Gerontology is a term that broadly refers to studying the effects of aging. This includes the physical, psychological and social issues related to aging. It is important to avoid confusing gerontology with geriatrics, which focuses only on diseases in the elderly population.
Gerontologist Job Duties
Gerontologists may study a wide range of issues. However, some may choose to specialize in one specific area. For example, one gerontologist may study all of the ways aging affects certain groups while another focuses only on sociological effects of aging. Many gerontologists work in research fields. They may spend their time reading, conducting studies, writing reports and presenting information to various sources. Some gerontologists may also be psychiatrists. If this is the case, they may work in hospitals or visit a variety of facilities to meet with aging patients. Research gerontologists must spend a significant amount of time gathering financial, demographic and gender information about the groups they study.
Gerontologist Work Environment
A gerontologist's work environment may vary depending on specialty areas. Gerontologists who work as doctors generally have more face-to-face interaction with aging individuals. Researchers may also have some face-to-face interaction, but a researcher's job mostly involves collecting, analyzing and reporting data. Research gerontologists spend plenty of time sitting behind desks. The work environment often requires being exposed to a computer screen for several hours per day. Some gerontologists may also spend a significant amount of time standing during jobs involving more person-to-person contact. Since gerontologists have multiple responsibilities, many jobs in this field are fast paced.
Gerontologist Education Requirements
In order to become a gerontologist, it is necessary to earn a doctoral medical degree. Gerontology certification is gained by taking extra classes after graduating. After completing pre-med training, med students may choose a specialty area related to gerontology. Since gerontology is a sub-specialty of internal medicine, most students choose internal medicine as a focus. There are also jobs in the field of gerontology for people who are not doctors. Individuals who wish to assist gerontologists with research or care may enter the field by seeking apprenticeships or internships. It is helpful to have a bachelor's degree in social work, nursing, psychology or any field that yields useful skills for gerontology work. Some schools have standalone courses for gerontology studies, so students should check with local colleges for any programs that are relevant.
Gerontologist Job Outlook & Salary
Physicians specializing in gerontology should not expect to make more than $125,000 during their residencies. After gaining experience and satisfying residency requirements, gerontologists can expect to make between $150,000 and $170,000 annually. Wages for assistants vary widely depending on education levels. Since people are living longer on average and the baby boomers continue aging, the need for gerontologists and workers who assist them is expected to continue growing steadily in the future.