What does gerontology entail?

As one of the world's fastest-growing populations, people aged 65 and older require unique medical and social services, and a vast array of industries cater to them.

Jessica TomerJessica Tomer
Carnegie Communications
As one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, people aged 65 and older require unique medical and social services, and a vast array of industries cater to them. Though there are many health care specializations for the elderly, gerontology is about much more than medical care.

With a degree or specialization in gerontology, students can address societal needs like housing and retirement, or they can develop marketing and advertising that appeals to older consumers. Assisted living facilities, for example, need nutritionists, activities managers, and psychologists as well as nurses, doctors, and physical therapists. Another facet of gerontology is career satisfaction, as workers are able to improve the quality of life and learn from the wisdom of the elderly.

Gerontology can lead to many different fields, including human service organizations, health and long-term care facilities, assisted living communities, and government agencies. Research is another promising area, as scientists seek treatments for the diseases associated with aging, like Alzheimer’s disease. In business or law, those with experience in gerontology can advise estate planning and investment options.

Students may specialize in geriatrics within a traditional major, or they can major specifically in gerontology. Depending on the field they wish to pursue, students may study biology, economics, psychology, public policy, or sociology. Volunteering with the elderly also provides the necessary field experience for some degrees and is a great way for students to experience the work they might do as professionals.

There are avenues in gerontology for all degree levels, from associate to doctorate. Those with bachelor’s degrees may begin their careers at mid-level jobs, provided they have some field experience. According to the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE), nearly 100 colleges or universities offer a master’s degree in gerontology. Higher degrees can lead to jobs in administration, research, and clinical practice.

Gerontology promises many job opportunities, favorable wages, and stability. Specializations in geriatrics will continue to be in high demand in many industries, according to the AGHE. As a relatively new discipline, gerontology may also provide possibilities for new, innovative programs and products.

The median income for those working in gerontology varies greatly with the diversity of jobs; however, some relevant fields include human service assistants ($27,940), public health social workers ($46,300), and sociologists ($69,620).

For more information, visit the Gerontological Society of America.

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