Geriatric social workers are responsible for counseling older people in communities and helping them make decisions in their lives that will help them in the years ahead. For this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that gerontological social workers earn a median income of $39,520 per year. This all-too low number betrays the other benefits of the job, the most valuable being the amazing difference that a knowledgeable geriatric social worker can make in the lives of those people that truly need it the most.*
There are many different organizations that hire geriatric social workers, so there is an enormous range of salaries depending on the occupation involved. Social workers in nursing homes make between $31,000 and $47,000 per year, while home health care workers make between $32,000 and $48,000.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Most geriatric social workers are females, which make up 93% of all reported geriatric social worker jobs. This trend shows no signs of changing.
Job Description and Outlook
The elderly community is in grave need of help from geriatric social workers. These residents of long-term care facilities depend on social workers to help them cope with the challenges of aging, maintain security in health care and housing, and remain active physically. There are many functions that a geriatric social worker serves that helps elderly people remain happy in their latter years.
Hospitals and nursing home are the two biggest employers of geriatric social workers. These people serve as advocates of the elderly, helping to secure their rights and obtain necessary living and health services. Sometimes mental health is an important part of their service to the elderly. They might be responsible for organizing and laying out the curriculum for life skills courses, or step in when elderly people need counseling or help dealing with illnesses.
Research is another important part of being a gerontological social worker. Community programs are sometimes entirely planned out by these social workers that are so knowledgeable about the science and realities of aging. When the rights of elderly people are violated, these social workers step in to make sure that the elderly are protected. They must do so even when emergencies occur after they’re out of the office. Social workers must be there when needed.
Training and Education Requirements
In order to become a gerontological social worker, you’ll need to obtain a bachelor’s degree. This means a four year program with extensive training in your field. A bachelor’s in social work is the best way to secure a job in gerontology. There can be an emphasis in gerontology, as it is now one of the fastest branches of psychology and sociology. As the population ages, it’s imperative that we understand the needs of the elderly. After obtaining a bachelor’s in social work, you’ll need to train hands on while being supervised during your work.
Management positions in gerontological social work are reserved for highly skilled workers that have obtained a master’s degree. This advanced level of education gives you the ability to supervise a staff and evaluate others. You’ll be able to handle a number of cases at once, take extra courses in political science, and worth more in mental health settings.
The highest degree of academic success as a gerontological social worker comes when you earn a doctorate in social work. This makes you recognized as a serious researcher and expert on the subject of gerontology and can result in many new opportunities for your career as a gerontology social worker.
State regulations govern the certifications you must have to be a gerontological social worker. All regulations vary by state.
Joining professional associations related to your chosen profession can make the job you do more meaningful to you; it also helps you remain up to date on the latest developments within your profession. By learning more about your job, staying in touch with others in the same field, and taking part in activities that aren’t required of you, you become a more well-rounded employee and you increase your chances of helping the clients that you care so much about.
There are several professional organizations that gerontological social workers can join to enhance their career, the chief organization being The National Association of Social Workers. Policies for the field are established by this organization and when becoming a member, you’re able to receive discounts on office management costs and transportation costs. To be a member of this organization, you must have a degree in social work through an accredited program.
The Counsel on Social Work Education is another professional organization available to gerontological social workers. You can become accredited through them. It’s a non-profit organization and is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as an accrediting agency. By joining this organization, you’ll have the opportunity to volunteer your time for more community projects that benefit the elderly.
The center for Clinical Social Work is open to gerontological social workers that wish to join. You will be able to work as an advocate for people with psychological problems and receive additional education to help you become a more competent and caring gerontological worker.
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