Aging is frustrating; there is no doubt about it. Gerontology focuses on the problems and difficulties people go through as part of aging. A gerontologist is an expert professional in the scientific study of the aging process. Though this field has only emerged in the last 50 years, the increasing elderly population in the U.S has led to the rapid growth of this field. Know how to become a gerontologist.
Gerontologists treat the elderly and provide medication to ease the aging process. They study the psychological and physical changes that happen in the process Before becoming a gerontologist, you should understand if this path is suitable for you.- understand what skills and traits you need to possess to excel in this career.
Becoming a Gerontologist
Based on the level of responsibility and the field opted to work in, the educational requirements vary. Most gerontology careers start with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, gerontology, or human services.
Although a bachelor’s degree is enough for a career in this field, most gerontologists earn postgraduate degrees in this field. You can also work as an academician – a principal researcher or a university professor – if you have a Ph.D. in Gerontology.
Gerontologists should have a sound subject knowledge and application ability to decide the treatment for an ailment. They should possess the ability and the skills to work with aged people.
Effective and efficient communication skills are also essential for older people. Gerontologists should have patience and compassion towards the elderly. They should have an interest in the psychological and physical aspects of aging and a keen interest to improve the health and the well being of the aged people.
Job Description of a Gerontologist
The job duties and responsibilities vary depending on the job position. The job roles of a practitioner, administrator, and researcher are different.
- Develop group activities for the aged people for a longer-term
- Monitor the physical and mental health needs of the clients
- Meet with healthcare providers and clients
- Work with the regional, local and federal government for funding for the aged community
- Conduct life skills classes for the elderly.
- Plan, develop, administer and evaluate programs that address the needs of older adults.
- Ensure that the programs are effective, cost-efficient and meet the needs of the aged people.
- Organize events and programs and public outreach for aged people
- Write grant proposals to develop funding
- Study the physical, mental and social changes in elderly people as they age.
- Teach classes or conduct lectures.
How to Become a Gerontologist in Steps
Know how to become a gerontologist and the steps to be followed.
Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) advises the student’s complete courses in Chemistry and Biology to meet the medical school admission standards.
According to AAMC, medical school admissions are highly competitive and a high GPA is not enough to help a student get through the admissions. Volunteering in local hospitals or health clinics can help aspiring candidates become familiar with elderly patients.
Step 2: Enroll in a Medical School
Undergraduates interested in applying to a medical school must clear the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) and most students apply for these exams in the junior year of college. Once enrolled in a medical school, the students will take up four years of a classroom course, with laboratory and clinical work experience.
Step 3: Get License & Training
A gerontologist needs to pass a licensing exam to practice medicine in any state. The United States Medical Licensing Examination is sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards and The National Board of Medical Examiners.
This exam is to test a student’s ability in understanding the concepts and principles related to medicine and patient-care skills. As a part of the training process, the candidate who has cleared the medical licenses should complete a residency in internal medicine.
Step 4: Start Practicing
Gerontologists can opt to become a Geriatric Social Worker, Life Enrichment Professional, Personal Care Aides, and Facility Director & Administrator. They are employed full-time, part-time or contractual basis in private residential care, recreation programs, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities, etc.
Job Outlook & Salary
Gerontology is a field with many branches. Candidates can choose to become Research gerontologists where they directly work with patients and research in making the life of the elderly easier and comfortable. Applied gerontologists work in hospitals, homes for senior citizens, etc.
Gerontologist salary depends on the type of job preferred by the candidates. As per the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of a healthcare social worker is $56,200, while that of recreation therapists $47,860 and that of the health service manager is $99,730.
A career as a Gerontologist
A career as a gerontologist is rewarding. They enjoy lucrative salaries and other benefits. (1) There is a huge scope for gerontologists throughout the world as the percentage of elderly people is on the rise. According to U.S BLS, the projected growth of Gerontologists is said to grow 22% from 2021-2022. People continue to live longer and so the job prospects and the need for Gerontologists will continue to grow.