Geriatrician - How to Become a Geriatrician


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Geriatrician Job Description


A geriatrician is a health care provider who focuses on patient well-being and independent functioning. These allopathic or osteopathic health care providers are specifically trained to evaluate and manage the unique health care needs and special treatment requirements of older people. Older adults face a variety of acute and chronic health conditions. These combine to make providing medical care for seniors a challenging undertaking. Of adults age 65 or older, more than half have three or more medical problems; among these may be heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and/or Alzheimer’s disease.

Most geriatricians are physicians who first become certified in family or internal medicine, then pursue additional training in treating the special health needs found in older patients. This additional training allows them to become board certified in geriatric medicine.




Maintenance of patient well-being and independent functioning is the focus of geriatricians. These physicians diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries that commonly occur with the aging process. They may refer patients to other specialists if they suspect serious health problems, such as cancer or neurological problems. The geriatrician will work with other members of the interdisciplinary teams to coordinate care. Geriatricians also work with other health care professionals who specialize in providing care for older adults. These include geriatric nurses and pharmacists, mental health professionals, physical and occupational therapists.

Geriatricians closely monitor their patients’ drug regimens. Because many older people take a number of different pills every day, geriatricians watch for the side effects of prescription medications and are aware of potential drug interactions. Geriatricians are responsible for weighing the potential benefit of a treatment against the possible risks to the patient.

Geriatricians are expected to focus closely on their patients’ physical, mental and emotional functioning. They are often the ones tasked with informing a patient that he or she should consider giving up activities such as driving, or to suggest a patient consider transitioning to a supportive living facility. Geriatricians are often the first to broach the subject of advance care planning with patients and families, including discussions about long-term care alternatives, hospice care, etc.





Must effectively communicate with your co-workers to ensure the best care and the proper procedures. Must be able to communicate in high-stress environments.

Active Listening

Offering your full attention to an individual person or group in order to fully understand problems and their nature.

Critical Thinking

Must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Judgment and Decision Making

Needs to be able to act autonomously and make difficult decisions that would benefit the patient or make corrections. Must consider all benefits and repercussions of potential actions and choose the appropriate one. 

Complex Problem Solving

Must be able to identify complex problems and develop and evaluate corrective options and implement solutions. 

Stress Management

Must be able to endure intense situations and handle pressure that comes with extreme situations you may encounter.


Must be trustworthy because you have people's lives in your hands and what you do could help or hurt them. They are entrusted with a great responsibility and must live up to it. 


Gauging 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.


Working Conditions


Geriatricians can find employment in a variety of locales, such as private practices, group practices, long-term care facilities, post-acute care facilities and hospitals. They are faced with the same challenges that all physicians confront, including a lack of resources and the need for better strategies for building effective relationships with patients and families. Geriatricians must also be prepared emotionally to handle the varied manifestations found in an older population, such as physical and mental decline, followed by death.

Geriatricians are enjoying new treatment tools in an employment field that is filled with a growing need and rewarding opportunities. Treatment options are improving through ongoing research. Geriatricians are now able to treat illnesses and injuries that commonly affect older people, and advances in medical technology are allowing for treatments of injuries and illnesses in new ways. For example, laparoscopic surgery techniques now make a wide range of surgical procedures available to older patients that were previously considered too risky.



How to Become a Geriatrician:


1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years) 


Aspiring geriatricians must first complete a bachelor's degree program in order to continue on to medical school. Traditionally, premed programs offered by nearly all major universities, but are not necessarily required to enter medical school. Programs that emphasize science, such as biology, physics, or physiology, may also be sufficient as medical school qualifications. However, those that are certain they want to enter this, or any other, medical profession should pursue a premed program.


The preparation timeline below offers 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 College 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/Category  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


You can find study materials, MCAT registration, and your test scores on the AAMC website here.


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.


4. Take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)


In order to practice medicine, aspiring geriatricians must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This exam is sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME).

The exam consists of three steps:

Step & Purpose Format & Other Info

Step 1

Assesses the ability to apply scientific concepts, basic to practicing medicine, emphasizing mechanisms underlying health, disease, and therapy.

  • 310 multiple-choice questions
  • Divided into 7 60-minute blocks
  • Administered via computer
  • One day session

Step 2

Divided into 2 sub-steps: clinical knowledge (CK) & clinical skills (CS).

 The clinical knowledge section assesses the ability to apply medical knowledge, skills, and clinical science to patient care.

The clinical skills section assesses the ability to gather information from patients, perform physical exams, and communicate findings with colleagues.

  • Clinical Knowledge
    • 350 multiple-choice questions
    • Divided into 8 60-minute blocks
    • One day session
  • Clinical Skills
    • 12 patient cases
    • 15 minutes per patient case 
    • 10 minutes to record each patient note (PN)
    • Administered at 6 test centers in the US: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, & Philadelphia.
    • One day session

Step 3

Divided into 2 sub-steps: Foundations of Independent Practice(FIP) & Advanced Clinical Medicine (ACM)

 Foundations of Independent Practice assesses the knowledge and principles essential for effective health care.

Advanced Clinical Medicine assesses the ability to apply knowledge of health and disease to the context of patient management and an evolving disease.

  • Foundations of Independent Practice
    • 260 multiple-choice questions
    • Divided into 6 60-minute blocks, each w/ 44 questions
    • One day session
  • Advanced Clinical Medicine (ACM)
    • 200 multiple-choice questions
    • Divided into 6 45-minute blocks, each with 33 questions
    • 13 computer-based case simulations, each allotted 10 or 20 minutes
    • One day session


5. Complete a Residency Program (3 Years)


After completing med school, it’s time to choose your specialty and complete your residency. These residency programs are offered in conjunction with intensive clinical training experiences. 

Those desiring to enter family practice can choose from more than 470 family medicine residency programs, including many located in small communities across the country. These students follow a group of patients throughout their residency, providing the same continuity of care that will be expected in their private practice.

The American Medical Association’s online FREIDA service is an interactive database of over 9,400 graduate medical education programs. These programs are all accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. There is also information on over 200 combined specialty programs.


6. Complete a Fellowship (1 - 2 Years)


The last educational or training requirement to becoming a geriatrician is completing a geriatrics fellowship program. These programs are aimed at providing concentrated, hands-on training in geriatrics by completing rounds in clinics, hospitals, and other facilities. Clinical research projects are also often available.


Find a Geriatrics Fellowship


7. Become Board Certified (Optional)


While becoming board certified is purely optional for geriatricians, earning it can demonstrate expertise and open further doors of opportunity that others in the field may not enjoy. The geriatric medical examination is administered by the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS).

To be eligible, candidates must have graduated from an approved medical program, obtained their license, completed an approved residency program, and completed postsecondary geriatric training. Candidates must also have proof of managing at least 6 geriatric medicine cases throughout their experience.


Learn More About the Geriatric Medicine Certification



Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
- Geriatrician (3025494) Job Description Geriatrician - (3025494) Description Cooley Dickinson Health Care, a dynamic community healthcare system affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital, is currently seeking a BC/BE Geriatrician to...
The Nurse Practitioner, in collaboration with the Geriatrician and Family Medicine Physician, will be responsible for the primary care of the patient population at the centers. They admit, care for and discharge patients. They perform procedures...
  1. Geriatrician Northampton, MA Cooley Dickinson Hospital
    - Geriatrician (3025494) Job Description Geriatrician - (3025494) Description Cooley Dickinson Health Care, a dynamic community healthcare system affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital, is currently seeking a BC/BE Geriatrician to...
  2. Advance Practice Clinician - Care Center Crosby, MN Cuyuna Regional Medical Center
    The Nurse Practitioner, in collaboration with the Geriatrician and Family Medicine Physician, will be responsible for the primary care of the patient population at the centers. They admit, care for and discharge patients. They perform procedures...