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Geriatric Psychology: Career Options, Job Duties and Requirements

Geriatric psychologists require significant formal education. Learn about the necessary degrees, job duties, career options and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Geriatric psychologists specialize in treating elderly people with mental health issues, or simply help them cope with the challenges of aging. Those who wish to pursue career in this field must have a doctoral degree in psychology, specializing in adult development and aging or a similar field, and obtain licensure. Geriatric psychologists can work in hospitals, mental health clinics, rehab centers, nursing homes, and research centers.

Essential Information

Geropsychology, or geriatric psychology, is an area of specialization within clinical psychology that helps aging individuals deal with various biopsychosocial changes and concerns-- such as limitations in mobility, memory and hearing loss as well as the depression and decreased social activity that usually come with late adulthood. Geriatric psychologists guide the elderly to live healthily and maintain a positive mindset despite the challenges of old age. These professionals must have earned a doctorate degree in psychology, specialized in adult development and aging and fulfilled their state's licensing requirements.

Required Education A doctorate degree in psychology with a specialization and post-doctoral fellowships in adult development and aging
Other Requirements Meet state licensure requirements
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 19% for all psychologists (much faster than average)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)* $70,580 for clinical, counseling & school psychologists

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options for Geriatric Psychologists

Well-regarded for their role in healthcare services, geropsychologists mainly work in medical facilities, like hospitals. They conduct individual and group psychotherapy, assess the cognitive functions of older adults, offer consultation with families and educate paraprofessionals. Geriatric psychologists are also found in assisted living communities, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing homes and research centers. Some opt to venture into independent practice.

Since geropsychology is a relatively new occupation, it is difficult to find career-specific salary information. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2015 that clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned an annual median wage of $70,580 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also expected the employment of psychologists to increase by 19% from 2014 to 2024.

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Job Duties

Older adults and their families rely on the care of geropsychologists primarily for guidance in addressing the issues of mental and physical adjustment into old age. Counseling is an essential service that geriatric psychologists offer as older adults deal with medical conditions, bereavement, self-image and living arrangements.

Geriatric psychologists are also skillful when it comes to diagnosing problems faced by the elderly and providing appropriate treatment. To check the mental state of older adults, geropsychologists resort to clinical interviews, neuropsychological tests and behavioral observation. These results highlight how individuals perceive themselves; they're useful in detecting anxiety or depression and gauging cognitive and physical capabilities. Geriatric psychologists also lead in promoting healthy lifestyle for the elderly to follow. Exercise programs, special diets and social activities prove helpful.

Requirements for Geriatric Psychologists

Education

Those seeking to become geriatric psychologists must have a doctorate in psychology. Research skills are very important at this phase of the training. Only a few universities currently offer a standalone doctoral program in geriatric psychology, but there are more prevalent specializations in adult development and aging.

Career

Internships and postdoctoral fellowships are part of the training in geropsychology; this is where general psychologists can develop specialized skills. Skilled nursing units, private practices and hospitals are good places to volunteer and be around older adults. Above all, it's important to practice compassion and patience when dealing with the elderly.

A geriatric psychologist must possess sympathy and great communication skills to effectively diagnose and treat problems in the growing elderly population. They need a doctorate in psychology and state licensure for clinical practice. Geriatric psychologists work in a number of places, providing individual, group, and family therapy in addition to doing research.

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