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Cardiology vs. Orthopedic Surgery : Which Specialty is Right for You?

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by Yousmle Staff in Career

Cardiology vs. orthopedic surgery is one of the biggest debates among medical students interested in physiology. Both specialties allow you to explore the complex workings of the human body and use your skills to improve patient outcomes. However, they also have significant differences, such as the scope of practice, the work environment, and the training requirements.

How do you decide which one is right for you? In this article, we will provide helpful information and tips to help you make an intelligent decision on cardiology vs. orthopedic surgery and find a fulfilling career that matches your interests and abilities. We will also help you evaluate practical factors such as job availability, salary, and training duration.

Cardiology vs. Orthopedic Surgery: Salary and Job Security

If you want to earn a lot of money and have a steady demand for your service, cardiology and orthopedic surgery are ideal specialties to consider. But be prepared for a competitive job market, even if you graduate from a prestigious program

Orthopedic surgery, meanwhile, offers more job openings. You can easily find a hospital that needs orthopedic surgeons, and the career outlook is positive. But orthopedic surgery also comes with some challenges, such as higher burnout, which we will discuss later.

According to recent data, cardiologists earn an average annual salary of $507,000, while orthopedics surgeons have a higher average salary of $573,000.

Estimated Physician Average Yearly Salary by Medical Specialty in the US

Cardiologists earn $507,000 per year on average, while orthopedic surgeons earn more with $573,000 annually

Cardiology vs. Orthopedic Surgery: Competitiveness

Here we can assess the competitiveness of a specialty by looking at the unmatched rate – the % of people who apply and do not match into their preferred specialty. For orthopedic surgery, the unmatched percentage among US Seniors was 34.2%, making it a highly competitive residency among US residencies in the 2022 Match.

Cardiology vs Orthopedic Surgery

To pursue a career in cardiology, you must first match into an internal medicine residency. Among US Seniors, the unmatched percentage for internal medicine residency was only 2%, making it less competitive than other residencies. However, this does not necessarily mean that cardiology is less competitive. After completing your internal medicine residency, you will still need to match into a cardiology fellowship, which is generally highly competitive. 

Below is the unmatched percentage among non-pediatric fellowships with >100 applicants. The unmatched percentage of US Seniors applying to the cardiovascular diseases fellowship was 16.6%, making it more competitive compared to most fellowships with >100 applicants.

Training Path: Fellowship vs. Residency

The training pathways for cardiology vs. orthopedic surgery are not the same. Cardiology involves a three-year internal medicine residency and a cardiology fellowship. Orthopedic surgery involves a five-year orthopedic surgery residency.

Both the orthopedic surgery residency and cardiology fellowship programs are highly competitive. Your USMLE scores, med school, and research are the main things for residency applications. Research is also a big thing for fellowship applications, and your residency program counts more, but your USMLE scores matter much less.

Cardiology vs. Orthopedic Surgery: Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a crucial factor for many medical professionals. While both cardiologists and orthopedic surgeons have demanding schedules and on-call duties, the nature of orthopedics allows for a better work-life balance. Orthopedic surgeons often benefit from a more predictable work schedule and increased opportunities for time off.

Cardiology, an often patient-centric specialty, requires building long-lasting patient relationships. While this can be rewarding, it also means carrying a patient panel and more administrative work.

That being said, cardiologists work an average of 56.2 hours/week, ranking third after general surgeons and intensivists who work 57.4 and 57.7 hours, respectively. Orthopedic surgery ranked above the middle of medical specialties, with an average of 52.9 weekly working hours.

Estimated Physician Weekly Working Hours by Medical Specialty in the US

Cardiologists work an average of 56.2 hours per week, while orthopedic surgeons work fewer hours, at 52.9 per week.

Cardiologists require more documentation, such as referral letters and diagnostic tests, resulting in an estimated 16 hours of admin/paperwork per week, while orthopedic surgeons work fewer hours, at 14 hours per week

Estimated Physician Admin/Paperwork Hours by Medical Specialty in the US

Cardiologist works on admin/paperwork an average of 16 hours per week, while orthopedics surgeons work fewer hours, at 14 per week.

Training Duration and Subspecialties

The training duration is a key aspect to consider when choosing between cardiology vs. orthopedic surgery. Orthopedic surgery has a five-year training period, while cardiology has a minimum of six years, with three years of internal medicine residency.

In addition, cardiologists often pursue more subspecialty training in fields like echocardiography or electrophysiology because of the scarce job opportunities. This can increase the length of your cardiology training.

Cardiology vs. Orthopedic Surgery: Job Satisfaction and Burnout Rates

Job satisfaction plays a significant role in career fulfillment. According to various studies, both cardiologists and orthopedic surgeons tend to have high job satisfaction rates, with many professionals expressing contentment with their career choice and would choose it again if given the chance. However, cardiology has slightly lower reported burnout rates than orthopedic surgery.

According to recent data, both cardiology and orthopedic surgery are highly ranked among medical specialties, with 93% of cardiologists and 95% of orthopedic surgeons stating that they would choose the same specialty again.

Job Satisfaction Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Cardiologists reported a 93% job satisfaction rate, while orthopedic surgeons reported slightly higher satisfaction with 95%

That being said, the burnout rates for cardiology were 43% which was near the lower end of all medical specialties. In comparison, orthopedic surgery had a burnout rate of 45%, which ranked near the lower end of all medical specialties.

Burnout Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Cardiologists have a burnout rate of 43%, while orthopedic surgeons have a slightly higher burnout rate of 45%.

Cardiology vs. Orthopedic Surgery Comparison

To provide a visual overview, here’s a table comparing cardiology and orthopedics:

AspectCardiologyOrthopedic Surgery
Average SalaryGenerally high income due to specialization, especially in interventional cardiologyHigher than cardiology
Job SecurityHigh demand due to an aging population and the prevalence of cardiovascular diseasesStable field due to aging population and accident/sports injuries
Training PathTypically involves 3 years of internal medicine residency followed by a 3-year cardiology fellowshipTypically involves 5 years of orthopedic surgery residency
LifestyleVaried; may involve on-call responsibilities, long working hours, and outpatient clinic dutiesMore predictable work schedule and increased opportunities for time off, but may involve on-call responsibilities for trauma or accident cases
Administrative PaperworkHigh documentation requirements such as notes, test orders, and referral lettersLower documentation requirements
Job SatisfactionGenerally high but can vary with the work environment and patient outcomesSlightly higher
Burnout RatesRelatively lower Slightly higher
PersonalityStrong analytical skills, attention to detail, ability to handle stress and pressureStrong analytical skills, attention to detail, ability to handle stress and pressure

Please note that this table serves as a general comparison. To determine the most suitable career for you, consider your personal and career priorities and goals.

Concluding Thoughts

Choosing the right specialty between cardiology vs. orthopedic surgery depends heavily on your priorities. To determine this, try reverse engineering your ideal life and identify your top priority. A helpful exercise is to write down the top five things you want to achieve in your career and personal life. Knowing these priorities will make finding a career that aligns with them easier. Often, the biggest obstacle is not a lack of knowledge about different fields but a lack of self-awareness about our own preferences.

Want FREE Cardiology Flashcards?

Cardiology is key for impressive USMLE scores. Master cardiology from a Harvard-trained anesthesiologist who scored USMLE 270 with these 130+ high-yield flash cards. You’ll be begging for cardio questions - even if vitals make you queasy.

Subscribe