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How to become a physiatrist

Physiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in rehabilitation, physical medicine and non-surgical treatment of injuries. Some also further sub-specialize in areas like advanced pain management or sports medicine.

Physiatrists are responsible for coordinating a rehabilitation treatment plan for their patients. To pursue a career as a physiatrist, be prepared for serious study and lots of clinical work.

Get good grades in high school, take math and science all four years and take as many advanced and honors classes as possible. As with most medical doctor positions, physiatrists need to learn good study habits at a young age.

Attend an accredited university or college for your undergraduate degree. You should major in Pre-med or your institution's equivalent.

Take and pass the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). Your MCAT score is essential for getting into medical school, so take the time to prepare for it properly.

Go to medical school. Potential physiatrists must take four years of graduate medical education before becoming eligible for a residency.

Complete your residency in one of the 79 accredited programs in the U.S. This will take approximately four years. The first year is to develop general clinical skills, and the next three years are devoted to learning the intricacies of physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Do a fellowship to further specialize, if you wish. Such fellowships include sports medicine, traumatic injuries, pain management, pediatrics, geriatrics, neuromuscular and musculoskeletal rehabilitation and neurological issues. Fellowships are usually another two or three years.

Achieve board certification in physical medicine and rehabilitation by passing both a written exam and an oral exam. The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (ABPM&R) administer both of these exams.

Start practicing. Physiatrists work in both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs, including hospitals, private practices, consultative work and freestanding rehabilitation centers.

Keep licenses, certifications and continuing education requirements up to date.


Think about coordinating with other practitioners, such as chiropractors, therapists, acupuncturists and other physiatrists of different subspecialty to offer your patients the broadest range of care options possible.