Are you interested in learning more about gerontology and how to become a gerontologist in Australia? If so, we’ve done the hard work for you and put together a comprehensive guide to help you.
How to become a gerontologist in Australia
Becoming a gerontologist requires extensive study and training, which is why it’s important to do your research on the postgraduate gerontology courses available in Australia. By pursuing a career in gerontology, you’ll play a central role in supporting and improving the lives of Australia’s rapidly growing population of older people. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the qualifications and experience required to become a gerontologist.
What is a gerontologist?
To answer the question ‘what is a gerontologist’ we first have to explain what ‘gerontology’ is. According to the Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG), ‘Gerontology is the study of ageing and older adults. Gerontology is multidisciplinary and is concerned with the physical, mental and social aspects and implications of ageing. Geriatrics is a medical speciality focused on the care and treatment of older persons.’
You can find gerontologists in human services, health promotion, aged care or nursing specialisation roles in settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, research labs and government agencies. Under the umbrella of the term ‘gerontologist’, you will find ‘researchers, educators, policymakers and practitioners in health, allied health and aged care, as well as others engaged in ageing issues’ (AAG). All of them are involved in helping older people lead fulfilling and productive lives, as well as providing support for them as they age.
What are the requirements to become a gerontologist in Australia?
Since the term gerontologist encompasses all the professions mentioned above, there are a multitude of ways to become a gerontologist depending on the field and role you want to work in. Many gerontologists start their career with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, psychology or social work.
Entry requirements to study gerontology vary depending on the type of degree you choose. Generally, you will need to have completed a tertiary qualification in a related medical field. Alternatively, you may have extensive experience working with older people in a health, community or welfare setting. For the postgraduate courses offered by QUT Online, you need a recognised bachelor’s degree (or higher) in a nursing, medical or allied health discipline.
In terms of personal characteristics, you should be patient, compassionate, kind and have good communication skills. These are important to navigate problems or misunderstandings that can arise from the generational gap between yourself and the elderly.
Depending on the type of work you want to do after graduation, you might need to register with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra). Furthermore, it could give you a significant advantage to join a professional body such as the Australian Association of Gerontology. Membership in a professional body can provide you with access to ongoing education and training opportunities, networking events, and resources.
Career opportunities for gerontologists
Since gerontology is a multidisciplinary field, there are a variety of career paths available, i.e., in human services, health promotion, nursing and other related areas. To simplify, we can divide gerontologists into three main types: clinical, research and counselling.
Medical gerontologists: They work with elderly patients in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare settings. They provide direct patient care and may also be involved in developing treatment plans and providing education to patients and their families.
Research gerontologists: These can be divided into two categories: biomedical gerontologists and social gerontologists. Biomedical gerontologists study the biological changes that occur during ageing, while social gerontologists study the psychological and sociological effects of ageing.
Counselling gerontologists: They work with older adults who are dealing with issues such as retirement, chronic health conditions or the death of a loved one. They provide emotional support and guidance on how to cope with the challenges of ageing.
Specialised nurses, community and social service managers, policymakers and those working in occupational therapy can also be considered gerontologists if they primarily work for/with elderly people.
When you’ve completed your postgraduate studies, you can pursue careers in hospitals, research centres, nursing homes, government departments and community organisations. A gerontologist may also choose to specialise in certain areas of ageing such as mental health and dementia, ageing-in-place programs or elderly home care services.
As you can see, there are many different types of gerontologists, each with their own background, and field of expertise and each offering their own unique career opportunities. With the right qualifications and experience, it’s possible to make a meaningful contribution to the health and well-being of ageing populations around the world.
What are the salary expectations for gerontologists?
Gerontology is a rewarding profession, with salaries varying greatly depending on the specific job. A few examples are:
If you decided to take the next step in your career within aged care and finished your Master of Gerontology, you could move into the position of an aged care manager, potentially earning $100,000 per year.
As a policy advisor, you could specialise in policymaking for the aged care sector and your yearly salary would be around $105,000.
Overall, gerontologists and professionals specialising in gerontology are highly sought after due to the increasing number of older adults in Australia. With the right education and training, a gerontologist can be well-positioned for a successful career path.
The need for aged care(ers)
We mentioned ‘Australia’s rapidly growing population of older people’ right at the beginning. To show you that this isn’t just an empty phrase, we dug up some numbers.
In 2021–22 there were already 1.5 million recipients of aged care in Australia and this number is only set to grow. According to the 2021 Intergenerational Report of the Australian government, ‘the number of older Australians requiring aged care services is expected to increase as the population ages. In the near term, the impacts of the baby boomer generation moving into their 70s and 80s will be particularly marked. […] The number of people aged 70 and over is expected to more than double over the next 40 years, reaching around 6.9 million people by 2060–61.’
In line with the increasing demand for aged care, the occupation of ‘Aged and Disabled Carers’ is projected to record the largest increase in employment by November 2026 (up by 74,900, or 28%).
What all these numbers want to tell you is that there isn’t a better time than now to upskill in, switch to, or start your career in gerontology.
Studying online gives you the flexibility to fit study into your own schedule and with QUT Online you have the opportunity to choose between a flexible part-time or full-time study.