The number of people in America is going to double in the next 30 years. This is certain to create more job demand for professionals who have skills in gerontology. Gerontology deals with how aging affects individuals, families and communities.
To work in this growing field, you can earn a master’s degree in gerontology, so that you can assist people to deal with the challenges of aging. With this graduate degree, you can develop social policies and programs that will help the elderly to age comfortably. You can use your gerontology skills in a broad array of fields from health education, to psychology, to social work.
Also, you will be able to help the elderly evaluate many ethical, financial and legal retirement challenges, and create support systems so that people can age productively.
With a master’s degree in gerontology, you will be qualified to work in the following positions, among others:
- Health educator: These professionals teach people about the types of behaviors that lead to long term health and wellness. They will work with people who are growing older to help them develop strategies to improve their health as they get older. They also may help the elderly to find the health services and resources they need to live a better life. Further, they will teach the aged how to manage existing health problems with available resources.
- Psychologist: Some psychologist who choose to focus on the elderly and aging may have a background in gerontology. This background can be useful because it gives you strategies and tools to help you to work with people who are dealing with various aging challenges. You may choose to combine your experience in gerontology with your expertise in health psychology; this field studies how behavioral and psychological factors can affect our health and illness.
- Recreational therapist: These professionals plan, direct and coordinate many recreation treatment programs for those with disabilities, diseases and injuries. Many of your clients may be the elderly, so a background in gerontology may be very helpful. You could work in a long term care facility or nursing home.
Why Earn a Master’s Degree in Gerontology?
One out of eight people in the US is 65 or older, and this ratio is going to increase as the decades go by. The elderly population is the fastest growing in the country. As a result, it is predicted that there will be at least 900,000 new jobs in gerontology related fields in the coming decade.
Employees will be needed to fill these positions who have a strong background in how to work effectively with the elderly. Qualified professionals will be needed to work with older people in many different fields, such as:
- Health care
- Social services
- Continuing education
- Adult day services
For admission into a master’s in gerontology program, you may need to meet these type of requirements:
- GRE scores required
- 0 GPA
- Bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts
- Updated resume
- Statement of purpose
- 3 letters of recommendation
Curriculum and Courses
Kansas State University offers a gerontology master’s degree that will prepare you to work closely with the aged in many different fields. It also will ready you to work in education or research as it relates to aging issues.
This two year program will provide you with the core competencies that have been identified by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education. It draws upon the knowledge and expertise of faculty and courses from several Kansas universities.
Students who graduate from this program typically work in the following areas:
- Health promotions
- Directing activities in senior living facilities
- Working in management or administration of retirement communities
- Working in counseling of the elderly and their families
- Helping the elderly to plan for retirement
Required courses in this program are:
- Perspectives in Gerontology
- Adult Development and Aging
- Public Policy: Economic and Social Impacts on Older Adults
- Aging in the Family
- Program Evaluation and Research Methods in Gerontology
- Professional Seminar in Gerontology
- Physical Health and Nutrition in Aging
Career Outcomes and Job Titles
Some of the possible job titles with this master’s degree include:
- Recreational director
- Medical service manager
- Nursing home director
- Director of administration
- Social worker
- Health health manager
Job and Salary Outlook
- Health Educator — This field will increase in demand by 13%; growth is going to be seen as there is more effort to improve health outcomes in people who are older. Increased healthcare costs mean that there is more effort being expended in keeping people healthy for as long as possible, before they ever get sick. The demand for this type of worker is acute for insurance companies, government agencies and healthcare organizations. Median salary per year is $51,900.
- Recreational Therapist — The demand in this profession will increase by 12%. This is faster than average compared to other occupations. As the population is growing older, more people will need recreational therapists who can help them deal with their diseases and illnesses. For example, you may work in a facility where people live who suffered a stroke or have Alzheimer’s disease. As more of these facilities are built, there will be more need for people to plan recreational therapy and activities for them. Much of this work will be done one on one with patients and with the family. Median salary in this field is $45,800.
- Social Worker — Some professionals with a gerontology specialty may work as social workers with the elderly. Some social workers may earn their master’s degree as well and work as a clinical social worker, which gives them the ability to diagnose and treat mental illness. These mental issues are common among the elderly, and a gerontology degree can be very useful. The job outlook overall for social workers is good; job demand will be up by 12% by 2024. Median pay is $45,900.
Scholarships and Grants
If you think that a career in gerontology could be a good fit, you will want to look around for potential scholarships and grants to help to fund your education:
- San Diego State University: If you get your master’s degree at this university, you can apply for several master’s in gerontology and social work scholarships.
- Abilene Christian University: This university offers the Joe McKissick Endowed Scholarship in Gerontology, as well as the Helen C. Nelson Scholarship for Gerontology.
- Gerontological Society of America: This is the oldest, largest organization that is devoted to education, research and practice in the aging field. The main mission of this organization and its 5500 members is to advance study and research of aging, and to release vital information in the field to scientists, legislators and the public in general. This organization was founded in 1945, and is the biggest driving force behind the advancement of the field of gerontology.
- Association for Gerontology in Higher Education: This is a membership organization of universities that offers training, education and research support in the aging field. It now has more than 160 universities in its membership. The purpose of this organization is to increase the commitment of higher education to the aging field through more research, education and service to the public.