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Be a Geriatric Social Worker: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a geriatric social worker by watching this video. Find out about the job description, education and licensing requirements, and see how to start a career in geriatric social work. View article »

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  • 0:00 Geriatric Social Workers
  • 0:51 Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  • 1:22 Gain Work Experience
  • 1:51 Obtain a Master's Degree
  • 2:34 Acquire a License
  • 3:12 Pursue Continuing…

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Video Transcript

Geriatric Social Worker

Geriatric social workers work with the elderly in improving overall well-being and quality of life. They provide counseling to individuals or families and might work in hospitals, nursing homes or other medical organizations. Working with the elderly and their families often requires compassion, empathy and patience. Some might feel that working with those at the end of their lifespan is a negative, but others can find great reward in the effort.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree for entry-level jobs; master's degree is required for clinical social workers
Degree Field Social work
Licensure and Certification License is required for clinical social workers
Experience 3,000 hours or two years supervised clinical practice is required for licensure
Key Skills Compassion, listening skills, people skills, problem-solving skills, organizational skills, time management skills, computer and industry-relevant software
Salary (2015) $58,560 (median for all social workers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online

Geriatric social workers are also rewarded with a median annual salary of $58,560, as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With all of this information in mind, let's now take a look at the steps involved in becoming a geriatric social worker.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Earning a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or a degree in a related field is the first step towards becoming a geriatric social worker. Several colleges offer this degree program, which usually takes four years to complete. Curriculum topics may include human behavior, the social environment, social welfare policy and research. Students can also get hands-on experience through fieldwork or internship requirements. Upon graduation, students should be prepared for an entry-level position in social work.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Aspiring geriatric social workers need to gain work experience with elderly patients (65 years of age and older), and this can be accomplished through an entry-level job in geriatric social work. Individuals acquire hands-on experience and on-the-job training that may provide an opportunity for networking and advancement in their careers. Additionally, experience is typically required for licensure. The Geriatric Social Work Initiative provides various sources for available work listings and career information.

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Step 3: Obtain a Master's Degree

The third step to becoming a geriatric social worker is to obtain a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree, which is often a requirement for social workers who work in healthcare. This degree is offered at a number of colleges and universities and usually takes two years to complete.

Master's programs prepare students for leadership roles providing and developing services for geriatric patients. These programs cover a variety of topics, such as human behavior, social work research, contemporary social policy and race and gender issues. Field experiences are required for these programs. Students can also find elective courses concerning the senior population and aging issues.

Step 4: Acquire a License

Social workers providing direct clinical care to patients need to earn a license, making it the fourth step to becoming a geriatric social worker. Most states require 3,000 hours or two years of supervised clinical experience in order to obtain licensure. Although licensure requirements may not be the same in all states, most states require social workers to take an exam in order to earn their license.

Licensure exams are available at four levels and are offered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). In general, the state where the applicant is seeking licensure will determine which exam level is required.

Step 5: Pursue Continuing Education Options

The fifth step to becoming a geriatric social worker consists of pursing continuing education because most states require them to meet minimum requirements in order to renew or maintain their licenses. Each state determines the number of hours required for each renewal period, and some states allow social workers to pursue online training.

Continuing education courses also enable geriatric social workers to remain up-to-date on developments in their field, allowing them to better serve their patients and advance in their careers.

In summary, the five steps to becoming a geriatric social worker include earning a bachelor's degree, gaining related work experience, earning a master's degree, acquiring a license, and pursuing continuing education options.

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