Employment Prospects


The U.S. Department of Labor reports that, as of May 2018, there were 756,800 physicians and surgeons employed in the United States. According to the State Health Facts Web site of the Kaiser Family Foundation, there were 32,640 actively practicing cardiologists in the United States as of March 2019. Cardiologists are employed in a wide variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, office-based multispecialty group practices, office-based single-specialty group practices, healthcare organizations, outpatient clinics, and academic (nonhospital) research, military, and government institutions. Some are self-employed in their own practice or group practice. In the past, many physicians, including cardiologists, went into business for themselves, either by starting their own practice or by becoming a partner in an existing one. However, the costs of starting a medical practice or buying into an existing medical practice are too high. Beginning in 2005, more than 50 percent of all physicians worked as salaried employees for hospitals rather than in solo or group practices, and research surveys of the sectoral employment of cardiologists illustrate that this particular employment trend continued during the 2010s. 

Jobs for physicians are available all over the world, although licensing requirements may vary. In developing countries, there is great demand for medical professionals of all types. Conditions, supplies, and equipment may be poor and pay is minimal, but there are great rewards in terms of experience. Many doctors fulfill part or all of their residency requirements by practicing in other countries.

Physicians interested in teaching may find employment at medical schools or university hospitals. There are also positions available in government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration.

Pharmaceutical companies and chemical companies hire physicians to research and develop new drugs, instruments, and procedures.

Starting Out

There are no shortcuts to entering the medical profession. Requirements are an M.D. degree, a licensing examination, a one- or two-year internship, and a period of residency that may extend as long as five years (and seven years if they are pursuing board certification in a specialty).

Upon completing this program, which may take up to 15 years, physicians are then ready to enter practice. They may choose to open a solo private practice, enter a partnership practice, enter a group practice, or take a salaried job with a managed-care facility or hospital. Salaried positions are also available with federal and state agencies, the military, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, and private companies. Teaching and research jobs are usually obtained after other experience is acquired.

The highest ratio of physicians to patients is in the New England and Middle Atlantic states. The lowest ratio is in the South Central and Mountain states. Most M.D.s practice in urban areas near hospitals and universities.

Advancement Prospects

Cardiologists who work in a managed-care setting or for a large group or corporation can try to advance by opening a private practice, but major changes, over the last decade, in the economics of healthcare industry and the currently high costs of opening a private practice make such an advancement route problematic. The average cardiologist in private practice does not advance in the accustomed sense of the word. They advance in skill and understanding, complexity of patient cases managed, in numbers of patients, medical research conducted and in income. They may be made a fellow in a professional specialty, or get elected to an important office in the American Medical Association, the American College of Cardiology or American Osteopathic Association. Advancement may also result from obtaining teaching and research positions may also increase a physician's status.

Some physicians may become directors of a laboratory, managed-care facility, hospital department, or medical school program. Some may move into hospital administration positions.

A physician can achieve recognition by conducting research in new medicines, treatments, and cures, and publishing their findings in medical journals. Participation in professional organizations can also bring prestige.

A physician can advance by pursuing further education in a subspecialty or a second field such as biochemistry or microbiology.

Tips for Entry

Arrange with your family doctor or a medical contact to shadow a cardiologist as he or she conducts office visits, does rounds in a hospital, or performs surgery.

Examine the Career sections of the Web sites of the American Board of Internal Medicine, American College of Cardiology, or similar organizations to get a sense of what positions are available in this field.

If you are already a physician, pursue certification in your specialty. Board certification is an impressive qualification to add to your resume.

If you did not major in a medicine-related subject in college, you can still qualify for medical school by taking organic chemistry and related subjects in summer school and then applying to medical school.

When choosing courses in college prior to medical school, do not neglect courses in other fields like the humanities. The best physicians are those who can relate to their patients in many areas, not just scientific subjects.