Geriatric Psychiatrist - How to Become a Geriatric Psychiatrist

Geriatric Psychiatrist

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Geriatric Psychiatrist Job Decription


A geriatric psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues common in older patients. There are certain mental disorders that occur later in life, such as dementias and Alzheimer’s disease.

Older patients frequently have to deal with multiple health issues simultaneously, including:

  • Intense grief over the loss of a spouse or lifetime friends

  • Feeling as though they have no purpose or feeling isolated

  • Stressing over financial concerns

  • Fears of disease, death or fears of injury from accidents, such as falling

  • Emotional difficulties related to health issues, such as coping with pain or a devastating disease such as cancer

  • Difficulty coping with changes around them

A geriatric psychiatrist is trained to help patients with the above concerns as well as provide diagnosis and treatment for specific mental disorders that may occur at any age, such as:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Schizophrenia

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Alcohol/substance abuse

The geriatric psychiatrist begins the process by taking a complete history of the patient’s health, the support system available through the family, the patient’s living situation and general mental status. They can then order any tests required to aid in determining a diagnosis.

In many cases, the family members are consulted to obtain information about the patient’s situation and to ensure that they understand the diagnosis and are able to follow the treatment plan. If the family needs assistance to support the patient, the geriatric psychiatrist may also recommend resources that can help.




Many patients who consult a geriatric psychiatrist are also seeing other health care providers. A geriatric psychiatrist consults with other health care providers to devise a plan to manage other health issues or medications that may be impacting the patient’s mental status.

Geriatric psychiatrists also engage in research, in teaching other psychiatrists and other health care professionals, and consult with businesses and institutions that work to develop medications to treat metal illnesses that affect the elderly.




A geriatric psychiatrist is a physician who specializes is the human psyche, so they have a long list of skills. They must be able to engage with people and use their medical expertise to make a comprehensive assessment of patients. They combine medication along with therapy sessions to develop treatment plans and help people overcome mental disorders. 



Psychiatrists must be able to gauge how people react and read their body language to decipher their feelings and predict their actions. They must be able to determine if people could be a risk to themselves or others and to distinguish truths from lies.


Psychiatrists must be able to apply facts and principles to issues to determine conclusions and solve problems. They must use knowledge and logic to find patters in happenings and determine causes and provide solutions.


Must be very compassionate and able to empathize with a patient's pain and other difficulties. They are able to make people feel comfortable and meet them at their emotional level to humanize themselves and let people know they care.


Must be very compassionate and able to empathize with a patient's pain and other difficulties. They are able to make people feel comfortable and meet them at their emotional level to humanize themselves and let people know they care.

Stress Management

Must be emotionally stable and deal with stress effectively, so they can help others who cannot deal with their emotions or stress. Must be a solid foundation and be able to handle stress and separate personal emotion so as to stay objective and be effective in treatment.


Psychiatrists must have a solid ethical code and keep sessions with patients confidential as they can greatly affect people's lives. Must know that there could be consequences for error.


Psychiatrists interact with a range of people from all walks of life, therefore they must be open-minded and tolerant of different cultures and circumstances. Since they are in a research field, they must be open to new studies and findings as to adapt with changing times.


Psychiatrists need to be very patient, because of the long sessions with patients and while doing research to become a better professional. They must understand it takes time to see results and be willing to put in that time.


People have to trust psychiatrists. The job is all about inspiring patients to confide in you and trust you with their problems. If you aren't trustworthy, you will never make it as a psychiatrist.


Working Conditions


Employment opportunities for geriatric psychiatrists may be found in any or all of the following:

  • Long-term care facilities

  • Private or group practices

  • Assisted living centers

  • Veteran’s hospitals or general hospitals

  • Academic institutions

Geriatric psychiatrists who work in inpatient facilities may have to work on-call, nights and weekend assignments.

A geriatric psychiatrist can greatly improve the quality of life for the patients suffering from mental illnesses and their families. The work can be challenging and richly rewarding. Varied and multiple health concerns must be considered in the treatment plan when providing care to elderly patients. Geriatric psychiatrists work in close conjunction with patients and their family members and caregivers.



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:


Grade Level Example Courses

Freshman Year


  • Health Care Systems
  • Biology I & Lab
  • Biology II & Lab
  • Calculus I
  • Chemistry I & Lab
  • Chemistry II & Lab
  • English I
  • Psychology 
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives

Sophomore Year

  • Public Health
  • Anatomy & Physiology I & Lab
  • Anatomy & Physiology II & Lab
  • Statistics
  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab
  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab
  • Basic Skills for Healthcare
  • Nutrition
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives

Junior Year


  • Healthcare Communication
  • Healthcare Professional Writing
  • Genetics & Microbiology I & Lab
  • Physics I & Lab
  • Physics II & Lab
  • Problems in Healthcare
  • Healthcare Research
  • Biochemistry I & Lab
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives

Senior Year

  • Health in the US
  • Health Education and Planning
  • Healthcare Management
  • Health Policy
  • Capstone
  • Remaining Requirements
  • Remaining Electives


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:



 Section Breakdown

Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

  • 59 multiple-choice questions

  • 95 minutes

  • Tests biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry

Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

  • 59 multiple-choice questions

  • 95 minutes

  • Tests biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics

Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior

  • 59 multiple-choice questions

  • 95 minutes

  • Tests introductory psychology, sociology, and biology

Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills

  • 53 multiple-choice questions

  • 90 minutes

  • Tests reading comprehension, humanities, and social sciences


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:

  • Anatomy

  • Biochemistry

  • Ethics

  • Pharmacology

  • Physiology

  • Psychology

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:



Example Courses

Year 1


  • Cells and Tissues

  • Molecular Foundations of Medicine

  • Applied Biochemistry 

  • Genetics

  • Disease Mechanisms & Development

  • Cardiac Life Support

  • The Nervous System

  • Immunology

  • Gross Anatomy of Head & Neck

  • Microbiology

  • Pulmonary System

  • Cardiovascular System

  • Microbiology

Year 2

  • Renal/Genitourinary System

  • Gastrointestinal System

  • Skin/Endocrine Systems

  • Reproduction & Women's Health

  • Microbiology

  • Behavior & the Brain

  • Hematology

  • Systemic Diseases

  • Microbiology

  • Clinical Clerkship

Year 3, 4, 5


  • Internal Medicine

  • Pediatrics

  • Surgery

  • Obstetrics & Gynecology

  • Family Medicine

  • Psychiatry

  • Neurology

  • Critical Care

  • Ambulatory Med

  • Research, Reflections and Advances in Patient Care


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.


Download the Full List of Geriatric Psychiatry Fellowship Programs


6. Earn the Required Certifications


In order to become a board-certified geriatric psychiatrist, a doctor must pass two examinations, one in psychiatry and another in the geriatric psychiatry sub-specialty. Both of these examinations are administered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.


Psychiatry Certification Information

Geriatric Psychiatry Sub-Specialty Certification Information




Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
CLINICAL TRACK GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRIST - DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY The Department of Psychiatry in the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) is seeking a Geriatric Psychiatrist to join...
  1. GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRIST- DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    CLINICAL TRACK GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRIST - DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY The Department of Psychiatry in the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) is seeking a Geriatric Psychiatrist to join...
  2. Inpatient Geriatric Psychiatrist Melrose, MA Hallmark Health System