A doctoral program in geropsychology prepares students to be clinical psychologists whose practice and research focus on the needs of elderly patients and their families. Geropsychology is commonly offered as a concentration within Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology programs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychologists typically need to complete a doctoral program and gain licensure before they can practice in most states.
Applicants to these programs will need a bachelor's or master's degree, as well as undergraduate work in psychology, statistics and research methods. Applicants will also need to submit their GRE scores. Once enrolled, programs typically take four to five years to complete. Doctoral candidates participate in clinical internships, publish research, and complete a dissertation, in addition to undertaking coursework in both basic psychology and specialized geropsychology. Some programs may also require students to take a clinical competency exam.
Doctor of Psychology in Geropsychology
Doctor of Psychology programs in geropsychology strive to allocate training time between clinical practice and scientific research, with the intent of having candidates contribute to the development of a general core set of knowledge for this relatively new field.
Coursework in geropsychology focuses on developing assessment and intervention techniques and methods appropriate to older patients. Students can also learn about the effects of aging on patient psychology. Geropsychology programs may feature interwoven training in ethics, cultural studies, and psychology history in order to train candidates as both scholars and practitioners. Common course topics include:
- Aging and cognition
- Adult development
- Geropsychology health issues and practicum
- Older adult therapy
- Personality assessment
Popular Career Options
Geropsychologists usually work in private offices or in hospitals and nursing homes. They interview, assess, and provide psychotherapy in response to conditions particularly prevalent among their clientele, such as dementia, deterioration of mental faculty, and concerns about end-of-life care.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS) classifies geropsychologists as clinical psychologists. Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists were expected to have a 20% growth rate, or faster than the average for all professions, from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). The elderly population growth in the U.S., along with the status of geropsychology as a nascent field, may provide additional growth potential, according to the American Psychological Association (www.apa.org). The BLS, in May 2015, reported that the median annual wage for all clinical, counseling, and school psychologists was $70,580. Geropsychologists employed by a physician's office or by another health practitioner can expect to earn a higher wage than the median.
Continuing Education and Licensure Information
Like other clinical psychologists, geropsychologists who work in private practice and provide clinical care to patients must be licensed by the state they operate in, according to the BLS. Although there's no universal standard for licensure, most states require aspiring clinical psychologists to possess a psychology doctorate and complete an internship. They also need to acquire 1-2 years of working experience and pass an examination. Clinical psychologists may undertake continuing education either to renew licenses in specific states or to obtain certifications.
Students interested in studying psychology and working with elderly patients and their families can pursue a Doctor of Psychology in Geropsychology. Graduates must obtain valid state licensure and can expect positive job growth in their field.