Cardiovascular Surgeon Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a cardiovascular surgeon's job duties, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a cardiovascular surgeon career.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Cardiovascular Surgeon

A cardiovascular surgeon performs operations to help with blood vessel or heart issues. You can learn what the best and worst aspects of becoming a cardiovascular surgeon are by reading below.

PROS of Being a Cardiovascular Surgeon
Excellent annual salary (about $240,000 on average)*
Good job prospects*
Multiple work options, like joining an existing practice or opening your own practice*
Opportunity to save or improve lives*

CONS of Being a Cardiovascular Surgeon
Extended education requirements*
State license is needed in order to practice*
Irregular, extended and long work hours can be required*
Surgeries may require you to spend a long time on your feet*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014 figures).

Career Information

Job Description

Deformities, injuries and diseases can sometimes be taken care of through operations by surgeons. As a cardiovascular surgeon, you would focus on issues that are related to the heart and blood vessels. When a patient is prepped for surgery, anesthesia is issued. Once that occurs, a cardiovascular surgeon begins the surgery process through the use of specialized tools and instruments. Surgeons often follow up with patients after surgery to make sure that the healing process is going smoothly. A cardiovascular surgeon might recommend lifestyle changes that could help with preventive healthcare in the patient.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a growth in employment for surgeons of around 18%. This growth was predicted to occur from 2012 to 2022. This is a faster than average growth in comparison to the growth of other occupations. A growing population overall along with a growing elderly population are thought to be the two main contributing factors to this employment growth.

Salary Information

In May 2014, surgeons in general earned an average of roughly $115 an hour according to the BLS. This means that surgeons made around $240,000 on average annually. West Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon and Wyoming are the top five paying states for surgeons on average, per the BLS.

Occupational Requirements

Training, Education and Licensing

To become a cardiovascular surgeon, you're going to have to complete four years of undergraduate study, four years of graduate study and three to eight years in a residency or internship. At the undergraduate level, most surgeons acquire a bachelor's degree in a major like chemistry or biology. From there, you have to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to get into medical school. The admission process for medical schools is considered to be very competitive. Your first two years in your graduate program goes over general topics in medicine, like ethics and psychology, while your latter two years would focus on surgery. After that, your residency or internship has to be completed. Lastly, practical and written examinations have to be passed in order to earn your state license to practice.

What Do Employers Want in Cardiovascular Surgeons?

Some employers might prefer cardiovascular surgeons with good communication skills. If you can effectively communicate what a surgery entails to a patient in a way that keeps them calm, you'll be able to create an environment that is potentially more at ease for the patient and their family. Patience is also another important quality, since many patients have a fear of surgery. You can learn what real employers were looking for in cardiovascular surgeons in November 2012 by reading some information below that was summarized from job postings.

  • A cardiovascular surgeon position in North Dakota required applicants that can handle valve replacements, cardiac bypasses, mediastineoscopies and stenting.
  • In Tennessee, a hospital needed a cardiovascular surgeon that had no malpractice actions and who had a stable work history.
  • An interest in clinical research was preferred in cardiovascular surgeons applying to a hospital in Minnesota.
  • ER call coverage was a mandatory requirement for a Kentucky hospital looking for a cardiovascular surgeon.

How to Stand Out as a Cardiovascular Surgeon

Although it is not necessary for employment, certification is one way you can stand out from other cardiovascular surgeons. The American Board of Medical Specialties offers certifications through several organizations. The American Board of Thoracic Surgery has certification for congenital cardiac surgery and cardiac and thoracic surgery. The American Board of Surgery's certification options cover vascular surgery and surgery. To obtain a certification, you must normally spend a specific amount of time in residency training. Recertification is a necessary process to maintain and keep your certification.

Other Vocational Options

If you're interested in working with the mouth area instead of the heart, then you could consider becoming an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. In this career, you'll focus on the jaws, neck, head, teeth, mouth and gums for your surgeries. You might fix problems like a cleft palate or lip. Impacted teeth are often removed by oral surgeons. For the 2010-2020 decade, the BLS was expecting a 21% growth in employment for oral surgeons. In May 2011, about $217,000 was the yearly average salary of oral surgeons.

If you would rather work with animals instead of people, you might want to look into being a veterinarian. Animals can suffer from conditions that require surgery just like humans. In addition to surgery, veterinarians perform tasks like health diagnosis, vaccination and euthanasia. Veterinarians earned around $91,000 on average annually according to the BLS, as of May 2011. The employment growth for veterinarians was projected to be 36% from 2010 to 2020.

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