CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a cardiologist.

Step 1

Is becoming a cardiologist right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do cardiologists do?
Career Satisfaction
Are cardiologists happy with their careers?
What are cardiologists like?

Still unsure if becoming a cardiologist is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a cardiologist or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

Step 2

High School

Aspiring cardiologists can lay a strong foundation for their future medical careers by taking a combination of rigorous high school courses that prepare them for college and medical school. Here are some recommended high school courses for students interested in pursuing a career in cardiology:

  • Science Courses: Take advanced science courses such as biology, chemistry, and physics to develop a strong understanding of fundamental scientific principles. These courses provide essential knowledge and skills that are relevant to the study of human anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry, which are integral to the practice of cardiology.
  • Mathematics: Take advanced mathematics courses such as algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus to develop quantitative reasoning and problem-solving skills. Mathematics is an essential component of medical education and is used extensively in medical research, data analysis, and clinical decision-making.
  • Anatomy and Physiology: If available, enroll in courses that cover human anatomy and physiology to gain a deeper understanding of the structure and function of the human body. A strong foundation in anatomy and physiology is essential for medical school coursework and clinical practice.
  • Advanced Placement (AP) Courses: Consider taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses in science, mathematics, and other subjects to challenge yourself academically and earn college credit. AP courses demonstrate your academic rigor and readiness for college-level coursework, which is important for admission to competitive undergraduate programs and medical schools.
  • English and Communication: Develop strong written and verbal communication skills by taking English composition and literature courses. Effective communication is essential for success in medical school and in the practice of medicine, as cardiologists must be able to communicate complex medical concepts to patients, colleagues, and other healthcare professionals.
  • Health and Nutrition: Explore courses in health science, nutrition, and human development to gain insight into the factors that influence cardiovascular health and disease. Understanding the principles of nutrition, exercise physiology, and lifestyle medicine is important for promoting heart health and preventing cardiovascular diseases.
  • Extracurricular Activities: Participate in extracurricular activities related to healthcare, science, and leadership to demonstrate your passion for medicine and commitment to serving others. Volunteer at hospitals or clinics, participate in research projects, join science clubs or honor societies, and pursue leadership roles in school or community organizations.
Step 3

Undergraduate Education

Undergraduate education serves as the foundation for pursuing a career in cardiology. While there isn't a specific undergraduate major required to become a cardiologist, aspiring cardiologists typically follow a pre-medical track during their undergraduate studies. Here's an overview of undergraduate education for future cardiologists:

  • Bachelor's Degree: Most aspiring cardiologists complete a four-year bachelor's degree program at a college or university. While there is no specific undergraduate major required for medical school, aspiring cardiologists often major in pre-medicine or science-related fields such as biology, chemistry, or biochemistry. These majors provide a strong foundation in the natural sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics, which are essential for success in medical school and understanding the principles of cardiovascular physiology and pathology.
  • Pre-Medical Coursework: Regardless of their major, pre-medical students must complete specific coursework to meet medical school prerequisites. These courses typically include biology (with labs), general chemistry (with labs), organic chemistry (with labs), physics (with labs), mathematics (including calculus and statistics), and English or writing-intensive courses. Some medical schools may also require additional coursework in psychology, sociology, or humanities.
  • Extracurricular Activities: In addition to academic coursework, undergraduate students interested in pursuing cardiology should engage in extracurricular activities that demonstrate their commitment to healthcare, leadership, and community service. This may include volunteering in hospitals or clinics, participating in research projects, shadowing physicians (including cardiologists), joining pre-medical organizations, and holding leadership positions in student clubs or societies.
  • Research Experience: Research experience can enhance an undergraduate student's application to medical school and provide valuable skills for a career in cardiology. Students interested in cardiology may seek research opportunities in cardiovascular biology, physiology, pharmacology, or clinical cardiology under the mentorship of faculty members or researchers in relevant departments or laboratories.
  • Clinical Exposure: Exposure to clinical medicine is essential for understanding the practice of cardiology and confirming one's interest in the specialty. Undergraduate students can gain clinical experience by shadowing physicians, volunteering in healthcare settings, participating in medical missions or internships, and engaging in healthcare-related activities that allow direct interaction with patients and healthcare professionals.
Step 4

Medical School

Medical school serves as the foundational step for aspiring cardiologists, providing them with the comprehensive medical education necessary to understand the complexities of human physiology, pathology, and clinical medicine. Here's an overview of medical school education for those aiming to become cardiologists:

  • Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): To gain admission to medical school, aspiring cardiologists must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), a standardized examination that assesses their knowledge of natural sciences, critical thinking skills, and ability to apply scientific principles to medical practice. High MCAT scores, along with a competitive undergraduate GPA and strong letters of recommendation, enhance an applicant's chances of gaining acceptance to medical school.
  • Medical School Curriculum: Medical school typically spans four years and is divided into two main phases: preclinical and clinical. During the preclinical phase, students learn basic science principles, including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, microbiology, and pathology, through didactic lectures, laboratory sessions, and small-group discussions. The preclinical curriculum provides the foundational knowledge necessary for understanding human health and disease processes, including those related to the cardiovascular system.
  • Clinical Rotations: In the clinical phase of medical school, students rotate through different medical specialties, including internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, and others. Clinical rotations provide hands-on experience in patient care, allowing students to apply their medical knowledge in real-world settings and gain exposure to various medical subspecialties, including cardiology. During cardiology rotations, medical students work alongside cardiologists and cardiovascular fellows to evaluate and manage patients with cardiovascular diseases, participate in diagnostic procedures, and learn about treatment modalities and patient care strategies.
  • Electives and Research Opportunities: Medical students interested in cardiology may have the opportunity to participate in elective rotations in cardiology departments, engage in research projects related to cardiovascular medicine, or pursue extracurricular activities that enhance their understanding of cardiovascular physiology and pathology. These experiences allow students to explore their interests, develop relationships with faculty mentors, and strengthen their residency applications for future training in cardiology.
  • By completing medical school, aspiring cardiologists acquire the foundational knowledge, clinical skills, and professional competencies necessary to pursue advanced training in cardiology. After medical school, graduates typically enter residency training programs in internal medicine.
Step 5


Residency training for aspiring cardiologists is typically in the field of internal medicine. Here are the details of residency training:

  • Duration: Residency training in internal medicine generally spans three years. During this time, residents undergo intensive clinical training in various medical specialties, including internal medicine, to build a strong foundation in general medical practice.
  • Clinical Rotations: Internal medicine residents rotate through different medical specialties, including cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology, nephrology, infectious diseases, and others. These rotations provide exposure to a wide range of medical conditions and patient populations, allowing residents to develop clinical skills, diagnostic acumen, and management strategies relevant to cardiovascular diseases.
  • Cardiology Rotations: While in residency, aspiring cardiologists typically spend several months rotating through cardiology services in hospitals or outpatient clinics. During these rotations, residents work closely with cardiologists and cardiovascular fellows to evaluate and manage patients with various cardiovascular conditions, including coronary artery disease, heart failure, arrhythmias, valvular heart disease, and congenital heart defects.
  • Educational Activities: In addition to clinical rotations, internal medicine residents participate in educational activities, such as lectures, seminars, case conferences, and journal clubs, to enhance their medical knowledge and clinical decision-making skills. These activities cover topics related to cardiovascular physiology, pathophysiology, diagnostic testing, treatment modalities, and evidence-based medicine.
  • Professional Development: Throughout residency training, aspiring cardiologists have opportunities for professional development, including research projects, quality improvement initiatives, and presentations at medical conferences. Engaging in scholarly activities allows residents to deepen their understanding of cardiovascular medicine, contribute to the medical literature, and prepare for future careers in cardiology.
  • Supervised Patient Care: Internal medicine residents provide direct patient care under the supervision of attending physicians, gaining experience in patient assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, and follow-up care. Residents learn to manage acute and chronic cardiovascular conditions, perform bedside procedures, interpret diagnostic tests, and collaborate with multidisciplinary healthcare teams to optimize patient outcomes.
Step 6


Fellowship training for aspiring cardiologists is a specialized program that provides in-depth education and clinical experience in cardiovascular medicine. Here are the details of fellowship training:

  • Duration: Fellowship training in cardiology typically lasts three to four years. The duration may vary slightly depending on the program and whether additional subspecialty training is pursued within cardiology.
  • Eligibility: To be eligible for fellowship training in cardiology, physicians must complete a residency program in internal medicine. Some fellowship programs may require additional prerequisites, such as completion of a certain number of years of clinical practice, research experience, or specific coursework.
  • Curriculum: Cardiology fellowship training is comprehensive and covers various aspects of cardiovascular medicine, including coronary artery disease, heart failure, arrhythmias, valvular heart disease, congenital heart defects, and vascular disorders. Fellows receive extensive training in the evaluation, diagnosis, and management of patients with cardiovascular conditions across the spectrum of complexity.
  • Clinical Rotations: During fellowship, cardiologists-in-training rotate through different clinical services within cardiology, including inpatient cardiology services, cardiac catheterization labs, cardiac electrophysiology labs, echocardiography laboratories, nuclear cardiology units, and heart failure/transplant clinics. These rotations provide hands-on experience in performing diagnostic procedures, interpreting test results, and managing patients with cardiovascular diseases under the supervision of experienced faculty members.
  • Research Opportunities: Many cardiology fellowship programs offer opportunities for research and scholarly activities. Fellows have the chance to pursue clinical or basic science research projects, participate in clinical trials, present their findings at scientific conferences, and publish their work in peer-reviewed journals. Research experience enhances fellows' understanding of cardiovascular pathophysiology, fosters critical thinking skills, and prepares them for careers in academic medicine or research.
  • Didactic Education: In addition to clinical rotations and research activities, cardiology fellowship programs include didactic education components, such as lectures, conferences, journal clubs, and case discussions. These educational sessions cover topics relevant to cardiovascular medicine, including physiology, pharmacology, imaging modalities, interventional techniques, guidelines, and emerging trends in cardiology.

By completing fellowship training, cardiologists acquire the specialized knowledge, clinical skills, and professional competencies necessary to provide high-quality care to patients with cardiovascular diseases. Upon completion of fellowship training, physicians are eligible to become board-certified in cardiology by passing the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) certification examination in cardiovascular disease.

Examples of Subspecialty Fellowships:

  • Interventional Cardiology Fellowship: Focuses on performing minimally invasive procedures to diagnose and treat coronary artery disease, structural heart conditions, and peripheral vascular disease. Fellows gain expertise in coronary angiography, percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), intravascular imaging, and transcatheter valve therapies.
  • Electrophysiology (EP) Fellowship: Focuses on diagnosing and managing heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias) using advanced electrophysiology techniques. Fellows learn to perform diagnostic electrophysiology studies, catheter ablation procedures, and implantation of cardiac rhythm management devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators.
  • Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology Fellowship: Focuses on managing patients with advanced heart failure, including those requiring mechanical circulatory support (ventricular assist devices) and heart transplantation. Fellows gain expertise in assessing heart failure severity, optimizing medical therapy, and coordinating care for patients awaiting transplantation or device implantation.
  • Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) Fellowship: Focuses on caring for adults with congenital heart defects, providing comprehensive evaluation, long-term follow-up, and specialized treatments tailored to the unique needs of this patient population. Fellows learn to manage complex congenital heart lesions, address acquired complications, and provide transitional care from pediatric to adult cardiology services.
  • Preventive Cardiology Fellowship: Focuses on promoting cardiovascular health and preventing heart disease through lifestyle modifications, risk factor management, and evidence-based interventions. Fellows learn to assess cardiovascular risk, implement personalized prevention strategies, and educate patients about healthy behaviors.
  • Cardiac Imaging Fellowship: Focuses on interpreting and performing advanced cardiac imaging studies to diagnose and manage cardiovascular conditions. Fellows gain expertise in echocardiography, cardiac MRI, and cardiac CT, learning to use imaging modalities to assess cardiac structure and function, myocardial viability, and vascular anatomy.
  • Vascular Medicine Fellowship: Focuses on diagnosing and managing vascular diseases affecting the arterial, venous, and lymphatic systems. Fellows learn to evaluate patients with peripheral artery disease, venous thromboembolism, aneurysmal diseases, and vasculitis, and to perform specialized vascular imaging and interventions.
  • Structural Heart Disease Fellowship: Focuses on diagnosing and treating structural abnormalities of the heart, such as valvular heart disease and congenital heart defects, using transcatheter interventions. Fellows gain expertise in transcatheter valve replacement and repair procedures, as well as septal defect closures and other percutaneous interventions for structural heart conditions.
Step 7


Licensing is a critical step for cardiologists, ensuring that they meet the necessary qualifications and standards to practice medicine independently and provide high-quality care to patients. Here are the detailed aspects of licensing for cardiologists:

  • Completion of Medical Education: Before applying for a medical license, individuals must complete their medical education, including graduating from an accredited medical school in the US or Canada or passing the necessary examinations to demonstrate equivalent medical education if educated outside of the US or Canada.
  • Completion of Residency and Fellowship Training: Cardiologists must complete residency training in internal medicine, followed by fellowship training in cardiology, to become eligible for medical licensure. Residency and fellowship training programs must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) to ensure that the training meets rigorous standards for education and patient care.
  • Passing Licensing Examinations: To obtain a medical license, cardiologists must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA), depending on whether they are allopathic (MD) or osteopathic (DO) physicians. These examinations assess a physician's knowledge and ability to apply medical principles and skills in the diagnosis and management of patient care.
  • State Medical Licensing Boards: Medical licensure is regulated by individual state medical licensing boards, each of which sets its own requirements and processes for licensure. Cardiologists must apply for a medical license in the state(s) where they intend to practice, submit the required documentation and fees, and meet the board's eligibility criteria, which may include passing background checks and providing letters of recommendation.
  • State-specific Requirements: State medical licensing boards may have additional requirements for licensure beyond passing licensing examinations. These requirements may include completing continuing medical education (CME) credits, completing training in specific areas such as medical ethics or pain management, and providing documentation of professional liability insurance coverage.
  • Maintenance of Licensure: Once licensed, cardiologists are required to maintain their licensure by complying with state-specific requirements for continuing medical education (CME) and periodic renewal of their license. Renewal periods vary by state but typically occur every one to three years. Cardiologists must ensure that they meet the continuing education requirements set by their state medical licensing board to renew their license and remain eligible to practice medicine.
Step 8

Board Certification

Board certification is an important credential for cardiologists, demonstrating proficiency in cardiovascular medicine and commitment to maintaining high standards of clinical practice. Here are the detailed aspects of board certifications for cardiologists:

American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Certification in Cardiovascular Disease
The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) offers certification in cardiovascular disease, which is recognized as the standard credential for cardiologists in the US. To become board-certified in cardiovascular disease, physicians must complete an accredited fellowship training program in cardiology, pass the ABIM certification examination in cardiovascular disease, and meet other eligibility criteria set by the ABIM. The certification examination assesses a physician's knowledge, skills, and clinical judgment in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of cardiovascular diseases, including coronary artery disease, heart failure, arrhythmias, valvular heart disease, and congenital heart defects. Board certification is valid for ten years and must be renewed through the ABIM's Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program, which requires ongoing professional development, self-assessment, and evaluation of clinical practice performance.

American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine (AOBIM) Certification
Osteopathic physicians (DOs) pursuing a career in cardiology may obtain board certification through the American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine (AOBIM). The AOBIM offers certification in cardiovascular disease, which is similar to the ABIM certification and requires completion of an accredited fellowship training program in cardiology, passing the AOBIM certification examination in cardiovascular disease, and meeting other eligibility criteria. Board certification by the AOBIM demonstrates proficiency in osteopathic principles and practices, as well as clinical competence in cardiovascular medicine.

Maintenance of Certification (MOC)
Both ABIM and AOBIM board certifications require maintenance of certification (MOC) to ensure that board-certified cardiologists stay current with advances in medical knowledge, technology, and practice standards. MOC programs include ongoing professional development activities, self-assessment modules, and evaluations of clinical practice performance. Physicians must participate in MOC activities and meet continuing education requirements to renew their board certification periodically.