An interesting fact about cardiologists is that they must complete 10 or more years of education and training to practice cardiology. Unlike several other areas of medicine that have specific residency training programs, cardiologists must first complete a general internal medicine residency before undergoing cardiology fellowship training.
After obtaining an undergraduate education, the first step to becoming a cardiologist is attending medical school for four years. Then, an aspiring cardiologist must match in an internal medicine residency training program that lasts three years. Next, the student must spend three or more years receiving training specific to cardiology. Finally, the physician must become certified as a cardiologist by successfully completing a two-day exam administered by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Cardiologists are qualified to perform a wide range of tests to check the functioning of the heart and blood vessels, some of which include echocardiograms, cardiac catheters and exercise tests. Although the medical community does not classify cardiologists as surgeons, some of the procedures they perform, such as inserting pacemakers, require them to make small skin incisions. A physician who performs open heart surgery is called a cardiothoracic surgeon and has different training requirements than a cardiologist has.
Some cardiologists have a generalized cardiology practice, while others choose to specialize in a particular area, such as cholesterol management. Regardless of specialty area, every cardiologist must possess the knowledge and skills to handle a cardiac emergency.