Did you know that by 2030, it is estimated that one in every five Americans will be over 65? This well-supported fact has emphasized the need for geriatric doctors – experts in elderly care.

Geriatric doctors play a vital role in addressing the unique healthcare needs of older adults. Though challenging, this profession is rewarding as you form meaningful connections with elderly patients, providing compassionate care and improving their overall well-being as they navigate the complexities of aging.

If becoming a geriatrician has crossed your mind, you’ve landed on the right page! In this blog post, we provide a step-by-step guide on how to become a geriatrician. Stick with us to learn more! 

What Is a Geriatric Doctor?

A geriatric doctor – known as a geriatrician – helps older people stay healthy. These medical professionals are professionally educated and trained to deal with the unique needs and health issues of older adults over 65. Geriatric doctors are experts at monitoring conditions that come with age and can affect overall health and quality of life. 

To address these complex needs, geriatricians normally take an interdisciplinary approach. This means they work closely with a team of healthcare professionals, including nurses, social workers, pharmacists, physical therapists, and specialists, to develop comprehensive care plans tailored to each older adult’s individual needs.

What Does a Geriatric Doctor Do?


To understand their patients’ needs fully, geriatricians do detailed health checks. They manage long-term illnesses like diabetes and heart problems and work with other doctors to give the best care. They also focus on preventing sickness by advising on how to age healthily, like eating well and staying active. Geriatric doctors often treat conditions that are common in older age, such as memory loss (dementia), weak bones (osteoporosis), and heart diseases. Their job is to make sure older adults can enjoy a good quality of life by addressing their unique health challenges.

How to Become a Geriatric Doctor

Now that we’ve introduced you to the role of a geriatrician, it’s time to delve into the crucial details of how to become one. Here is a step-by-step guide.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step is earning a bachelor’s degree. It’s important to take courses in biology, chemistry, and physics, as these will prepare you for medical school. So, think about enrolling in a pre-medical-related university or college. Once you enroll, keeping your grades up is crucial because medical schools look for students with high GPAs. Also, getting involved in activities outside of class, especially those related to healthcare, like volunteering at a hospital or clinic, can really help. These experiences not only make your application stand out but also give you a glimpse into the medical field, helping you decide if this is the right path for you.

Take the Medical College Admission Test

After getting your bachelor’s degree, the next step towards becoming a geriatric doctor is taking the MCAT, a test needed for medical school. To prepare, use practice exams and study guides. These help you understand the types of questions you’ll face and the topics you need to know. Spending lots of time studying and getting familiar with the test format is key. 

A high score on the MCAT is incredibly important because it makes you stand out when applying to medical schools. It shows you’re ready for the challenging coursework you’ll encounter in your journey to become a geriatric doctor.

Earn a Medical Degree

In medical school, you can choose between two types of degrees: MD vs DO. Both degrees involve studying many of the same things, like how the human body works and how to treat illnesses. While MD (Doctor of Medicine) focuses more on traditional medicine, DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) also emphasizes using hands-on treatments to help the body heal itself. 

It’s important to pick a medical school that offers opportunities to work with older patients. This experience in geriatrics is valuable because it prepares you to understand and care for the unique needs of older people.

Take the United States Medical Licensing Examination

Next is the USMLE, or the United States Medical Licensing Examination, which is a series of tests that future doctors must pass to practice medicine in the U.S. It has three parts, called Steps. Step 1 tests your knowledge of basic sciences related to medicine. Step 2 checks your clinical skills and knowledge. Step 3 is about whether you can make medical decisions on your own. 

To prepare, start studying early, use review books, take practice tests, and join study groups. These strategies help you understand the material and get used to the exam format, making it easier to pass each Step of the USMLE.

Complete a Residency Program

Residency training in internal medicine or family medicine takes about 3 years. During this time, you work closely with patients under the supervision of experienced doctors, learning how to diagnose and treat a wide range of health issues. It’s very important to pick a residency program that gives you the chance to work with older adults. This experience is crucial because older people often have different health needs. 

Also, look for a program with supportive teachers who can guide you and help you grow into a great doctor. Having good mentors makes a big difference in learning how to care for patients well.

Complete a Fellowship

After finishing residency training, doctors can choose to specialize further by doing a fellowship in geriatric medicine. This usually takes 1 to 2 years and focuses on caring for older adults. During this time, doctors learn a lot more about the common health problems in elderly people. They also learn how to manage multiple health issues at once and how to help older adults stay as healthy and independent as possible. This extra training makes doctors experts in caring for the elderly, ensuring they provide the best care for aging patients.

Become Board Certified

Passing the board certification exam is the final step toward becoming a geriatrician. It proves you’re an expert in caring for older adults. This exam is monitored by the American Board of Internal Medicine or the American Board of Family Medicine. Being board-certified is a big deal because it shows you have advanced skills and knowledge in geriatric medicine. It helps with career growth, allowing you to get better job opportunities. It also makes patients and other doctors trust you more because it confirms you’re highly qualified in your field.

Career Outlook for Geriatric Doctors

The need for geriatric doctors is growing because the population is aging. This means more people will need doctors who specialize in caring for older adults, resulting in higher salaries. Currently, geriatricians make up to $242,517 per year, not including the additional pay. 

Geriatric doctors can work in various places, including hospitals, nursing homes, academic centers, and private practices. They can focus on patient care, teach upcoming doctors, conduct research on aging, and advocate for better health policies for the elderly. This makes geriatric medicine a field with diverse career opportunities and a chance to significantly impact society’s health.

Key Takeaways

From earning a bachelor’s degree to becoming board-certified, the journey toward becoming a geriatrician is demanding. Being a geriatric doctor also requires empathy, patience, and dedication, as caring for elderly patients can be challenging. At the same token, it can also be incredibly rewarding.

If you’re passionate about making a difference in the lives of older adults, consider a career in geriatric medicine. Check out our Clinical Science Program for an introduction to the world of medicine and make your contribution to the future of elderly care!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

How long does it take to become a geriatrician?

Becoming a geriatrician typically takes about 11-15 years, including 4 years of undergraduate study, 4 years of medical school, and 3-7 years of residency and fellowship training in geriatric medicine.

What is the difference between geriatrics and gerontologists?

Geriatrics focuses on healthcare for elderly patients, dealing with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases and disabilities in older adults. Gerontology, on the other hand, is the study of the aging process itself, including the physical, mental, and social changes in older people, and encompasses a broader range of disciplines beyond just healthcare.