Gerontologist

How to Become a Gerontologist

 

Gerontologist Career Path Guide

To become a gerontologist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for this line of work:

 

• You have an interest in ensuring that the elderly maintain a high quality of life

• You have an interest in exploring the meaning, experiences and context of later life and the aging process

• You have an interest in some of the various aspects of aging, including biological, psychological, social, health or economic

• You have an interest in researching, developing or managing innovative programs to better serve older adults

 

Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a gerontologist. We've also included helpful occupational information for this career, such as job description, job duties, a list of possible employers and much more!

 

 

Education Needed to Become a Gerontologist

The educational requirements for becoming a gerontologist vary by a variety of factors, including their level of responsibility, and whether they work in applied, administrative or research based gerontology.

 

 

Associate’s Degree

 

An associate’s degree in a field related to gerontology will qualify you to work as a gerontology practitioner in entry-level positions such as "healthcare aide", "nurse’s assistant" or "program coordinator".

 

 

Bachelor’s Degree

 

Having a bachelor’s degree will typically qualify you for entry and mid-level positions as a gerontology practitioner and administrator, such as "case manager" or "program coordinator". It will also qualify you to work as a research assistant in gerontology research.

 

Relevant fields include those with coursework that covers age-related issues, such as gerontology, biology, education, ethics, health, human ecology, law, psychology, public administration, recreation, and sociology.

 

 

Master’s Degree

 

Having a master’s degree in gerontology or a field closely related to gerontology, will qualify you for a variety of mid and senior-level positions in applied, administrative and academic gerontology, such as "program planner", "geriatric care manager" and "academic researcher".

 

 

Ph.D. or M.D.

 

Having a Ph.D in gerontology will qualify you to work in academic gerontology, in positions such as "principal researcher" and "university professor". A Ph.D. also typically qualifies you to work in senior-level positions in administrative gerontology, such as "program director". Doctors that choose to pursue additional study in gerontology will likely qualify as gerontology specialists in medicine (applied gerontology).

 

 

Graduate Certificate

 

There are graduate certificates in gerontology available for those who wish to pursue careers in applied and administrative gerontology. These certificate programs are designed for students who have earned a master's degree in another field and wish to work with the elderly population.

 

These programs are also designed for working professionals who wish to specialize in working with the elderly, such as social workers, nurses, psychologists, community program directors, and other professionals. 

 

 

 

 

What is a Gerontologist?

Gerontologists are health care specialists who focus on the effects of aging. They work with, for, and on behalf of the growing population of elders in a wide variety of settings and capacities. A career as a gerontologist may fall into one of three general categories:

 

• Administrator (Administrative gerontology)

• Practitioner (Applied gerontology)

• Researcher (Academic gerontology)

 

 

General Job Description

The job description of a gerontologist varies, primarily on whether they work as a practitioner, an administrator, or a researcher.

 

Practitioner: Gerontologists that work directly with the elderly are known as practitioners. They are direct service providers that interact with older adults to assist them with everyday life. They may assist older adults with issues such as those related to mobility, speech, budgeting, administering medication, learning, and preparing meals. Gerontologists that are practitioners may be professionals, such as nurses, psychologists, social workers and doctors that specialize in gerontology.

 

Administrator: Gerontologists that work in administration are responsible for planning, developing, administering and evaluating programs that address the needs of older adults. They must ensure these programs are effective, cost efficient, and meet the needs of older adults, as well as the individuals and organizations that provide care for the elderly.

 

Researcher: Gerontologists that perform research are responsible for studying the biological, psychological, social, health and economic effects of aging on individuals and society. Research gerontologists study aging in general, and typically do not work directly with older adults except as study subjects. They work they do helps to increase our understanding of the aging process, and make it easier for individuals, families and communities on a physical and emotional level. Research gerontologists may also be responsible for teaching in a college or university setting. 

 

 

Typical Job Duties & Responsibilities

The job duties of a gerontologist vary, primarily on whether they work as a practitioner, an administrator, or a researcher.

 

 

Practitioner

 

• Develop group activities for the elderly community at long term care facilities

• Serve as case study managers to help community participants with basic needs such as housing and healthcare

• Monitor long term physical needs and mental health of clients

• Coordinate transportation for outdoor activities

• Meet with clients and affiliate health care providers

• Work with local, regional and federal government to lobby for extra grant funding

• Conduct life skills classes

 

 

Administrator

 

• Plan, administer and evaluate programs for older adults

• Evaluate community programs for the elderly

• Ensure programs are working to the best of their abilities

• Work with residential communities to ensure those needs are being met, and adjust programs if need be

• Support the aims of nursing facilities and other organizations

• Organize events, benefits programs and public outreach for older adults

• Meet with clients and affiliate health care providers

 

 

Researcher

 

• Write grant proposals in order to develop funding

• Study the physical, mental and social changes in older people as they age

• Study the changes in society that result from an aging population

• Draft research policies and procedures manuals

• Monitor relevant legislation pertaining to gerontological research, and maintain current knowledge thereof

• May teach classes or conduct lectures

 

 

 

 

Characteristics Needed to Be Successful

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a gerontologist, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your duties as a gerontologist is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which usually leads to having a long and successful career.

 

• Enjoy organizing and interpreting information

• An interest in exploring the meaning, experiences and context of later life and the aging process

• An interest in the biological, psychological, social, health and economic aspects of aging

• A keen interest in improving societal health and the well being of the elderly

• An interest in developing and managing innovative programs to better serve older adults

 

 

Who Employs Gerontologists?

Gerontologists are employed on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis, typically by the following types of organizations:

 

• Colleges and universities  

• Federal, provincial/state, or municipal government agencies

• Hospitals and other healthcare facilities

• Long-term care facilities

• Care management and/or administration businesses   

• Private residential care

• Professional associations    

• Non-profit agencies and organizations

• Recreation programs          

• Agencies offering community programs (such as community centres and senior centres)

 

 

Gerontology Jobs - Current Opportunities

Our job board below has "gerontologist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. If nothing of interest populates, try using alternate search terms, such as "gerontgology", or "health care specialist", or others:

 

 

 

Similar Occupations in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "gerontologist", as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.

 

Geriatric Care Manager

Long Term Care Facility Nurse

Psychologist

Social Worker

Sociologist

 

 

References

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a gerontologist.

 

Alberta Learning and Information Service website: alis.alberta.ca

National Association for Professional Gerontologists website: www.napgerontologists.org

Pacific University - Oregon website: www.pacific.edu

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website: www.bls.gov

 

 

Scholarships for Becoming a Gerontologist

Scholarships in our system are organized by field of study. The fields that are relevant for becoming a gerontologist are listed below on our "Relevant Areas of Study" section below. Any scholarships found within those fields will be suitable.

 

 

Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!

 

 

Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below can serve as an excellent educational foundation for this career:

 

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