Education and Training: College, medical school, and specialty training
Salary: Median—$166,420 per year
Employment Outlook: Excellent
Definition and Nature of the Work
Geriatricians are physicians who work primarily with the elderly. Although they address their patients' multiple medical problems and chronic illnesses, geriatricians focus primarily on quality of life and functional ability. Geriatricians also determine when it is no longer medically safe for seniors to live alone and counsel them on alternative living arrangements. They also counsel patients and families on end of life care.
More than other physicians, geriatricians deal with diseases and conditions that often accompany old age, such as Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, memory loss, chronic heart and lung disease, incontinence, osteoporosis, Parkinson's disease, stroke, and vision and hearing problems. In addition, geriatricians work with patients who take a variety of medications. They develop drug regimens that avoid negative drug interactions.
Education and Training Requirements
Geriatricians are typically internists with additional training in elder care. (Internists diagnose and non-surgically treat problems of the internal organs, such as the liver, heart, and lungs.) Like all physicians, geriatricians attend medical school after completing a bachelor's degree. Their internship and residency after medical school lasts from three to eight years. Requirements for licensing vary from state to state. (See the entry "Physician" for more detailed information.)
Getting the Job
Geriatricians work in private practice, for hospitals, nursing homes, and elder care facilities. Professional associations and medical colleges can provide information about going into private practice or finding a salaried position.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Geriatricians advance as they gain experience in the field and their practices grow. They can also move into teaching and research positions.
The employment outlook for geriatricians is excellent. When the baby boom generation enters its senior years, between 2010 and 2030, it is projected that one in five Americans will be over sixty-five. The aging population will generate a demand for geriatricians as well as physicians in other specialty areas.
Physicians generally work in clean, comfortable offices, clinics, or hospitals. Those who have their own practices can control some of their working conditions. Many geriatricians work or visit patients in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
Earnings and Benefits
Geriatricians have a salary comparable to internists. In 2004 the median salary for internists was $166,420.
Where to Go for More Information
Self-employed physicians arrange their own benefits. For those who are not self-employed, benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans.