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CAREER DEVELOPMENT / OCT. 19, 2014
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How to Become a Gerontologist in the US

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Are you interested in studying the biological, psychological and social aspects of aging? If you’re, you could pursue a career in gerontology.

In a nutshell, gerontologists investigate the changes people go through as they grow older. They use their findings to help healthcare facilities, such as nursing homes, to develop appropriate care programs for adult clients or patients.

What Do Gerontologists Do?

The duties of gerontologists include:

  • Conducting research to investigate the effects of aging
  • Assisting elderly people to live active lives
  • Helping healthcare practitioners to plan and administer care programs
  • Writing grants to help healthcare facilities and other adult care providers to receive government or donor funding
  • Helping policy makers in the healthcare industry to draft gerontology policies
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of adult care programs

It is important to note that the duties of gerontologists may be more specific depending on whether he or she works as an administrator, researcher or direct care practitioner.

Work Environment

Gerontologists typically have 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, work schedules. Evening and weekend work is common for those who provide care to patients.

Depending on the type of position a gerontologist holds, he or she can be based in an office or healthcare setting.

Those who engage in research projects often travel a lot in search of more information.

Salary

How much do gerontologists make? Find out below:

Job Level

 

Annual Wage

Starting gerontologists

 

$25,760 - $49,200

Experienced gerontologists

 

$49,200 -$80,373

Administrators

 

$80,373 -$126,045

Source: Healthcare Salaries

Education and Training

So, what does it take to break into gerontology? If you are a high school student, you must focus on math, English and sciences, especially biology and chemistry. After graduating, you must then complete the following steps:

  • Earn a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in gerontology – Besides enabling you to find work as a gerontology practitioner, it serves as a stepping stone to pursuing a master’s degree. Degrees in psychology, nursing or social work are also a good place to start.
  • Complete a master’s degree in gerontology – At this level, you can secure entry-level research positions in academic institutions or independent research centers
  • Earn a PhD in Gerontology

Bachelor’s and master’s degree holders who wish to secure jobs in healthcare settings may need to obtain a license or certificate to practice in their state.

Important Qualities

Apart from an interest in studying the various aspects of aging, you will also need:

  • Excellent research and analytical skills
  • Patience, empathy and compassion
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • An interest in improving public health
  • Good planning and organizing skills.

Career Development

As a qualified gerontologist, you are pretty much done with the pursuing degrees. However, this does not mean the end of learning. To enhance your competence and credibility, and chances of securing top jobs in gerontology, you can:

Job Opportunities

The employers of gerontologists include:

  • Private residential care facilities
  • Professional associations    
  • Non-profit agencies and organizations
  • Hospitals and nursing homes
  • Colleges and universities
  • Providers of recreation programs
  • Government agencies, such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

As you earn more advanced qualifications, better jobs with higher salaries will come your way. With a PhD, you can teach in universities or be appointed a policy maker in a health agency.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t compile data for gerontologists, you can expect to have plenty of employment opportunities. Given that the baby boomer generation is retiring and many adults are expected to live into the 2050s, several gerontologists will be required to provide care at different levels. So go for it!

 

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