The rapid growth of the older population has focused national attention on the need for physicians trained in geriatric medicine. To gain insight into the evolving status of the field, with particular focus on career decision-making and academic career development of trainees, we conducted a survey of physicians recently completing geriatric fellowships. The 107 accredited extant geriatric fellowship programs in the United States and Puerto Rico were contacted to identify trainees from 1990 to 1998. A mailed survey addressed relevant career development and training issues. Four hundred ninety out of 787 (62%) physicians responded; 20% completed 1 year and 80% 2 or more years of training. Half made the decision to pursue a career in geriatrics during residency, 27% decided before/during medical school, and a mentor influenced 48%. Currently, 80% have a Certificate of Added Qualifications in geriatric medicine, 69% hold academic appointments, 78% teach, 39% participate in research, and 44% author publications. Most are doing predominantly clinical work in multiple settings. Further analysis of the 1996-to-1998 cohort revealed that those completing fellowships of 2 or more years are more likely to identify all geriatrics as their professional focus, conduct and author research, work with multidisciplinary teams, and participate in professional geriatric societies. This national survey documents career decision-making and the academic and clinical profiles of physicians completing geriatric fellowship training in the past decade. Longer fellowship training is associated with academic career development. Although there is a national need to train clinical geriatricians, the additional need to train and fund future geriatric academic leaders requires increased attention.