As a social worker there are a number of sub disciplines with which you have the option of becoming involved. One of these sub disciplines is geriatric social work. A geriatric social worker works primarily with the elderly demographic of the population. Consequently, an understanding for the fears that such members of society face, such as the fear of dying, as well as the dangers that these members of society may be victims of, is necessary for a career in this area of social work.
About Geriatric Social Work
Geriatric social work is social work that is aimed primarily at the elderly demographic of the population. Geriatric social workers are there to ensure that senior citizens are aware of the various programs and organizations in place to help them function as efficiently as possible. The aim is to create a safe and productive environment for the elderly in which they can pursue any goals that they are interested in pursuing. Offering end of life counseling as well as bereavement counseling are also duties that are likely to fall within the realm of the geriatric social worker. To be a social worker you will need a bachelor’s degree but in many cases you will find that a master’s degree will be necessary in order to be employed as a social worker in a certain job. In addition each state has its own certification and licensure rules and laws that you will need to adhere to before you can be registered as a social worker and work as one in your area.
How To Become A Geriatric Social Worker
There are some steps that you can follow on your path to becoming a geriatric social worker:
- Firstly you need a bachelor’s degree in social work or a related discipline form an accredited school that offers a program in social work. In addition to this it is necessary for you to complete internships in facilities where you will have exposure to elderly members of the population.
- Once you have done that you will need to contact the state board of social work for the state in which you wish to be employed. Each state has a different set of rules and regulations for governing its social workers. Find out what the requirements are, such as the number of hours of experience needed, and set out to adhere to them. Apply for licensure or certification.
- Once you have received your licensure you need to pursue employment opportunities in this particular domain of social work. This can be done at nursing homes or retirement villages.
- Working towards an advanced degree in this line of work will significantly increase your employment opportunities and career options.
Geriatric Social Worker Job Description
As a social worker you will perform a number of tasks including:
- Deciding whether elderly individuals require special transportation.
- Deciding whether elderly individuals require the services of home health aides.
- Looking for regular and irregular aging patterns in clients.
- Determining whether a client should visit a doctor.
- Helping family members decide whether an institution would be the best place for an elderly relative.
- Keeping lonely senior citizens company and supporting their involvement in group activities.
- Offering therapy for elderly individuals who are experiencing anxiety or depression.
In order to perform the tasks mentioned above certain skills will be required. Good verbal and interpersonal communication skills are a necessity for any social worker as they will need to communicate effectively with a large variety of people on a daily basis. Not only must these social workers enjoy working with elderly people, but they also need to have a very strong respect for the elderly. If you feel that you do not meet this criterion, consider an alternative line of work. Emotional maturity and compassion are also necessary.
Geriatric Social Worker Certification
Different states have different requirements. Many states require you to hold a master’s degree, although a bachelor’s degree is the norm. In addition you will be required to write an exam. Many states also require you to pass a background check before you can be certified.
National Certification Eligibility
For national certification you must:
- Have a Master of Social Work degree from a college or university accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
- Have two years of experience working with the elderly with a total of 3,000 hours of experience during those two years.
- Have a total of 20 hours of continuing education related to the care of the elderly prior to your application.
National Certification Exam
This exam, consisting of 170 items, 150 scored questions and 20 unscored, experimental questions, is a requirement for all social workers, although exceptions can be made in states that have their own licensing exams.
National Certification Application And Other Requirements
Requirements for application include:
- Membership with the National Association of Social Workers
- A signed paper agreeing to uphold the NASW’s code of ethics
- An application form
- A form with their supervisor’s signature, verifying that they meet the work history requirements
- A certification fee of $165
Geriatric Social Worker Salary
As a geriatric social worker you can earn about $29,552 – $51,618 a year depending on a variety of factors. If you add the possible bonus you could earn of $0.00 – $2,036 to that the overall amount of money a social worker in this position can earn is about $27,587 – $54,034 a year. There are numerous aspects that can affect your salary. For example, a woman can earn more than a man at a rate of about $33,791 – $47,308 a year in comparison to only $30,521 – $48,605 a year.
The specific industry that you choose to work in as a social worker plays a very big role in terms of your salary. The following are some popular industries as well as the salary range that you could earn working in one of those industries:
- In a Nursing Home you can earn about $28,987 – $59,595 a year
- In a Nursing & Convalescent Home you can earn about $29,569 – $59,741 a year
- In Health Care Services you can earn about $29,312 – $60,198 a year
- In Social Services you can earn about $27,352 – $54,932 a year
- In Home Health Care you can earn about $29,112 – $62,442 a year
Your level of education can also play a role:
- With a General Bachelor’s Degree you can earn about $25,342 – $49,316 a year
- With a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW / BSocW), Social Work (SW) you can earn about $30,964 – $53,582 a year
- With a Master of Social Work (MSW), Social Work (SW) you can earn about $34,388 – $72,359 a year
The most popular cities to work in as a social worker in terms of salary are, New York in New York, Baltimore in Maryland, Cleveland in Ohio, Dallas in Texas, Milwaukee in Wisconsin, Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, and Miami in Florida.
Getting The Job
Once you have completed your training it is time to start looking for a job. This is something that, in current economic times, may be easier said than done. However your college or school’s placement office many be able to help you in this regard. In addition it is very important to remember that, the higher your level of education, the more likely you are to find work, which is why it is better to aim for a master’s degree and not settle with a bachelor’s degree in social work. In addition to direct advice like this from your school you can also search the internet as well as your local newspaper for job listings in the area of social work, specifically in facilities where you would be required to work with the elderly. You could also do some cold calling and simply contact facilities in your area that may be able to offer you the kind of job that you are looking for.
Advancement Possibilities And Employment Outlook
There are a number of advancement opportunities available for geriatric social workers who have the right enthusiasm and outlook on life. These include things such as filling:
- Supervisory positions
- Administrative positions
Starting off by running a small program in a small facility could one day result in running a much larger organization where your reach will be more widely felt and you will be able to influence the lives of others both directly and indirectly.
There are two things that affect the employment outlook for geriatric social workers:
- The level of your degree
- The number of elderly people in society
As mentioned previously, the higher the degree is that you have earned, the more likely you are to find employment in this sector of social work. In addition it is easy to see that the baby boom generation is reaching old age at present. This means that there are an increasing number of elderly people in society who need the guidance and support that a geriatric social worker is able to offer to them.
The working conditions for a geriatric social worker are not bad.
Social workers of this kind are employed in a number of different settings, including:
- Retirement communities
- Nursing homes
- State and government agencies
Often geriatric social workers will not be employed in a fixed location but will rather move from facility t facility depending on where their services and expertise is needed at that particular point in time. The working environment depends to a large degree on the facility where you may work which means that you could work in a modern, well-lighted building one day and an older inner-city facility the next. Being a social worker of any kind will involve working in areas that are less than ideal, but the important thing to remember is that, while you work in these facilities, others have to live in them on a permanent basis. This should help your keep perspective and improve your ability to approach your work in environments such as these with the enthusiasm and positive attitude required to be an effective social worker and to make a significant difference on the lives of other people.
If you are interested in becoming a geriatric social worker, and if you would like to find out more about the profession, such as what the requirements are and what the employment outlook and specific salary in your area may be, you should contact one of the following:
Association for Gerontology in Higher Education
1030 15th St. NW, Ste. 240
Washington, DC 20005-1503
National Association of Social Workers
750 First St. NE, Ste. 700
Washington, DC 20002-4241
There are also a number of other social worker organizations and associations that you could turn to for aid and more information if you are particularly interested in the possibility of pursuing this career. In order to make a success of a career as a geriatric social worker it is suggested that you have a high degree of patience as well as general love and understanding for the elderly. Without these traits and skills you will find that this job will be too challenging for you to keep up.
Being a social worker is a very rewarding path to follow, not in terms of the monetary returns, but in terms of the fact that you are given the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. The field of geriatric social work is one that is often underserved in a number of states, meaning that you should have very little trouble finding employment in this line of work if this is the specialty you choose to pursue. Becoming a geriatric social worker could be one of the best career moves you could make.