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The Complete Guide to Becoming a Cardiologist

The Complete Guide to Becoming a Cardiologist

Jul 21, 2020.

If you’re reading this blog post, it’s likely that you’re considering becoming a Cardiologist. With over 7.4 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK, choosing to specialise in Cardiology will provide you with a rewarding and fulfilling journey, saving thousands of lives along the way.

Keep reading for our Guide on becoming a Cardiologist within the NHS!

What is a Cardiologist?

Before we explain the pathway to becoming a Cardiologist, a good place to start is what exactly the specialty involves…

Cardiovascular Medicine is a very broad specialty, incorporating Cardiologists, who can be frontline emergency Interventionists, experts in Cardiac Imaging, Device Implantation, Genetics and Research, Pharmacology and more! To put it loosely, Cardiologists are trained in the management of patients with a wide and changing spectrum of heart disease and conditions.

Cardiology is a very practical specialty, requiring a clear and strong understanding of physiology and anatomy, often requiring urgent technical ability, data interpretation and decision-making.

Some specialties and disciplines within Cardiology include:

  • Interventional Cardiology
  • Peadiatric Cardiology
  • Echocardiology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Preventative Cardiology
  • Heart Failure Cardiology

Our Guide to becoming a Cardiologist

Step 1: Obtain a Medical Undergraduate Degree

Prospective Cardiologists need to undertake a medical undergraduate degree, teaching you the practical, theoretical and communication skills needed to become a safe, compassionate and ethical doctor.

Most UK medical undergraduate degrees are typically 4-6 years in length; two years of pre-clinical training in an academic environment and two-three years of clinical training at a university teaching hospital in a community setting. Medical schools and teaching hospitals are always closely integrated and so, placement will be arranged by your medical school. The course of study is extended to six years if an intercalated degree is taken in a related subject.

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Step 2: Complete your Foundation Year Training

After you’ve completed your undergraduate medical degree, the next stage as a doctor requires you to complete your two-year Foundation Training Programme – essentially, your first paid job as a doctor! Your foundation training requires you to complete two years, FY1 and FY2. After successful completion of FY1, you’ll be required to register with the General Medical Council.

Your Foundation Programme usually involves six different rotations in medical and surgical specialties. These rotations will give you an insight into the various specialties, allowing you the opportunity to develop basic clinical and non-clinical skills such as communication and teamwork.

Depending on what hospital you work at, you may not have been given the opportunity to rotate within Cardiology. Instead, you must obtain a clinical observership during your annual leave for two reasons. Firstly, it will give you a true insight into the specialty, helping you decide if you truly want to pursue it as your career. Secondly, it will strengthen your training post application (as they can be competitive depending on your ideal location within the UK).

Once you have completed your foundation years, if you still have your heart (no pun intended!) set on Cardiology then you will need to apply for your Specialty Training Post via Oriel.

Step 3: Specialty Training Programme

As Cardiology is a medical specialty, you’ll be required to complete your Core Medical Training (CMT) prior to specialising in Cardiology at ST3+ level. During your medical training years, you’ll learn to become comfortable with evaluating and managing a wide range of medical conditions prior to specialising in the heart.

When it comes to choosing your medical training pathway, you have two options available:

  1. Core Medical Training – CMT, a two-year programme
  2. Acute Care Common Stem – ACCS (Acute Medicine), a three-year programme

To progress onto ST3+ level, you’ll need to obtain the Royal College Qualification MRCP to demonstrate your specialist knowledge and skills.

Once you’re at ST3+ level, you’ll move on to specialise purely in Cardiology which normally takes five-years. However, some trainees undertake research which adds on a minimum of two-years.

The successful completion of specialty training (ST3-7) will enable you to gain a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) and to be listed on the Specialist Register of Cardiovascular Medicine.

Please click here to read the full curriculum for your training programme!

A Final Word

Becoming a Cardiologist is technically demanding, but if you have a love for clinical contact, team-work and a technology and innovative-led specialty with a passion for caring for the body’s most vital organ – Cardiology is for you!


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