Contact us

Chat with us

Phone: 13 64 64 or (08)9224 6500
TTY: 08 9225 7831
(Hearing impaired only)
Site search



Occupation search

Occupation Search

Cardiothoracic surgeon

Back to top

Summary of occupation

A cardiothoracic surgeon is a specialist who surgically treats diseases affecting the organs in the chest, predominantly the heart, lungs and oesophagus.

Cardiothoracic surgeons work closely with other medical professionals to treat life-threatening diseases such as heart failure, lung cancer, endocarditis, congenital heart defects, and pulmonary embolisms. They also perform heart and lung transplants and coronary bypass surgeries.

There are currently less than 15 cardiothoracic surgeons in Western Australia, all of whom work in the Perth metropolitan area.

ANZSCO description: Performs heart and lung surgery. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names:
Job prospects: Limited
Back to top

Knowledge, skills and attributes

A cardiothoracic surgeon needs:

  • excellent manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination
  • excellent communication skills to liaise with other physicians and provide clear information to patients
  • to be confident and a strong decision maker
  • to maintain concentration for long periods
  • strong ethics, emotional strength and maturity
  • to be able to work under pressure and have the stamina to work long hours.
Back to top

Working conditions

Cardiothoracic surgeons work in public and private hospitals as surgical specialists. They also may supervise and teach medical students. They may be required to work long shifts, odd hours and weekends. They may be required to be on-call in case of an emergency.

Cardiothoracic surgeons may have to operate for long periods at a time. They operate in completely sterile theatre rooms and must wear protective clothing.

Back to top

Salary details

​On average, cardiothoracic surgeons can expect to earn between $2 885 and $7 692 per week ($150 000 and $400 000 per year), depending on the organisation  they work for, and their level of experience.

Back to top

Tools and technologies

​Cardiothoracic surgeons use a range of specialised surgical instruments when operating including scalpels, clamps, retractors, forceps and cardiopulmonary bypass machines.

Outside of the operating theatre, cardiothoracic surgeons use technologies such as angiographs, X-rays, echocardiograms, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) scans to assist in planning appropriate courses of action and to follow up after surgery.

Back to top

Education and training/entrance requirements

​To become a cardiothoracic surgeon you must first become a qualified doctor and then specialise in cardiothoracic surgery.

In Western Australia, postgraduate courses in medicine are offered by the University of Notre Dame and the University of Western Australia. These degrees usually take four years to complete. Entry requirements include completion of a bachelor degree in any discipline. You must also sit the Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admissions Test (GAMSAT) and attend an interview at your chosen institution. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

On completion of the postgraduate medical degree, you must work in the public hospital system for two years (internship and residency). To then specialise in cardiothoracic surgery, you must register with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) and undergo a training program at accredited hospitals, and ultimately receive fellowship.

Related courses

Back to top

Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

Back to top

Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

Back to top


Related links

Related occupations

Need advice?

Profile and social options