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Psychology Career Path: Gerontology Psychology

Potential Career Paths

  • Geropsychologist (Ph.D., Psy.D.)
  • Gerontologist (Associates, B.A., Master's, Ph.D.)
  • Social and Health Service Assistants (Certificate, Associates)
  • Social Worker (MSW)
  • Nursing and Home Health Aides (H.S. diploma, Associates)
  • Medical and Health Services Managers (B.A., Master's)
  • Health Care Professionals (B.A., R.N.)
  • Long Term Administrator (B.S.H.)

Action Steps for Students

To learn more about forensic psychology, here is what students can do:

  1. Visit the websites of professional organizations, such as Division 12, Section II (Clinical Geropsychology) or Division 20 (Adult Development and Aging) of the American Psychological Association or the Gerontological Society of America.
  2. Gain experience by completing an internship or volunteering in health or mental health agencies serving older people.
  3. Schedule a meeting with a gerontologist or geropsychologist to discuss his or her profession.
  4. Read professional journals, such as Psychology and Aging, Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, and The Gerontologist.

What Are Gerontology and Clinical Geropsychology?

Geropsychology is a specialty of psychology that applies clinical psychology and research to the population of older adults. Geropsychologists address a variety of issues that affect older adults, such as loss of loved ones, relocation, medical conditions, and changes in employment status, memory, and family relationships.

Career opportunities for students interested in psychology and aging are expanding. The fastest growing segment of the U.S. population is people 65 years of age and older. There is a shortage of geropsychologists, and career opportunities are expected to increase.

A related field, gerontology, is the study of the physical, mental, and sociological aspects of aging. Gerontologists are health care professionals who specialize in working with elderly patients. There are many career opportunities in gerontology. For example, gerontologists may work for human service agencies, government agencies, retirement communities, nursing home facilities, or health care providers.

A professional career in geropsychology requires a doctoral degree in psychology. For gerontology, many colleges and universities offer various levels of training (e.g., associates, bachelors, master?s, doctorates, and certificates).

The purpose of this track is to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of psychology while preparing students for advanced training in gerontology. Undergraduate training in gerontology prepares students who seek entry-level positions working with older adults.

Undergraduate Course Requirements

Students who are interested in pursuing a career in gerontology or geropsychology should be sure to work with an adviser to develop an academic plan that is tailored to their interests. The plan should lead to the completion of coursework that is useful for employment in an entry-level job working with older people in a mental health setting or for admission to a graduate program specializing in gerontology or geropsychology.

University and College Requirements

In addition to the suggestions for the gerontology track, be sure to complete all other university and college requirements, including the foreign language requirement.

The center staff recommend beginning the foreign language requirement in the first year. NOTE: Students may begin with a class higher than 1110 depending on foreign language placement test results. It is possible to place out of the foreign language requirement. Therefore, it is recommended that students take the placement test for any foreign language completed in high school.

Required Courses in Psychology

The following courses are highly recommended for students planning on pursuing a graduate degree in gerontology:

  • PSY 2720 Psychology of Personality (3)
  • PSY 3250 Psychology of Health & Illness (3)
  • PSY 3420 Adulthood & Aging (3)
  • PSY 3440 Psychology of Gender (3)
  • PSY 3710 Intro to Clinical & Counseling (3)

Students who intend to go to graduate school in gerontology are encouraged to complete courses in Biological Sciences.

Gerontology Certificate

Students in the gerontology track should complete the requirements for the gerontology certificate. The undergraduate Gerontology Certificate is offered by the Ohio University College of Health Sciences and Professions.

Fieldwork and Research in Psychology

It is highly recommended that students interested in gerontology participate in research in a psychology lab and engage in fieldwork in settings related to the student's particular area of interest.