Gerontology counselors strive to help the elderly cope with the perils of aging. A graduate degree and licensure are mandatory. Let's take a further look at the job duties, salary, and projected employment growth in this field.
Gerontology is the study of the physical, psychological and societal changes that occur as people age. Gerontological counselors assist elderly patients in coping with mental and emotional health issues associated with aging in order to improve their overall health and quality of life. Most of these professionals need to complete a counseling master's program, post-graduate clinical experiences and a licensure exam. An aging U.S. population comfortable with seeking mental health services should contribute to an increased need for gerontological counselors.
|Required Education||A master's degree in counseling|
|Additional Requirements||State licensure in counseling|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||20% for all mental health counselors|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$41,880 for all mental health counselors|
Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Description of a Gerontological Counselor
Gerontological counselors are trained to address the needs of older adults. They help the elderly cope with their decline in overall health and may provide assistance with specific disorders like dementia and depression, as well as changes in ability or lifestyle, family struggles and other stressors. Gerontological counselors may work in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, hospices or private practice, often as part of an integrated healthcare team.
All but one state require licensure for counselors outside of school settings. Requirements vary, but they typically require graduation from a master's program in counseling and passage of an exam, as well as thousands of hours of post-master's clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed counselor.
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Gerontological Counselor Job Duties
Counselors interact closely with patients to assess their individual concerns. This may occur through solo or group therapy sessions, interviews and other means of observation. They keep detailed and confidential patient records, which are used to create and implement appropriate treatment plans.
Gerontological counselors may also provide outreach programs at healthcare locations and community sites to serve a larger elderly population who may not otherwise have access to mental health services due to distance or financial constraints. These professionals advise patients and their families on creating and maintaining coping mechanisms for late-life stress.
Salary and Career Outlook for Gerontological Counselors
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the overall number of jobs for mental health counselors, which includes gerontological counselors, will increase by 20% from 2014-2024. This is much faster than the average for all occupations. Part of the reason for the projected growth is the increase in people seeking help for mental and emotional difficulties, as well as an aging population. In 2015, the BLS showed a median annual wage for mental health counselors of $41,880. The largest group of counselors worked for outpatient care centers.
A gerontological counselor needs to have patience, compassion, and good communication skills to work with the elderly, and the proper education/training can be acquired through a master's program. They can work in numerous medical settings, where more jobs openings are expected as noted by the 20% increase in job growth.