Professionals are often attracted to the field of aging because of emerging career opportunities. Yet few are aware just how quickly this field is growing. By the year 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years of age will double to two billion, and approximately one in five Americans will be over the age of 65. This rapid growth is creating a need for gerontologists and geriatricians that is already felt today.
You don’t have to wait for the aging population to grow larger before seeking a career in gerontology or geriatrics. Professionals who can apply their knowledge of aging to help older adults maintain their health and independence are already needed. Let’s take a look at the job outlook for careers in the expanding, rewarding field of gerontology.
A Growing Need
The number of Americans aged 65 and older is projected to reach 89 million by the year 2050. More critically, the percentage of Americans with one or more chronic conditions is expected to rise throughout this period. This growing elderly population will increasingly rely on primary care providers, especially specialists who can diagnose, treat and monitor patients afflicted with diseases and illnesses.
In a study on the growing disease burden, researchers estimated that demand for adult primary care services will grow by 14% by the year 2025. Vascular surgery was projected to grow by 31%, followed by cardiology at 20% and neurological surgery, radiology and general surgery at 18%. Researchers concluded that “the current supply of many specialists throughout the United States is inadequate to meet the current demand.” Failure to train specialists could result in reduced access to quality care and a decrease in quality of life for patients, among other concerns.
A Bright Future
There are abundant opportunities in the field of aging, but we’ll be looking at a handful of gerontology and geriatric careers. These careers, like so many others in this field, are growing at a rate faster than the national average and offer professionals the chance to enjoy meaningful relationships with older adults, a stable and high-paying role and a healthy work-life balance.
- Health Service Managers: 32% Growth Through 2029
From hospitals, outpatient care centers and nursing and residential care facilities, health service managers oversee the delivery of health care services, the hiring of staff members and the development of goals, among other managerial duties. They may manage an entire facility or a specific clinical area. Regardless, their expertise is invaluable in helping older adults maintain their independence. For their efforts, health service managers make a median annual salary of $104,280 per year.
- Social Workers: 13% Growth Through 2029
Social workers often focus on assisting society’s most vulnerable groups, so it’s no surprise that so many of these professionals devote their time to helping aging populations. Geriatric social workers counsel older adults on the many aspects of life that change over a period of months, years and decades, including those related to disease and disability. They can be found in hospitals, aging services organizations and mental health clinics, among numerous other locations, helping older adults overcome challenges unique to their age group. Social workers make a median annual salary of $51,760 per year.
- Speech-Language Pathologists: 25% Growth Through 2029
Speech-language pathologists assist older adults who have communication, cognitive or swallowing impairments. Their job duties entail evaluating speech difficulty, developing treatment plans and counseling individuals on how to cope with communication and swallowing disorders, and their expertise is vital in differentiating between normal aging and speech impairments. Like so many gerontological specialists, their true value comes from being able to prevent disorders through education and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. Speech-language pathologists make a median annual salary of $80,480 per year, with those in nursing and residential care facilities earning $95,010 per year.
- Registered Nurses: 7% Growth Through 2029
Primary care doctors aren’t the only medical professionals who will be in high demand in the years to come. Registered nurses observe patients, provide quality patient-centered care and collaborate with physicians and specialists. Nurses are essential in the field of aging, where they oversee nursing assistants and home health aides and work with families and caregivers to help improve the quality of life of older adults. Registered nurses make a median annual salary of $75,330 per year, with the highest 10% earning over $116,230 per year.
Take Advantage of Career Opportunities With an Education in Gerontology
The aging population is growing at an unprecedented rate, and adults 65 and older will soon far outnumber younger generations. To overcome age-related conditions and diseases, older adults will increasingly rely on gerontological specialists with in-depth knowledge of aging — compassionate caregivers who can consider the unique needs of older adults.
The University of Florida offers online graduate programs in gerontology designed to help professionals like you advance their careers in the field of aging. Throughout our online programs, you’ll deepen your knowledge of gerontology and geriatrics and prepare yourself to take advantage of emerging career opportunities. UF’s Department of Aging and Geriatric Research offers the following graduate options:
- Master’s Degree in Gerontology: A 30-credit-hour, non-thesis program that covers the biological, clinical, psychological, sociological, legal and ethical aspects of aging.
- Master’s Degree in Medical Physiology and Aging: A 30-credit-hour, non-thesis program designed to help you build a broader and deeper knowledge of the biology of aging.
- Graduate Certificate in Aging and Geriatric Practice: A 15-credit-hour program that provides foundational knowledge of geriatric medicine by exploring the major systems of the human body.
Entirely online and asynchronous, our graduate programs are designed for working professionals who aspire to become gerontological specialists. Each of our programs can help you take advantage of opportunities in this growing field and help ensure your professional success in the years and decades to come. Before you can take advantage of future opportunities, however, you have to take advantage of this one. Apply to one of our online graduate programs in gerontology and secure your future in the field of aging.
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