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How do I Become a Geriatric Psychologist?

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  • Written By: Laura Metz
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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A geriatric psychologist helps the elderly deal with problems, including mental disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, bereavement, the inevitability of their own deaths, and general stress. To become a geriatric psychologist one must undergo at least 13 years of schooling, including four years of undergraduate work, four years of medical school, four years of residency, and a one year fellowship. In addition to the schooling, a geriatric psychologist must be certified to practice in his or her specific location.

Anyone wishing to become a geriatric psychologist must first consider if his or her personality is suited to the job. All mental health professionals must be compassionate and patient, particularly those who work with the elderly. In addition, a psychologist must be committed to constant study, since the medical field is always changing.

Preparation can begin as early as high school for someone who wants to become a geriatric psychologist. Classes in sociology, psychology, and the sciences are beneficial, while English and speech classes teach communication skills and research techniques. Outside of school, someone who wishes to become a geriatric psychologist should start spending time with the elderly and learn about geriatric care first hand.

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In college, aspiring geriatric psychologists should pursue degrees that will prepare them for medical school, such as psychology, biology, or biochemistry. Some people choose to pursue a master’s degree before entering medical school. This is not necessary, but it does help prepare students for medical school and boost acceptance rates.

After receiving a bachelor's degree, a person desiring to become a geriatric psychologist will need to attend medical school for approximately four years to become a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). An aspiring geriatric psychologist will then need to complete a four year residency in general psychology. Finally, students will do a one year fellowship specifically in geriatric psychology.

Most people in the U. S. choose to become certified through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) during residency. This requires passing a written and oral exam in general psychiatry. Receiving specialty certification for geriatric psychology is highly recommended but cannot be achieved until after receiving general ABPN certification and completing a geriatric psychology fellowship.

Before practicing, a geriatric psychologist must be certified in the specific country and region he or she wishes to practice in. Requirements vary by location, so it is best to check the local regulations. In the U.S., some states require a passing score on a state exam.

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