Geriatric Social Workers
Approximately 707,400 social workers are employed in the United States. About one-third of all social workers work with older people. Opportunities for geriatric social workers can be found in both the public and private sectors. Hospitals, nursing homes, retirement communities, human services offices, senior centers, adult day care centers, and government agencies all employ geriatric social workers. With so many services available for older people, there are a variety of job opportunities for the geriatric social worker. There are some agencies that deal only with the practical aspects of aiding older people, such as arranging for services and managing financial and legal issues. Working for other agencies may involve the organization of recreational and educational activities, such as senior theater groups and art classes.
After receiving your social work degree and gaining some field experience, you will have made valuable connections among faculty and social service organizations. These connections may be able to help you find a job. Your college's career services office or internship program may also direct you to your first full-time position. You should also become familiar with the local senior centers and agencies for the elderly.
Joining a professional organization can be helpful in entering the field. The American Society on Aging sponsors a job bank (https://www.asaging.org) and offers publications. Job opportunities are listed in the newsletters of the American Geriatrics Society, the American Counseling Association, and other professional organizations. You should also attend these organization's annual meetings, which give you the chance to meet other people working in social work, geriatrics, and gerontology.
Most geriatric social workers enter the field focusing on the work rather than on the promotions and salary raises. However, there are advancement opportunities for dedicated social workers. Successful social workers may move up the ranks of their organizations to become supervisors or directors, taking on additional responsibilities such as overseeing new hires. A key factor in achieving the most advanced positions is to have advanced education. Those who move into the higher-paid positions in administration, program development, or policy analysis must have a Ph.D. or, in some cases, a master's degree with practical experience.
Within smaller agencies and in smaller towns, advancement opportunities may be few, but there may also be less competition for these jobs. A greater number of advancement opportunities may be available in service organizations in urban areas.
Tips for Entry
To learn more about the field, read:
- Social Work: http://www.naswpress.org/publications/journals/sw.html
- Aging Today and GENERATIONS: both available at http://www.asaging.org/publications
- American Society on Aging Blog: http://asaging.org/blog
Visit the following Web sites for job listings: http://careers.socialworkers.org and https://careers.asaging.org.
Join the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Volunteer for NASW committees, special interest groups, and workgroups to raise your profile and make networking contacts.