Gerontology Careers: 2022 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary

Gerontology Careers: 2022 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

As people become older, their cells, tissues, and organs begin to degenerate. These things cause a variety of changes in a person’s body as well as their mind as they become older. Gerontology takes into account this biological perspective, which recognizes that as a person ages, their body might weaken and become more susceptible to infections, illnesses, and diseases (Ohio University, 2020).

Gerontology is the study of aging as well as the challenges that come along with it. In order to get a deeper understanding of the aging process, the discipline uses an interdisciplinary approach, combining elements of biology, psychology, and society. Even the biological, psychological, and social effects of aging on a person’s younger family members are analyzed in detail in this book (National University, n.d.).

Let this article help you navigate different gerontology career paths, options, and salary.

Gerontology Careers Table of Contents

  1. Why pursue a career in gerontology?
  2. Gerontology Career Outlook
  3. Required Skills for Gerontology
  4. How to Start Your Career in Gerontology
  5. How can I advance my career in gerontology?
  6. Alternative Career Options for Gerontology

Why pursue a career in gerontology?

Gerontology is the perfect career path for those who love working with the elderly. Patience, keen attention to the needs of the patients and clients, and the capacity to offer support to adults experiencing physical and cognitive challenges are must-haves for every gerontology professional.

A gerontology education can qualify you for careers in nursing, social work, occupational therapy, education, as well as management, research, and policy (Best Colleges, 2020).

senior population in the U.S.

Gerontology Career Outlook 

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that between 2019 and 2029, there will be a massive employment increase in the health care industry. In the same timeframe, the BLS also expects that home health and personal care aide roles would experience a 34% job increase, nursing assistant roles would have an 8% increase, and social worker roles would have a 13% increase (Best Colleges, 2020).

See the table below to know the average gerontology salary and career outlook.

Average Yearly Salary for Gerontology Careers

Job RoleAverage Yearly SalaryCareer Outlook
Home Health Aide$25,28034%
Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)$90,13014.3%
Occupational Therapist$65,41817%
Nursing Assistant$34,8708%
Gerontological Social Worker$57,80718%
Source: Nurse Practitioner Schools, 2021

Required Skills for Gerontology

Besides learning about the process and challenges of aging, gerontology graduates also delve into how society is impacted by an aging group. Take note of the essential skills for gerontology careers.

Essential Skills for Gerontology Professionals

  • Interpersonal Skills. The gerontology field centers on working closely with people from all walks of life. Gerontology professionals must partner with other social services, medical, and administrative workers. Thus, they need to have strong interpersonal skills so that they can interact well with other professionals. Others start in related fields such as psychology, social work, and others.
  • Problem-Solving. Problems related to emotional, medical, social, and financial aspects are usually experienced by the elderly. This is where gerontology professionals come in—to deliver feasible and effective responses to these concerns.
  • Compassion. In the 2020 article “Emotional demands, compassion, and mental health in social workers,” published in Occupational Medicine, G. Kinman and L. Grant attempt to study the effects of compassion on the mental health of social workers. But they explain how this value affects their patients first. “Research findings show that being treated with compassion has many benefits for patients; for example, by increasing compliance with professional advice, improving satisfaction with services, and enhancing health and quality of life. Providing compassion care requires kindness, empathy, and sensitivity, but it has been conceptualized as a three-stage process requiring professionals to notice (be aware of somebody’s distress), feel (imagine the distress suffered by another person and feel empathetic concern for them), and respond (be motivated to alleviate their suffering).”
  • Patience. Older people move and talk at a slower pace. They may also need more time to do or understand some things. Patience is needed when working with them because you will most likely be repeating yourself over and over.
  • Respect. Older people must be treated with the utmost respect. Ask them questions instead of commanding them to do things.

General Skills for Gerontology Professionals

  • Communication. Interacting with patients, family members, and other professionals is inevitable in this field.
  • Organization. Filling out, filing, and documenting paperwork are essential to the help and treatment that will be provided to patients.
  • Flexibility. Health care is known as a fast-paced environment; therefore, workers are expected to do things beyond their job roles.

How to Start Your Career in Gerontology

An entry-level gerontology career only requires at least a certificate, diploma, or associate degree. Any of these options span two years or less and equip students for nursing aid, orderlies, and occupational therapy assistant jobs.

A bachelor’s degree is the key to achieving your career development plan in gerontology. Furthermore, a graduate degree is required for higher positions, like geriatric care managers and adult-geriatric nurse practitioners (Best Colleges, 2020).

What can I do with an Associate’s Degree in Gerontology?

Home and Personal Care Aide

Home and personal care aides assist patients with disabilities, chronic illnesses, and/or physical or cognitive problems. They help them perform daily activities, like attending to appointments, cooking, driving, and taking medications.

Median salary: $25,280

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants help nurses, doctors, and health care administrators provide clinical services at health care facilities. They prepare laboratory tests, document patient records, and administer medications.

Median salary: $34,800

What can I do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Gerontology? 

Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers arrange social service initiatives for communities. They also handle a social workers team and other workers offering social services to others. They normally work for government bodies and nonprofits.

Median salary:  $43,366

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant

Certified occupational therapy assistants help registered occupational therapists in rehabilitating people with disabilities or injuries.

Median salary: $43,180

Can you get a gerontology job with just a certificate?

There are no certain certification requirements for gerontology jobs, but some entry-level gerontology positions only require a certificate. These jobs are typically in nursing homes, senior daycare centers, or private homes. However, a high school diploma is required to enroll in an undergraduate certificate program (World Wide Learn, n.d.).

colleges offering gerontology

How can I advance my career in gerontology?

If your career in gerontology is headed to a more progressive path, you must invest time and money to obtain a master’s or doctorate degree. You may also opt to take a gerontology graduate certificate, which can be completed in less than a year (Best Colleges, 2020).

What can I do with a Master’s in Gerontology?

Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers plan, systematize, and manage the health care and medical services of hospitals, assisted living establishments, and group medical practices.

Median salary: $69,815

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists aid people with physical disabilities in developing skills to perform tasks. They are employed in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and occupational therapy offices. These professionals must earn a master’s degree and all states require them to hold a license.

Median salary: $65,418

What kind of job can I get with a Doctorate in Gerontology?

Physician, Geriatric Specialist

Physicians whose specialization is in geriatrics focus on diagnosing, curing, and preventing illnesses in the elderly. They specialize in general medicine prior to specializing in geriatrics. They need to finish medical school and a minimum of three years of residency. They also need to earn a medical license.

Median salary: $190,420

Postsecondary Teacher, Health

Postsecondary teachers teach at community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. They develop academic programs, evaluate student learning, and teach courses. They may also do their own research and publish them.

Median salary: $97,320

Which certification is best for gerontology?

The American Nurses Credentialing Center issues adult-gerontology certification to clinical nurses and nurse practitioners, who need to be licensed. The National Association for Professional Gerontologists also issues certifications to professionals with gerontology degrees (Best Colleges, 2020).

Alternative Career Options for Gerontology

Curiosity, the highly demanding atmosphere of gerontology, or the desire for change makes some gerontology professionals take nondirect patient care roles (Stromsdorfer, 2020). Browse some alternative career options for gerontology in this section.

What else can a gerontology professional do?

Mental Health Therapist

Through psychotherapy, mental health therapists help people during their most distressing moments. Gerontology professionals switching to a mental health role can help patients and family members alike cope with the process of aging.

Private Health Coach

The love for health is apparent in many occupational therapists. Some of them even switch to establishing their own health coaching businesses to help people improve their overall health and quality of living.

What Makes Gerontology a Personally Satisfying Career

Often, an urge to chase a career in assisting the elderly is motivated by a personal, familial case. While working with older clients might not seem an easy endeavor, a gerontology job can be beneficial in many ways. It teaches you not just to be good at what you do, but to also develop real empathy for your clients, thereby improving your values in life. The elderly can also share their experiences and wisdom with you.

Not all careers can be as personally satisfying as gerontology, especially with the fact that financially rewarding careers are almost everywhere (Mommy’s Memorandum, n.d.).

 

References:

  1. Affordable Colleges Online Staff Writers. (2021, August 4). Jobs Working with the Elderly. Affordable Colleges Online.
  2. Best Colleges Staff Writer. (2020, September 30). Gerontology Careers. Best Colleges.
  3. Kinman, G., & Grant, L. (2020, January 31). Emotional demands, compassion, and mental health in social workers. Occupational Medicine.
  4. Mommy’s Memorandum. (n.d.). Gerontology Degree And The Benefits Of Studying It. Mommy’s Memorandum.
  5. National University. (n.d.). What Can You Do With a Master’s in Gerontology? National University.
  6. Ohio University. (2020, January 23). What Is Gerontology? Ohio University.
  7. Stromsdorfer, S. (2020, February 29). Alternative Career Paths for Occupational Therapists. My OT Spot.
  8. University of the People. (n.d.). What Is Gerontology? Importance Of The Study Of Aging. University of the People.
  9. World Wide Learn. (n.d.). Gerontology Majors Guide. World Wide Learn.

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