Paediatric cardiothoracic surgeons (or cardiac surgeons) specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of defects suffered by children that affect the heart, lungs, oesophagus and blood vessels in the chest. These defects can affect the child at birth or develop during childhood. Paediatric cardiothoracic surgery requires a high degree of training and technical knowledge.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics places the average annual salary in the U.S. for specialist physicians and surgeons (paediatric heart surgeons are part of this classification) at £220,829 as of May 2008. The surgeon's actual salary will depend upon the location and type of his employer as well as his experience.
Paediatric cardiothoracic surgeons find jobs in hospitals, medical centres and specialised surgery centres. Such public employment often offers the best benefits packages. Other surgeons run private practices while still others become part of group practices. Private self-employment may offer a good salary, but the surgeon must proactively find work, manage finances and consider personal pensions. Consultancy, research and teaching offer the paediatric cardiothoracic surgeon alternative work opportunities.
To become a paediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, you must achieve a high level of education and training. You must study for a bachelor's degree in a science, attend medical school for a further four years, and participate in general medical practice for five years after that just to be licensed. Only after that can you specialise and pursue a fellowship of two to four years with a qualified paediatric cardiothoraic surgeon, during which time you will assist at operations and undergo further training in both practical and classroom situations.
Demand for surgeons in all specialities, including paediatric cardiology, is expected to rise over the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has determined that this rise will be due primarily to the large number of surgeons who are expected to retire in the years until 2018. These positions will need to be filled to meet demand, and suitably qualified candidates can make use of this need to secure excellent salary and benefits packages.