How to Become a Gerontologist: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


Gerontologists work with older adults, helping them understand and deal with the ageing process. Some gerontologists work in research, but most work in senior centers, hospitals, nursing homes, and elderly people’s houses. Their job is multi-disciplinary but has most in common with social work, although it also intersects with medicine, nursing, physical and occupational therapy, and even dentistry.


Annual salaries for gerontologists will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2013, healthcare social workers in general made an average of $52,520 per year, although some estimates have gerontologists making an average of $41,000-$42,000 per year.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for gerontologists, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work in Gerontology

California leads the nation in employment opportunities for healthcare-related social work generally, with 13,260 healthcare-related social workers making an annual average wage of $65,810. New York State is second, where 11,150 healthcare social workers make an average salary of $57,390.

The metro areas employing the most healthcare social workers are:

  • New York-White Plains (6,860)
  • Boston-Cambridge (4,390)
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach (2,530)

Employment and Salary Information for Gerontologists

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as a gerontologist. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Why Become A Gerontologist?

As you can imagine, it’s not always easy being a gerontologist—ageing is often a difficult process. But there are real benefits to this profession that make it worthwhile:

  • There’s a huge need. Social work in general is growing—jobs are projected to increase by 19% between 2012 and 2022—well above average. With an ageing population and healthcare demand increasing, the demand for gerontologists is likely to be even greater than for social work in general.
  • Use a variety of skills. Gerontologists need a working understanding of social work, but also medicine, psychology, and occupational therapy, and when to call on specialists in those areas.
  • Improve lives. You could make an immeasurable difference to the quality of life of many elderly people.

Gerontology: What You Need To Know

Gerontologists need to be skilled in advising and helping elderly people, and they also need to know how to bring in help. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • Understanding of Ageing
  • Treatment Plans
  • Co-ordination of Care
  • Communication and Patient Management
  • Educational Skills

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about gerontology careers, degrees, and applicable courses from one of the schools below.


Degree Options for Gerontology Careers

Bachelor’s degree

Many gerontologists will begin their career in social work and will have a bachelor’s degree at the very minimum.

Master’s degree

Very often, however, gerontologists will be clinical social workers, and will have a Master’s degree in social work or gerontology. They will also have completed two years of post-graduation clinical work in a supervised setting.

Many colleges and universities offer programs in social work with a gerontology focus, typically taking around two years. Some schools do offer accelerated programs that can be finished in as little as one year.

Those who perform gerontology social work also need to obtain some type of certification. Each state has its own requirements, usually including an exam.