How to Become a Geriatric Psychiatrist
1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)
The first step to becoming a geriatric psychiatrist is to earn a bachelor's degree in a science-intensive concentration.
Since a medical degree is ultimately required, completing a premed program at a nationally accredited university is highly recommended. Maintaining a high GPA (3.5+) should also be a priority to remain competitive for acceptance into the best schools.
The preparation timeline below provides an example premed curriculum:
The preparation timeline below outlines the suggested courses:
|Grade Level||Example Courses|
2. Take the Medical School Admission Test (MCAT)
To be admitted into medical school, candidates must first take the MCAT, or Medical College Admission Test, a 7.5 hour, standardized, multiple choice exam used to assess the applicant's knowledge of science, reasoning, communication, and writing skills.
The MCAT is divided into four sections:
|Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems||
|Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems||
|Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior||
|Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills||
You can find study materials, MCAT registration, and your test scores on the MCAT website. If you are unsatisfied with your score on any of the aforementioned exams, you are free to retake them. Depending on the school, some will average your scores and others will simply take your most recent.
3. Earn a Medical Degree (4 Years)
A list of accredited medical education programs is available through the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). For more information and advice on successfully getting into medical school, you can check with the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Medical school consists of four years of studying the basics in science and participating in clinical “rotations.” These are hands-on clinical experiences in real health care settings. In most med schools, the first two years are taken up with classroom studies before students are assigned to do rotations.
The current trend, however, finds a number of medical schools exposing students to early clinical experiences that continue throughout the four-year program. Most medical schools base their curriculum on a system-based approach that focuses on one physiological system at a time, such as the respiratory system or the nervous system.
Still others may use a case-based curriculum that teaches about the human body’s normal functioning and disease processes by assigning students to following individual patient cases from start to finish. Still other med schools use a combination of these approaches to educate their students. The most common lines of coursework among medical schools consist of the following subjects:
During the last two years of schooling, students are required to obtain hands-on experience at hospitals and clinics, learning to diagnose and treat patients while working under the supervision of licensed physicians.
Upon completion of four years of med school, a student is awarded a medical degree, or M.D. Another popular trend is for schools to offer combination degree programs, such as MD/MPH, MD/PHD or MD/JD.
The AAMC’s website on Medical School Admission Requirements offers more information on this option. The preparation timeline below provides an example medical school curriculum:
|3rd, 4th, 5th||
4. Complete a General Psychiatry Residency (4 Years)
After medical school, you have to complete your residency. During this time, you will be supervised by other healthcare professionals and get hands on training to build upon your skills and confidence, to allow you independent practice.
During your residency, you can expect to work from anywhere to three to eight years in a clinical or hospital setting. It's here you can really hone in on your skills and build upon your knowledge. Included throughout the residency are the following introductory clinical experiences:
- Community psychiatry and community health
- Child psychiatry
- Geriatric psychiatry
- Forensic psychiatry
- Substance abuse
- Consultation and liaison programs
When the fellowship is completed, the psychiatrist earns certificates of added qualification in one of the following areas of practice:
- Geriatric psychiatry
- Child and adolescent psychiatry
- Addiction psychiatry
- Psychosomatic medicine
- Forensic psychiatry
5. Complete a Geriatric Psychiatry Fellowship (1 Year)
Psychiatrists wanting to pursue a specialty in geriatrics must complete a year-long fellowship program that's accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). These programs typically include clinical, educational, and research components.