The increasing number of fast-growing careers in gerontology is a clear indication of the rising needs of the elderly population. Based on population projections, the U.S. will have more adults than children by the year 2035.
Data also indicate there has been a 33% rise in the population of Americans aged 65 and above in the last ten years while those aged 85 and above are expected to rise by 129% by 2040.
The rise in the elderly population has led to a growing demand for professionals in the field of gerontology, whose primary role is to provide proper medical care for the older adults in society.
With that in mind, it’s best to identify the fastest-growing careers in gerontology if you wish to pursue a career in this field.
Fastest-growing careers in gerontology in 2022
If you’re ready for a career in gerontology, below are the fastest-growing careers that pay well in 2022 and beyond.
1. Eldercare specialist
Eldercare specialists work in long-term nursing facilities or homes to provide care and services to older people. While most work in elderly nursing homes, hospitals, and mental health facilities, others provide in-home care to older people living in their homes.
Roles of eldercare specialists/aides include assisting patients with meals, personal hygiene, arranging for social opportunities, providing transportation, keeping their home/rooms tidy, assisting with medical equipment, and administering medications.
It is one of the fastest-growing careers in gerontology and, according to the U.S. BLS, nursing and home health aides earn an average annual salary of $28,060 with the highest-paid getting more than $37,000 a year.
2. Geriatric acupuncturist
Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that involves inserting very thin needles through the skin at specific points of the body and to various depths.
According to research, acupuncture helps relieve pain and is oftentimes used alongside other therapy treatments. That said, geriatric acupuncture focus only on the elderly, especially those suffering from pain complications.
According to The University of California San Diego School of Medicine, acupuncture helps treat and/or manage more than 25 health issues, notable ones being rheumatoid arthritis, kneck, knee & low back pain, stroke, allergic rhinitis, hypertension, and hypotension.
A degree in geriatric acupuncture is one of the medical certifications in high demand, which means it pays really well. The average annual salary for geriatric acupuncturists in the U.S. is $97,270 and the highest-paid 10% earn more than $160,000 a year.
3. Elder law practitioner
Due to the rising older population, there is a need to ensure workplaces make appropriate accommodations for the older workforce and that these employees are shielded against old-age discrimination and abuse in the workplace. The older workforce also needs help with the medical regulations and to ensure they enjoy the medical care benefits they are entitled to. That’s where elder law practitioners come in handy.
These law professionals also help the elderly plan retirements and inheritances and ensure they are in control of their own finances and living arrangements as they grow older. In most cases, elder law practitioners will work with other caregivers to ensure their clients make the right decisions, be it health or money-related.
4. Geriatric care specialist
Geriatric care specialists work to promote good health among the elderly population by treating old-age diseases, managing disabilities, and providing preventative care services. It is one of the fastest-growing careers in gerontology that focuses mainly on podiatry, audiology, geriatric pharmacy, and other related fields.
To work as a geriatric specialist, you need to understand the physical and psychological needs of elderly patients. The mean annual salary for geriatric care specialists in the United States is $39,735 with the highest-paid earning more than $65,000 a year.
5. Intermediate care facility manager
Just as the name suggests, an intermediate care facility (ICF) manager manages an intermediate care facility and supervises its operations. An ICF provides essential healthcare services to patients who do not require the degree of care that hospitals and nursing homes provide.
Most intermediate care facilities provide care to the elderly population and developmentally disabled patients. The rising elderly population means there will be a need for more experienced ICF managers, which explains why it is one of the fast-growing careers in gerontology.
ICF managers earn a mean annual salary of $65,475 a year, with the top earners getting more than $92,000 a year in wages.
6. Assisted living director
Assisted living directors work in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and mental health facilities managing staff, making prudent financial decisions, and ensuring the facility complies with state and federal regulations. It’s also their role to ensure every staff has the necessary certifications to work in an eldercare facility.
It is one of the fastest-growing careers in gerontology, owing to the fact that more long-term care facilities are being set up to care for the elderly population. The mean annual salary for assisted living directors working in long-term care facilities is $97,850.
7. Nursing home administrator
Nursing home administrators supervise the clinical and administrative operations of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Their duties include managing staff and personnel, managing financial affairs of the facility, ensuring there are enough medical supplies, and overseeing other tasks necessary for the smooth running of the nursing facility.
You need a master’s degree in health care administration and a state license to become a nursing home administrator. It is one of the fastest-growing careers in gerontology, and the mean annual salary of $92,797 makes it one of the highest-paying gerontology jobs in the U.S.
8. Certified nursing assistant
Nursing assistants/aides provide patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and mental health facilities with basic health care services. They move patients within the facility, clean treatment areas, provide advice and emotional support, and offer support to medical professionals who provide advanced care to the patients.
While most certified nursing assistants work in hospitals and healthcare facilities, you can also find well-paying opportunities in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. The mean annual salary for certified nursing assistants in the U.S. is $32,050 and the highest-earners get more than $42,000 a year.
9. Ambulatory care coordinator
Ambulatory care coordinators coordinate with physicians to ensure the medical needs of the patients are identified and addressed on time. They work under the supervision of an ambulatory manager or supervisor and help promote patient health and welfare through face-to-face, telephone, or email communications.
Ambulatory care coordinators must be knowledgeable in electronic software tools used for medical records encoding. One is required to pass licensure exams to be registered as an ambulatory care coordinator.
Apart from being one of the fastest-growing careers in gerontology, it is also among the highest-paying jobs you can do with a bachelor’s degree in gerontology. Their mean annual salary is $46,350 with the highest-paid earning more than $75,000 a year.
10. Occupational therapist
While most occupational therapists play a vital role in helping disabled or injured patients develop or restore homemaking, vocational, and daily living skills, others work with elderly people to help them maintain their independence by improving their ability to perform basic daily living tasks and to recover from or manage aging-related conditions such as stroke and arthritis.
One must obtain a master’s degree, complete fieldwork, and pass a certification exam to be licensed as an occupational therapist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for occupational therapists is $87,480. The highest-paid 10% earn more than $122,000 a year.
11. Social gerontologist
Social gerontologists advocate for the needs of the elderly population, educate them about resources available to them and create community programs that serve their needs. They can also provide therapy for their elderly and their immediate families.
You need a master’s degree in geriatrics or a master’s degree in psychology majoring in gerontology to become a social gerontologist. According to PayScale, the average salary for gerontologists in the U.S. is $88,275 a year with the highest earners getting more than $165,000 a year.
12. Gerontology nurse
These are registered nurses who specialize in caring for and treating the elderly. Medical conditions they treat and/or manage include cardiovascular diseases, mobility issues, and injuries sustained from accidents. Although a bachelor’s degree in gerontology is not compulsory to become a gerontology nurse, the NCLEX-RN exam is necessary for one to be licensed.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a 7% increase in employment for gerontology nurses between 2019 and 2029, making it one of the fastest-growing gerontology careers in the U.S.
The average annual salary for gerontology nurses is $90,150 and the highest-paid enjoy annual wages above $117,500 a year.
Geriatric social workers provide aid to elderly patients in nursing homes and hospitals to help them transition back to their homes. They also provide therapy to elderly patients suffering from mental health problems, oftentimes working in mental health facilities for the elderly.
A bachelor’s degree in social work or a related field is needed to become a geriatric social worker. Individuals who pursue a master’s degree can later advance and become clinical social workers. A license to practice is typically required, be it as a clinical or nonclinical social worker.
Maryville University estimates the median annual salary for geriatric social workers in the United States to be $50,470 while the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates their mean annual salary to be $64,940.
14. Geriatric community health workers
Geriatric community health workers work in the community to help provide a better and improved lifestyle to the elderly. They help the elderly adopt behaviors that lead to good health and serve as advocates for their healthcare needs by creating effective communication channels with healthcare providers and social service agencies.
Geriatric community health work is among the fastest-growing careers in gerontology and, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these professionals earn an average annual salary of $46,000 and the highest-paid 10% earn more than $70,790 a year.
15. Social and community service workers
Social and community service managers provide educational resources and health-improvement strategies to the elderly in the community. Community health workers carry out outreach programs and facilitate easy access to healthcare services.
On the other hand, health educators focus on creating health-related educational materials and carrying out community events aimed at creating awareness and educating the general community on matters related to health.
At the managerial level, social and community services managers plan and coordinate social service programs in the community and supervise social workers and those providing clients with social services. Social and community service work is among the fastest-growing careers in gerontology.
Let’s now have a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about gerontology careers.
Which are the best cities for gerontology jobs?
The best-paying cities for gerontology jobs have higher average salaries than the national average. These cities include San Jose, Oakland, Tanaina, Wasilla, Hayward, Jackson, Norwalk, Seattle, Vallejo, and Concord. The average annual salary for gerontologists in San Jose is $181,085, way above the national average.
What are the fastest-growing gerontologist careers in America?
The fastest-growing gerontology careers in the United States are eldercare specialist, geriatric acupuncturist, elder law practitioner, geriatric care specialist, intermediate care facility manager, occupational therapist, nursing home administrator, and geriatric social worker. These are also among the highest-paying careers in gerontology.
Fast-growing gerontology careers 2022
The need for gerontology specialists will continue to grow due to the rising size of the elderly population in the community. Although we have highlighted just the fifteen fastest-growing careers in gerontology, there are more disciplines and areas that need experts because the field of gerontology keeps evolving and expanding.
Here’s a short video about careers in gerontology. Credit: Langara College.