries.
Electrophysiologist Cardiologist jobs involve a range of tasks relating to cardiac electrophysiology.
Electrophysiology studies the heart’s bio-electrical impulses, which provide vital information about a patient’s cardiac health. Studying the electrical stimulus of the heart can identify irregular heartbeats and other problems that could cause cardiac arrest or other problems.
This includes practical work to install pacemakers and defibrillators, echocardiographs and electrophysiology work to map the heart’s electrical activity. An Electrophysiologist Cardiologist will also perform treatments (ablations) to selectively destroy abnormal electrical pathways, for example using heat catheters. They may also be involved in administering medication to manage irregularities in a patient’s heart rhythms and treat heart failure.
Other specialist cardiology jobs
The most common cardiology jobs are described above. Some hospitals and medical organisations have other specialist cardiology jobs including:
- Heart Failure Cardiologist – As its name suggests, a Heart Failure Cardiologist specialises in helping patients with heart failure.
- Imaging Cardiologist – A job as an Imaging Cardiologist involves working with a wide range of imagery relating to the heart. This includes reading and interpreting cardiac echocardiograms, cardiac CT scan images, MRI scans and cardiac stress test results.
- Paediatric Cardiologist – A job as a Paediatric Cardiologist involves a wide range of work to help children with heart problems.
- Transplant Cardiologist – Transplant Cardiologist jobs involve specialising in patients who need or have had heart transplants.
Are all these cardiology jobs mutually exclusive?
Not all cardiologists specialise in a single area of cardiology. Lots of cardiology jobs are more general and combine a wide range of tasks.
There is also a lot of cross-over between the specialisms. For example, Electrophysiologist Cardiologists may do general cardiology consultations as well as specialist work with patients with electrophysiology problems.