What Is Gerontology?
Gerontology is the study of the process of aging in all its facets. There are various types of fields in which one can specialize in gerontology, and those who select a career path in gerontology will have a direct impact on the changing population in the U.S.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demographics in the U.S. are shifting and there is an increase in the older population. “In 2020, the 55-years-and-older age group will total 97.8 million, composing 28.7 percent of the 2020 resident population, compared with 24.7 percent in 2010.”
These statistics alone are meaningful, but if you are considering an online bachelor’s degree in gerontology, there is more to consider before pursuing your degree.
Why study gerontology?
There’s one key reason to study gerontology: opportunity. Populations are aging worldwide, and the ever-changing demographics continue to expand career opportunities in gerontology and related fields. One important factor contributing to this opportunity in the field of aging is its diverse population. Older adults vary in their needs and require attention from professionals in the fields of elder law, advocacy, long-term care, researchers, dementia care, counseling, case-management, elder abuse specialist, transportation, home health, nursing, physicians, and nonprofit organizations, to name a few.
The Ashford University gerontology degree program is designed to impart knowledge and to meet the demands of the job market in both private and public sectors as evidenced by the 2016‒2026 occupational projections of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Currently, the Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology curriculum is designed to prepare students for positions working with older adults in a variety of settings. The online program focuses on a multidisciplinary approach to the field and provides a foundation of the biological, psychological, social, spiritual, and developmental aspects of aging and longevity. This perspective promotes student exploration of the needs and influences of the growing population of senior citizens and their impact on multiple aspects of society. In addition, multiculturalism and social and ethical issues of aging and longevity are explored within the multidisciplinary context of the major.
Students pursuing this online degree can also choose to dive deeper into other areas of gerontology by adding a Health Care Informatics Systems specialization, which consists of four, three-credit courses. Those who add this specialization will learn to use data to improve the quality of health care and learn best practices for planning, executing, and evaluating health solutions.
What kind of gerontology careers are available?
Based on projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016), the healthcare sector is expected to grow at a 2.6% annual rate until 2022 and comprise about one-third of the 15.6 million new jobs created during that period as the result of the aging population. Therefore, the need for specialists and trained geriatric workers is essential and critical to the future of healthcare.
Some gerontology career opportunities include:
- Adult Day Care Manager
- Aging Services Coordinator
- Geriatric Case Manager
- Senior Housing Manager
- Geriatric Mental Health Worker
- Residential Care Facility Manager
- Dementia Care Worker
- Senior Center Director
- Direct Care Provider
What do gerontology professionals do?
Ashford University’s Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology degree program can prepare students to work with an aging population in a number of settings including senior centers, nursing homes, community health agencies, and retirement centers.
Gerontology professionals have an opportunity to make a difference, but that effort doesn’t have to wait until after graduation. Even as a gerontology student you can make a difference by volunteering in your community with older adults and later as a professional in the field of aging. As a professional you can influence policy and legislation and even gain insight into your own families as they grow older.
How can I prepare to work in the field of gerontology?
There are a variety of ways you can prepare in advance for a career in gerontology. Here are five tips to help you head in the right direction while you pursue your online degree in gerontology from Ashford University and even after you graduate.
- Volunteer at local senior service agencies to gain work experience as well as a network of contacts.
- Become familiar with the state and local agencies and organizations that serve older persons.
- Contact your local state or local area agency on aging for information on possible careers within their organizations. Also, contact local hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers, and retirement communities.
- Reach out to Ashford University’s Career Services and faculty members who teach in the gerontology program for career advice and potential leads for job openings in the field of aging.
- Become involved in one or more professional aging organization and attend the annual meetings. Review posted job openings, and don’t forget to bring your resume! Make sure to broaden your job search and look under the type of work you want to do (e.g., dementia care specialist, geriatric care manager, senior care specialist, or aging program specialist).
A career in the field of gerontology is not only a noble pursuit, but it will prove even more useful as the aging population continues to grow. Knowing your options for a degree in gerontology and a career in the field will help you to take your passion for assisting others to the next level and make an impact on society in a much-needed way.
Written by Dr. Yvonne M. Lozano, professor and chair of the Gerontology and Applied Behavioral Science programs in the School of Health, Human Services, and Science at Ashford University.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017, October 24). Retrieved November 5, 2017, from https://www.bls.gov/