Gerontology is the multidisciplinary study of the mental, physical, and social traits of older people and how they are affected by the aging process. A career in gerontology involves providing healthcare services to the elderly and offering strategies for disease prevention in older adults.
A degree in gerontology prepares students for career opportunities in diverse fields including human services, nursing homes, retirement communities, health care & long-term institutional care, and government agencies.
Gerontologists can serve as social workers, nursing aides, occupational therapists, healthcare managers, or social scientists working with older adults or as advocates for the elderly.
Why is gerontology an important career path?
We live in an aging country with a rising elderly population. According to population projections, the United States’ adult population will outnumber children by the year 2035. In the last 10 years, there has been a 33% rise in the population of Americans aged above 65 years, with that number expected to double by 2060. Additionally, the population of those aged 85+ is projected to increase by 129% by 2040.
Here’s one insightful video that shows why a career in gerontology will still be in demand years from now. Video courtesy: K-State Health and Human Sciences.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 54 million U.S. residents over the age of 65 in July 2019, while the baby boomer population accounted for 15% of the total U.S. population. As the number of elderly people grows, the need for professionals in the field of gerontology to provide them with proper medical care will continue to grow.
With that in mind, identifying the highest paying jobs in gerontology in 2021 should be a priority especially if you intend to pursue a career in this field.
Highest Paying Jobs in Gerontology (2021)
If you’re ready to start a career in the field of gerontology, here are some of the highest-paying jobs you might want to consider.
1. Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapists assess, plan and organize programs geared towards building or restoring homemaking, vocational, and daily living skills in patients with certain medical conditions or disabilities or those that suffered serious injuries. They also help elderly people maintain their independence by improving their ability to complete essential daily living tasks. Occupational therapists also help older patients as they recover from aging-related conditions such as stroke and arthritis.
According to PayScale, occupational therapists earn a mean annual salary of $67,068. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates their median annual wage to be $86,280 with the top-paid occupational therapists earning more than $122,670 a year.
2. Gerontology Nurse
Gerontology nurses are certified registered nurses that specialize in caring for elderly patients. They focus on treating medical conditions that affect senior patients such as heart disease, mobility issues, and injuries.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses earn a median annual salary of $75,330 with the highest earners receiving more than $116,230 a year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects a 7% increase in employment in this field between 2019 to 2029.
3. Intermediate Care Facility Manager
ICF Manager manages and supervises the operations of an intermediate care facility (ICF). An intermediate care facility provides health-related care and services to patients or individuals who do not require the degree of care that skilled nursing facilities or hospitals provide but require important health care and services. These facilities provide care for the elderly and developmentally disabled patients.
The median annual salary for an intermediate care facility manager is $65,478 with the top-earners receiving more than $92,000 a year.
4. Geriatric Social Worker
Working as a social worker for the elderly is among the highest paying jobs in gerontology. Geriatric social workers’ roles include helping elderly patients in hospitals and outpatient care facilities to transition back to their homes. They also provide therapy to elderly patients experiencing mental health problems caused by their medical conditions.
According to Maryville University, the median annual salary for geriatric social workers $50,470, which is close to wage projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics of $57,630. Top-paid geriatric social workers earn more than $87,150 a year.
5. Geriatric Community Health Workers
Gerontologists who work as community health workers provide health improvement aids to the elderly in the community. They assist the elderly population to adopt healthy behaviors and serve as advocates for their health needs by assisting them to communicate with social service agencies and healthcare providers.
They also act as advocates and help in implementing programs that maintain, promote, and improve the individual and overall health of the elderly in the community. The median annual wage for a geriatric community health worker is $42,000 with the top-earners receiving more than $70,790 a year.
6. Qualified Developmental Disabilities Professional (QDDP)
QDDP is a certified healthcare professional that has worked directly with individuals with developmental disabilities for at least a year. They can be a doctor of medicine or osteopathy, a registered nurse, or holds a bachelor’s degree in a human science field such as social work, sociology, psychology, or rehabilitation counseling.
According to ZipRecruiter, the national average for QDDPs is $38,066 a year but top earners receive more than $49,500 a year.
7. Nursing and Home Health Aides
Nursing and home health aides care for patients who are physically or mentally ill. Nursing aides work in nursing homes, hospitals, or mental health facilities while home health aides work in their patients’ homes. Some of the roles of geriatric aides include assisting patients with meals, helping with personal hygiene, and keeping patient’s rooms tidy.
They may also administer medications or assist with medical equipment, such as ventilators. The median annual salary for nursing and home health aides is $27,080 with the top earners receiving close to $37,000 a year.
These are the notable high-paying jobs in gerontology we feel you might be interested in. These careers are likely to be in higher demand in the future as the population of elderly people continues to increase.