Paediatric cardiology

Paediatric cardiologists diagnose and treat children with heart conditions before they are born, through childhood and into adulthood.

Your patients will be infants and children with complex diagnostic and medical problems, and you’ll work closely with specialist colleagues in a multidisciplinary team. 

Life as a doctor in paediatric cardiology

As well as being an expert in heart disease, you’ll also need a thorough grounding in general paediatrics. You’ll work closely with your patient’s family to explain complicated procedures and support and reassure them. 

You’ll use a range of advanced scanning and diagnostic techniques to assess conditions such as foetal cardiac abnormalities in the womb, heart failure in children and heart murmurs. You’ll diagnose and treat conditions such as congenital heart disease that is present at birth, variations in heartbeat rhythms (arrhythmias) and problems with circulatory function. In some cases, a heart transplant may be required. 

You’ll be based in a regional centre which could be part of a paediatric hospital, congenital cardiac unit or major cardiothoracic centre. Most centres hold joint outreach clinics with linked district hospitals in their areas.  
You’ll work longer hours than in most medical specialties because of the complex nature of the work. This includes a significant on-call commitment as patients are often admitted at night or have urgent post-operative needs.  

How much can I earn?

You’ll first earn a salary when you start your foundation training after medical school. The basic salary ranges from £32,398 to £37,303. Once you start your specialty training in the NHS, you can expect to earn a salary of at least £43,923, which can increase to between £93,666 and £126,281 as a consultant.

How about the benefits?

  • make a difference
  • flexible and part-time working
  • high income early in your career
  • work anywhere in the world
  • excellent pension scheme
  • good holiday entitlement
  • NHS discounts in shops and restaurants

Must-have skills 

  • excellent communication skills to manage a wide range of relationships with colleagues, and patients and their families
  • emotional resilience, a calm temperament and the ability to work well under pressure
  • teamwork and the capacity to lead multidisciplinary teams
  • problem-solving and diagnostic skills
  • outstanding organisational ability and effective decision-making skills
  • first-class time and resource management for the benefit of patients

Entry requirements

Your first step is medical school. Typically, you’ll need excellent GCSEs and three A or A* passes at A level including chemistry for a five-year undergraduate degree in medicine. Many medical schools also ask for biology and others may require maths or physics.

If you already have a degree, you could study for a four-year postgraduate degree in medicine. 

You’ll need to pass an interview and admissions test. You’ll be asked to show how you demonstrate the NHS values such as compassion and respect. 
Some medical schools look to recruit a mix of students from different backgrounds and geographical areas, so your educational and economic background and family circumstances could be considered as part of your application. 

What are my chances of starting a career in paediatric cardiology?

In 2021, there were 135 paediatric cardiology consultants working in the NHS in England. In addition, there were 35 applications for six specialty training places.

How to become a doctor in paediatric cardiology

After medical school, you’ll join the paid two-year foundation programme where you’ll work in six placements in different settings.

After your foundation programme, you can apply for paid specialty training to become a doctor in paediatric cardiology, which will take a minimum of eight years. 

You may be able to train part time, for example for health reasons or if you have family or caring responsibilities.

Where a career as a paediatric cardiologist can take you

You could: 
  • specialise or conduct research in areas such as foetal cardiology and adult congenital heart disease
  • teach medical students or postgraduate students in training 

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