Cardiologists are doctors who diagnose, assess and treat patients with diseases and defects of the heart and blood vessels (the cardiovascular system).
This page provides useful information on the nature of the work, the common procedures/interventions, sub-specialties and other roles that may interest you.
Nature of the work
Their work involves patients of all ages from prenatal diagnosis to end-of-life care. Cardiologists manage patients with conditions such as:
- angina (chest pain caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries)
- arrhythmias, eg atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
- heart murmurs
- cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle)
- coronary artery thrombosis or myocardial infarction (heart attack) often associated with high blood pressure (hypertension) and pulmonary oedema (accumulation of fluid)
- diseases of the arteries (atherosclerosis, arteritis, atheroma)
- diseases of the aortic and mitral valves
- hole in the heart and other forms of paediatric or grown-up congenital heart disease
Much of the emphasis is on improving survival rates and quality of life following heart attacks, heart failure or heart rhythm disorders; but cardiologists are also concerned with understanding disease processes and disease prevention.
Common procedures and interventions
Common procedures and interventions include:
- coronary angioplasty (inserting a catheter with a balloon on the end into the affected artery)
- fitting pacemakers
- magnetic resonance and CT scanning
- cardiac treadmill stress test (to measure the heart’s performance and limitations)
- echocardiogram (an echo test to investigate the structure and functioning of the heart)
- cardiac catheterisation (inserting a small tube in or near the heart to take pictures, look at how the heart is working, check the electrical system, or help relieve blockage)
The CCT sub-specialty is:
- stroke medicine
In keeping with the move away from the single-handed general cardiologist model to a more team based subspecialised approach, many cardiologists develop sub-specialty interests such as:
- interventional cardiology and congenital heart disease
- cardiac imaging
- device therapy
- heart failure
Want to learn more?
Find out more about:
- the working life of a doctor in this area of medicine
- the entry requirements and training and development
- Pay and conditions Expand / Collapse
This section provides useful information about the pay for junior doctors (doctors in training), SAS doctors (specialty doctors and associate specialists) and consultants.
NHS employers provides useful advice and guidance on all NHS pay, contracts terms and conditions.
Medical staff working in private sector hospitals, the armed services or abroad will be paid on different scales.
- Where the role can lead Expand / Collapse
Read about consultant and non-consultant roles in cardiology, flexible working and about wider opportunities.
Managerial opportunities for consultants include:
- clinical lead - lead NHS consultant for the team
- clinical director - lead NHS consultant for the department
- medical director - lead NHS consultant for the Trust
Most NHS consultants will be involved with clinical and educational supervision of junior doctors.
Here are some examples of education and training opportunities:
- director of medical education - the NHS consultant appointed to the hospital board who is responsible for the postgraduate medical training in a hospital. They work with the postgraduate dean to make sure training meets GMC standards.
- training programme director - the NHS consultant overseeing the education of the local cohort of trainee doctors eg foundation training programme director. This role will be working within the LETB/deanery
- associate dean - the NHS consultant responsible for management of the entirety of a training programme. This role will be also be working within the LETB/deanery
SAS doctor roles
SAS doctors (Staff, Associate Specialists and Specialty Doctors) work as career grade specialty doctors who are not in training or in consultant posts. You will need at least four postgraduate years training (two of those being in a relevant specialty) before you can apply for SAS roles.
Find out more about SAS doctor roles.
Other non-training grade roles
These roles include:
- trust grade
- clinical fellows
If you have trained on an academic cardiology pathway or are interested in research there are opportunities in academic medicine.
For those with a particular interest in research, you may wish to consider an academic career in cardiology. Whilst not essential, some doctors start their career with an Academic Foundation post. This enables them to develop skills in research and teaching alongside the basic competences in the foundation curriculum.
Entry into an academic career would usually start with an Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) and may progress to a Clinical Lectureship (CL). Alternatively some trainees that begin with an ACF post then continue as an ST trainee on the clinical programme post-ST4.
Applications for entry into Academic Clinical Fellow posts are coordinated by the National Institute for Health Research Trainees Coordinating Centre (NIHRTCC).
There are also numerous opportunities for trainees to undertake research outside of the ACF/CL route, as part of planned time out of their training programme. Find out more about academic medicine.
The Clinical Research Network (CRN) actively encourages all doctors to take part in clinical research.
There are opportunities to be employed by the NHS, academic institutions, private sector, universities, the armed forces, organisations and national governing bodies.
- Job market and vacancies Expand / Collapse
This section provides useful information about the availability of jobs, finding vacancies and where to find out more.
Job market information
Cardiology is one of the largest specialties with 1,189 consultants and 866 medical registars in England (NHS Digital, 2016). Women make up about 13% of the consultant workforce and nearly 22% of the medical registrar workforce in the UK (2014/15 RCP census, 2016).
The competition ratio for Core Medical Training (CT1), the first stage in the training (post-foundation), in 2015 was 1.7 (NHS Specialty Training, 2015).
The ratio of applicants to ST3 posts in 2015 was 2.2 (324 applicants for 99 NTN and 49 LAT posts) (JRCPTB, 2015).
The Centre for Workforce Intelligence (CfWI) which provides advice and information to the NHS on workforce planning and development has previously noted inequalities in geographical access to cardiology posts (2011). Read the CfWI’s profile of the cardiology workforce in England and their profile of the paediatric cardiology workforce.
On this section we have information for England only. For information regarding Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland please click on the links below.
Not all hospital specialty trainees wish to become consultants but there is an expectation among those that want to do so that enough posts will be available. This cannot be taken for granted. Getting a substantive consultant appointment has not been easy in recent years. Alternative options include seeking a cardiology fellowship, a locum consultant post or working overseas.
Cardiovascular disease is increasingly linked to the ageing population and continuing health issues such as poor diet and smoking. However, job prospects in cardiology, especially for medical registrars, have been affected by oversupply in the last few years.
Where to look for vacancies
All candidates apply through the online application system Oriel. You will be able to register for training, view all vacancies, apply, book interviews and assessment centres, and manage offers made to you.
Local education and training boards (LETBs) will have details of training vacancies. It is important to note that not all LETBs will offer new training posts in all specialties in all years.
All jobs will be advertised on NHS Jobs.
The BMJ careers website also advertises vacancies.
- Further information Expand / Collapse