Those who want to work in the field of gerontology can choose from a variety of degrees. These include traditional degrees, such as gerontology or geriatric nursing, and alternative degrees, such as social work or human services. Careers in social work are expected to grow quicker than average because of the fast-growing elderly population.
Geriatric Social Workers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, geriatric social workers specialize in helping the elderly and their families. A social worker with a degree in gerontology will be trained to help meet the unique needs of older populations. They may provide advice on housing, resources for long term care options, support for adult children of older parents and classes for caregivers of older clients.
In health care environments such as hospitals, geriatric social workers will help family members of older patients access community services and coordinate home health services. All states require social workers to be licensed, but these requirements vary between states. Geriatric social workers are employed in hospitals, nursing homes, community programs and government agencies.
Social workers usually have a four-year degree in social work, but some earn a degree in psychology or human services.
Bachelor's in Social Work
A bachelor's degree in social work is the best foundation for the field of gerontology. These programs will provide a solid foundation for entry into the social work profession. These programs teach students how to utilize the appropriate skills, values and knowledge for interventions with older individuals and their families.
Programs stress the importance of maintaining a professional identity that is consistent with social work ethics and values. They also emphasize how to apply valuable tools and techniques with target client populations. Most programs teach how to develop and evolve a practice style that grows with new research and personal strengths. Those who want to work with older populations will learn about behavior in social environments, which will explore human development through the lifespan, and interviewing skills, which will help them with assessments, goal setting and interventions.
Bachelor's in Health Services Management
As an alternative, prospective geriatric social workers can pursue a bachelor's in health service management. The health care sector for geriatric services is rapidly growing because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the aging baby boomer population. In addition to these factors, health care organizations are required to upgrade their standards and implement electronic health record systems. All of these influences are increasing positions in health services management. A degree in health services management will provide the graduate with the core competencies for effective management in the dynamic health care environments. This degree is an excellent choice for those who want to become leaders in the field of geriatric social work. Coursework will train students to apply business and financial management principles in health care settings through collaboration, strategic planning and process mapping.
In order to excel in the field of geriatric social work, students should consider a graduate certificate or degree in social work with a specialization in geriatrics. Those who want to explore the field of gerontology can visit the Gerontological Society of America's website.