Master's in Gerontology: Salary and Career Facts
Enrolling in a master's degree program in gerontology will increase your knowledge of issues concerning elderly populations and qualify you for work in a variety of health care and social service settings. You might go on to develop programs to assist elderly people. To learn more about jobs in the gerontology field, employment requirements, the job outlook and the salary potential, read on.
What Is a Gerontologist?
A gerontologist is a professional who studies the effects of aging and/or uses that knowledge to help elderly patients and clients maintain their quality of life. Gerontologists can work in a number of different careers. Geriatric social workers help older patients and their families deal with social and emotional problems. They also represent clients when it comes to obtaining social services, which involves gathering information and documentation for cases. Nursing home administrators are medical and health services managers that specialize in nursing home management. They supervise the staff of nursing homes, plan activities and nursing programs, monitor budgets and work with the families of the residents.
What Are Career Options for Gerontology Graduates?
A master's degree in gerontology qualifies you for a career working directly with older people or indirectly for their benefit. With your degree, you may seek immediate employment in health care, academia, research, government or policy. Common employers include community organizations, retirement communities, non-profit agencies, social services, clinics, hospitals, research facilities, hospices, government agencies and home health care facilities. Alternatively, you may start your own consulting business and advise other health care agencies and businesses on the best products and services for older adults.
Specific job titles depend upon the industry in which you work. Some gerontologists become researchers and study mental and physical aging processes and how they affect populations. Others work in policy to amend laws and regulations that affect older people. If you work in industry or government, you may be involved in designing new products to meet specific needs of the elderly.
What Do I Need in Addition to My Degree?
Professional requirements depend on your position and place of employment. For instance, all states require social workers to be licensed or certified to practice. In most states, you need two years of supervised clinical experience to become licensed as a clinical social worker. State requirements for other types of social workers vary. If you work in a clinical setting as a geriatric nurse, for instance, you also need to meet all licensing requirements to become a registered nurse in your state of employment.
The National Association for Professional Gerontologists offers voluntary credentialing for professionals at all education levels. To earn the credential, you must submit official academic transcripts to be eligible to sit for the graduate-level credentialing exam. Credentials must be renewed every two years by completing professional development activities, such as professional presentations, publications or participation in national conferences. Continuing-education opportunities may also be available through colleges, professional associations, hospitals and businesses.
What Is the Job Outlook like?
The Association for Gerontology in Higher Education expects an increase in the elderly population throughout the 21st century to result in expanded career opportunities for gerontology professionals in many disciplines (www.aghe.org). Daily care of older people who need special attention should continue to drive new jobs. Gerontology social workers in assisted and senior living communities--as well as in nursing homes, hospices and long-term care facilities--should have particularly good job prospects.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports job growth in several occupations related to gerontology. For instance, employment of medical and health service managers is projected to grow 18% over the period from 2018-2028, which is much faster than the average for all national occupations. Social workers should also see faster-than-average job growth over the same period, at 11%.
How Much Can I Expect to Earn?
Earnings potential varies according to your position, level of experience and industry. The BLS reports that healthcare social workers earned median annual wages of $56,200 as of May 2018. In addition, PayScale.com reports that in 2019, the median salary for geriatric social workers was $49,139. If you work in a clinical setting, you may have higher earnings potential.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
Fields related to gerontology include psychology, nursing and rehabilitation counseling. With a PhD in psychology, individuals can work as research psychologists who study topics related to gerontology, including life span development and cognition. Nursing has several levels of career options depending on an individuals education. Registered nurses often have bachelor's degree in nursing, though with a master's in nursing you may specialize in a particular field, such as gerontology. Rehabilitation counselors need a masters in rehabilitation counseling and help people manage disabilities in order to live independently.