How To Become A Gerontologist
The field of gerontology is diverse and multi-disciplinary, as gerontologists work in various fields to improve, promote, and support elderly individuals. A gerontologist’s duties include improving standards of living, supporting emotional and physical health, and promoting lifestyle related needs of the elderly. As a gerontologist, it is your responsibility to understand how humans, specifically the elderly, change as they continue to age. If you are a compassionate, dedicated, and personable individual, you may want to explore a career as a gerontologist.
Why Become A Gerontologist
When choosing a career within the field of gerontology, you can choose to study within the areas of psychology, sociology, biology, and healthcare. The issues of the elderly can be applied to so many areas of academics and science; therefore, it is a broad and diverse field of study. The work of a gerontologist is so vital to understand the needs of elderly individuals. Without the compassion, research, and responsibilities of gerontologists, many elderly would not have the proper care or quality of life that they may require.
Gerontologist Work Environment
Gerontologists typically work directly with older or elderly adults, often as advocates or caregivers. Due to the wide array of fields that gerontologists may be employed within, their work environment will vary from individual to individual. Additionally, many gerontologists work in medical research, public policy, administration, or education. Social work and healthcare social work accounts for a large part of the gerontology field, as do healthcare professionals. Social workers and healthcare professionals work to understand and treat the specific needs or ailments of the elderly.
Due to the wide array of fields that a gerontologist may be employed with, their salaries will vary from individual to individual. The Occupational Employment and Wages Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor showed in May 2012, the median annual wage of healthcare social workers was $51,460. In May 2012, it was reported that the median annual wage of medical and health services managers was $98,460. Additionally, in 2012, personal healthcare aides had a median annual wage of $20,830.
Gerontologist Career Outlook
The career outlook for a gerontologist looks to expand quite fast and quickly, specifically within the area of personal healthcare for the elderly. From 2012 to 2022, there is a projected 49% increase in employment within this particular area of gerontology. This may be due to the aging of the “baby boomer” population, combined with the reality that this particular generation of the elderly will want to be cared for in their homes, rather than a hospital, nursing home, or hospice care.
If you wish to pursue a career in the diverse field of gerontology, you will need to decide on an area of specialization. Healthcare, social work, sociology, or psychology are the perfect starting points to explore throughout your educational journey. You may wish to obtain a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, or doctoral degree in the areas of health policy, gerontology, aging, or research.
At a graduate level, there are graduate degrees within the field of Applied Gerontology. Throughout your coursework in gerontology, you will learn about the processes of aging, medical conditions concerning the elderly population, and various methods to meet the specific needs of the elderly.
Your coursework may focus on the study of geriatrics, which is the study of disease and health later in life. Gerontology and geriatric studies will further focus on the study of public policy, healthcare, housing, retirement, and family roles in regards to the elderly population. Counseling for mortality or bereavement and teaching the elderly play a large role in gerontology education.