A career as a cardiologist will give you prestige, a chance to help others and high pay. "Modern Heatlhcare" reported that the cardiologists earned a stratospheric $373,500 to $532,000 annually in 2010. However, salary isn't everything, especially when you have to spend so much time and money getting ready for the job. Once you start, you'll find that a cardiologist's career has other disadvantages.
It takes at least 10 years of professional training to learn to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases of the circulatory system and heart. Before you even start, you must complete a bachelor's degree and pass the Medical College Admission Test. If you make the cut for med school, you'll need four more years to get your M.D., plus three years of residency in internal medicine and an additional three years of training in cardiology.
Licensing and Certification
You're not done just because you've finished training. As with other physicians, cardiologists must pass national written and hands-on exams and meet the medical licensing requirements of the particular state. In addition, once a cardiologist has completed specialty training, she must pass two days of difficult examinations from the American Board of Internal Medicine to receive board certification.
All that education costs a lot of money. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 85 percent of those graduating from private medical school and 88 percent finishing public medical school in 2010 had student loans. The amount of the debt is huge, according to a survey by "U.S. News & World Report." In 2010, the average private medical school graduate owed $155,000, while other grads carried a modestly lower $145,000 in average debt.
Stress and Overwork
Cardiologists typically work under stress because of the life-and-death importance of their field. They diagnose and treat serious problems such as heart attacks and perform delicate procedures such as heart catheterization. They typically work long hours because, as one doctor reported to "U.S. News & World Report," you have to choose between making big money and having a life. Many cardiologists work 60 hours per week, according to Health Care Salary Online, and spend a lot of time on-call. They sometimes have to get up in the middle of the night or check patients at odd hours.
Paperwork and Pay Issues
Insurance red tape and paperwork are eating up more time in private cardiology offices in the early 21st century, as Dr. Michael Mirro told "The New York Times." Adding insult to injury, insurance reimbursements are falling, so cardiologists are leaving private practice in droves for jobs as employees. As a result of market pressures, the remaining self-employed cardiologists have to keep lowering their fees.
2016 Salary Information for Physicians and Surgeons
Physicians and surgeons earned a median annual salary of $204,950 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physicians and surgeons earned a 25th percentile salary of $131,980, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $261,170, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 713,800 people were employed in the U.S. as physicians and surgeons.
- Modern Healthcare: Par for Doc Pay?
- CardioSmart: What Is a Cardiologist?
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Physician or Surgeon
- The New York Times: More Doctors Giving Up Private Practices
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physicians and Surgeons
- Career Trend: Physicians and Surgeons