Anyone that has found themselves either fascinated or intrigued by the aging process might want to consider a career as a gerontologist. The study of human development mentally, physically and socially is something that has been and will always be an area of interest as humans are constantly changing the way that they think and live. A career as a gerontologist is one that is rewarding, interesting and varied.
Gerontology Schools By State
What is Gerontology?
Specifically, gerontology is the examination of the processes of human aging and individuals as they progress from middle age and older. The field includes the examination of the social, mental and physical changes in older people as they age, the study of the societal shifts that result from the aging members of the population. The way that we apply this information goes toward programs and policies. Since gerontology is such a multidisciplinary field, professionals in this field call themselves gerontologists.
As gerontology is a varied field, your individual training will depend on your focus. Biogerontology focuses on the biological process of aging. It is made of the interdisciplinary research on the effects, causes and mechanisms of biological aging so that we may better understand human senescence, which is the state and process of growing old. A biogerontologist will most often work at either a laboratory or a research university. While several of them hold PhD, some gerontologists are known to have a MD.
Biomedical gerontology is also known as life extension and experimental gerontology. It is a subdiscipline of biogerontology that seeks to prevent, slow and possibly even reverse the aging process in humans as well as animals. The way that this is done is to cure age-related diseases and to decelerate the process of aging.
Social gerontology focuses on examining and/or working with older adults. A social gerontologist might have either a degree or specialized training in social work, psychology, nursing, demography, sociology, gerontology, or another social science discipline. Gerontologists employed in this field have the task of educating, researching, and advancing the wider causes of the elderly by offering educational presentations, publishing their findings in books and articles as well as films and television programs about the aging population. Those that are interested in this field of gerontology should be aware that there is an overlap with demography as issues of life span and extension have to have numbers in order to quantify them. People that examine the demography of the life span of humans are different than people that examine the social demographics of aging.
Degree of Gerontology Overview
The amount of opportunities for specialists in the gerontology field is expected to increase exponentially as the number of Americans 65 years and older is predicted to double over the next few decades. Training in this field will involve classes in psychology, biology, sociology, retirement and financial planning and nutrition as well as insurance. Theses courses will prepare you to adequately take care of the needs of the elderly. Graduate degrees could possibly take you from two to five years to complete after you obtain your bachelor’s degree. Your coursework might include: cultural diversity, group communication, interpersonal communication, policies and politics, probability and statistics, physiology of aging, psychology of aging, and social research methods.
Keep in mind when applying for Master of Gerontology programs that admission is rather competitive and you will have to have your bachelor’s degree in a closely related healthcare field; your grades and test scores will have to be exemplary as well. If you do not have a background in healthcare, then you might have to fulfill certain requirements before you can be considered for acceptance to a master’s program. Specifically you will be required to submit your GRE (General Graduate Record Exam) score, letters of recommendation and a great deal of sociology, psychology and other related areas.
Gerontology Wages & Salary
The median annual wage for gerontological social workers in 2008 was $39,520. In the same year the top ten percent earned more than $66,00. Those that worked for the government earned $46,650, which is less than those employed by the state who made $39,600. Gerontologists who worked for local schools made $53,860, more than government workers while social workers who were employed as residential counselors made $32,260.*
Gerontological social workers who were employed in a medical profession earned only a little more than gerontologists in other fields. Their median annual wage was $46,650, with the top ten percent making a minimum of $69,090. Those employed in nursing care made $41,080, which is not as much as those that worked in local government hospitals who made $44,140. Gerontologists who were social workers that provided home health services made $46,930, less than their counterparts that were employed by medical hospitals who made $51,470.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
To the right person gerontology can prove to be both a lucrative and extremely satisfying career. You will not only be meeting your own needs, but also the needs of your elderly loved ones and the loved ones of others. Who knows what kinds of breakthroughs you may make in the course of your career.