Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Use special knowledge to operate on patients' chest cavities.
picture of Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Quick Stats


Salary Range
~ $215,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Cardiothoracic Surgeons do?

Ah, the beat of the heart—the surest symbol of life! Cardiothoracic Surgeons specialize in treating conditions of the heart. No, not broken hearts or grieving hearts, but more like blocked arteries and torn valves.

And they don’t stop there, because that would then only earn them the title of Cardiac Surgeon instead of the weighty Cardiothoracic Surgeon. Oh no, these superstars take it a step further and also specialize in conditions involving the entire chest cavity, and sometimes even the lungs.

As a Cardiothoracic Surgeon, you’re skilled with a scalpel, but also with words. You begin your patient/ Doctor relationship by gathering information about symptoms. You ask questions and perform tests that help identify the problem. Often, a Cardiologist or Primary Care Physician is in on the discussion as well.

Once you and your team decide that surgery is the best solution, you slot it into your calendar. When the big day comes, you scrub in, review the patient’s file, and wait for the anesthesia to kick in before you start cutting. With a plan in hand, you work quickly to minimize risk to the patient.

When you’ve replaced a heart, fixed blood vessels, corrected a birth defect, repaired an esophagus, or improved the chest cavity, you stitch up the patient and hang around until you’re sure he or she is stable.

Keep in mind: You won’t always keep such a leisurely pace, because you’ll often be on call in case of a patient emergency.

Should I be a Cardiothoracic Surgeon?

You should have a doctoral degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Calm Under Pressure: You keep your cool when dealing with highly stressful situations.
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.
  • Ready for a Challenge: You jump into new projects with initiative and drive.

  • How to become a Cardiothoracic Surgeon

    Most Cardiothoracic Surgeons have a Doctorate. Start by getting your Bachelor's degree. Chart?chd=s:aaaaa9&chl=|||bachelor%27s+%281%25%29||doctorate+%2899%25%29&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,0,99
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