Experts in the field of gerontology consider how aging affects physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Their long-term holistic support provides aging populations with the resources and care they need to thrive. Gerontology specialists learn about topics such as ethical care for the elderly, the transition to long-term care, and the onset of Alzheimer’s and other diseases. They work with individuals and their families to access resources available within the community, consider end-of-life options and care, and prepare for grief and loss.
Specialists must be attentive to broad-scale issues such as elder abuse and cultural effects on the aging process, and they are also versed in more specific topics such as the loss of physical capabilities and independence, noticing early signs of dementia and other mental disorders, and ways to maintain an active lifestyle. While addressing these subjects with aging individuals is important, gerontological social workers also play a vital role in educating the families of these individuals to ensure a positive, nurturing, and safe environment.
Social Work Jobs in Aging include:
Typical Roles & Responsibilities of Aging / Gerontological Social Workers
Social workers who specialize in gerontology often help to handle the practical aspects of the aging process, such as financial planning for long-term care, selection of care providers and facilities, coordinating the preparation of documents such as advance directives, and ensuring proper prevention and treatment of physical and mental health issues. They may enter the field as case managers, and responsibilities can increase as social workers gain experience in the field.
Gerontological social workers often find employment in:
- Government agencies
- Long-term care facilities
- Senior centers
- Community centers
Average Salary of Aging / Geriatric Social Workers
Salaries in the field of geriatric social work vary based on educational background and prior experience, with a range of approximately $33,000-$55,000 annually. On average, social workers who specialize in aging earn $41,000 each year.
Education & Experience Requirements:
Geriatric social workers can enter the field with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work. There may be courses available in social work degree programs that allow students to study theories and issues specific to aging populations. In addition, some states or employers may require additional coursework or training before a social worker can specialize in gerontology. Social workers can enter this field with relatively low professional experience, though salaries and career opportunities increase with greater experience.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers credentialing in gerontology for graduates of accredited bachelor’s or master’s-level social work degree programs who meet certain qualifications for post-graduate experience. This type of credential may be required for some gerontological social work positions.
Explore our list of featured online master of social work programs that are fully accredited, providing the educational foundation needed for a credential from the NASW.