What Can I Learn in an Online Master's in Gerontology Program?
A master's in gerontology program prepares graduates to provide high quality care to elderly patients in healthcare settings. Coursework also emphasizes research methods, how to identify common issues in the field, and how to present effective solutions and patient care plans.
What Common Courses Are Offered in a Master's in Gerontology Program?
- Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Aging
This course explores the field of gerontology with a focus on theoretical perspectives, research and demography, terminology, public policy, and the history behind the study of aging. The course also emphasizes personal value systems.
- Ethics and Aging
Students review the philosophical underpinnings behind the general concepts of ethics. They also perform specific, case-based analysis for urgent ethical issues and gain a basic understanding of ethical practices for old age.
- Physical Dimensions of Aging
This course explores how the effects of aging relate to body systems, and how those systems influence changes with function and health. The course also discusses strategies and opportunities for health aging, connecting concepts to practical applications.
- Psychology of Aging
Learners examine the psychological theories of aging, including personality, mental health, and cognition. Students can review pathological and normal psychological development across these areas with a focus on prevalent issues in the psychology of aging.
- Elder Abuse Issues and Advocacy
Students review case studies and engage in discussions on the dynamics behind abuse, learning to address them through measures of intervention and protection. Students learn to help older adults who experience abuse.
What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?
Specific degree requirements vary from school to school. For instance, some programs require students to complete a thesis project in which they explore a specific topic, conduct in-depth research, and complete a written essay that details their findings. Conversely, other programs might require degree-seekers to satisfy a capstone requirement, which require learners to create a project that demonstrates what they learned throughout their program.
Students may also be required to complete a comprehensive exam that covers everything they learned throughout the degree. These are designed to test student knowledge and ensure they have hit educational targets.
What Specializations Are Available in a Master's in Gerontology Program?
Depending on the college or university, degree-seekers can explore specializations that help tailor their degrees to their personal interests and career goals. Some of the more common specializations are listed below.
- Geriatric Care Mgmt.
This concentration examines administrative practices for caring for aging patients. It emphasizes direct care techniques and patient care plans.
- Medical Physiology
Students are trained in geriatric care, including common issues and illnesses seen in the elderly. They also explore the biological aging process, the brain system, and the functions of the human body.
Students in this specialization review elements of both gerontology and psychology and learn to help patients cope with the emotional, behavioral, and psychological changes that coincide with aging.
What Can I Do with a Master's in Gerontology Degree?
Master's in gerontology jobs vary greatly. Many of these career paths allow professionals to lean on their areas of interest and deepen their professional experiences.
Gerontologists study the mental, physical, and social health of aging individuals. They perform patient care across clinical settings, assisted living environments, and hospitals. These professionals often hold a master's degree in the biological sciences or medicine, usually with a focus on gerontology.
Clinical Nurse Specialist
Responsible for nursing practice and clinical care across specialized units or clinics, clinical nurse specialists focus on improvement and management of nursing care. They also emphasize patient satisfaction and implement new techniques for patient care.
Geropsychologists review the mental well-being of their patients to determine a healthcare plan that fits their unique situations. They discuss various challenges with their patients, such as common issues with aging.
Mental Health Therapist
Mental health therapists work with clients to suggest specific services and provide therapy. They also intervene in crisis situations and document all of their interactions with clients, including any concerns they have and treatments they suggest.
Assisted Living Manager
These professionals oversee the operations at care centers and other types of home supervision. They schedule and manage staff members for the facility and monitor the nutritional and medical needs of patients.
How Much Can I Make with a Career in Gerontology?
Earning a master's in gerontology online can lead to a variety of high-paying career opportunities, many of which earn over $100,000 a year. Across gerontology, professionals can work in management positions, therapeutic positions, and nurse practitioner roles.
- Geriatric Care Manager
Geriatric care managers and other medical and health services managers improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare services. They determine departmental objectives and goals and enact plans to reach those goals by creating work schedules, monitoring budgets, and recruiting high-quality team members.
- Median Annual Salary: $99,730
- Job Growth (2016-1026): 18%
Sociologists study social behavior and society by examining cultures, organizations, demographic groups, and social institutions. They collect data through observations, surveys, and interviews. They also work with other social scientists and policy makers to explore research findings on a variety of sociological issues.
- Median Annual Salary: $82,050
- Job Growth (2016-1026): 9%
- Geriatric Social Worker
Social workers assess their clients' situations to determine their strengths and needs and organize support efforts to help them reach their goals. Geriatric social workers help elderly clients adjust to challenges and changes they face in their daily lives. Social workers also maintain up-to-date records and case files for each of their clients.
- Median Annual Salary: $49,470
- Job Growth (2016-1026): 11%
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners help record and care for their patients' medical symptoms and histories. Nurse practitioners specializing in adult-gerontology care provide quality healthcare to elderly patients, which can include offering counseling and teaching them and their families how to manage any illnesses or injuries they have.
- Median Annual Salary: $113,930
- Job Growth (2016-1026): 26%
- Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapists treat disabled, injured, and ill patients by using therapeutic methods to build everyday skills. They review their patients' medical histories along with their current conditions to cultivate the best healthcare plan for them. Additionally, they review patients' living situations to ensure their environments support their overall health and well-being.
- Median Annual Salary: $84,270
- Job Growth (2016-1026): 18%
Online Master's in Gerontology Program Accreditation
Before enrolling in any program, students should understand the three types of accreditation: regional, national, and programmatic. Regionally accredited institutions are usually considered more prestigious than those accredited nationally, and students can usually transfer credits much easier if they're earned from a regionally-accredited institution.
In general, degree-seekers who want to pursue certification and licensure opportunities — or those interested in pursuing an advanced program — should stick to regionally accredited institutions.
Programmatic accreditation refers to program-specific accrediting bodies. In the gerontology discipline, students should look for programs accredited by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education or the Accreditation for Gerontology Education Council.
How to Pay for a Master's in Gerontology Degree
Degree-seekers enrolled in gerontology master's programs have numerous options to pay for their degrees. Students can take advantage of scholarship opportunities awarded specifically for the gerontology discipline. Other financial assistance may be available through graduate assistantships, student loans, and military and veteran financial aid opportunities.
Techniques for Financing a Master's in Gerontology
Many students take advantage of graduate assistantships, which allow them to receive financial aid as a result of working in research, teaching, and service to their colleges or universities. Several gerontology programs feature these opportunities, including the University of North Carolina Charlotte.
One of the most common ways to pay for a degree is to take advantage of student loan opportunities offered by the federal government. Students must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines the types and amount of aid they are eligible to receive.
Students who have served — or who are continuing to serve — in the military can review a variety of financial aid opportunities, such as grants, scholarships, and tuition discounts.
Scholarships for Master's in Gerontology Students
- A Place for Mom Senior Care Innovation Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship is awarded to students pursuing a degree in gerontology, medicine, physical therapy, sociology, social work, occupational therapy, or nursing. Candidates submit an essay outlining an innovation they feel would improve quality of life for senior citizens.
Amount: $1,000See Scholarship
- Aracelis Francis Minority Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Arcelis Francis Minority scholarship is awarded to minority students who exhibit financial need and display an interest in pursuing a career in gerontological social work.
Amount: $1,000See Scholarship
- Alzheimer's/Gerontology Scholarship Award
Who Can Apply: The Sigma Kappa Foundation features the Alzheimer's/Gerontology Scholarship Award for applicants majoring in gerontology at the undergraduate and graduate levels. All eligible applicants must meet the 3.0 minimum GPA requirement.
Amount: VariesSee Scholarship
- Dorothy Fruit Gerontology Student Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Dorothy Fruit Gerontology Student Scholarship requires applicants to be enrolled full time in a program with a focus in gerontology. Candidates must hold a 3.0 minimum GPA.
Amount: $500See Scholarship
- Dr. Billy Hu Social Gerontology Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Open to graduate students pursuing an MS in social gerontology or an MA in sociology, applicants must submit a 300-word career goal statement, two references, and their current transcripts.
Amount: $1,000See Scholarship
Professional Organizations and Resources
Individuals working toward a master's in gerontology online can join a variety of professional organizations in the field before and after graduation. These organizations present students with a variety of unique benefits, including professional development and employment opportunities.
- A nonprofit organization that promotes medical research to improve the human experience of aging, the Alliance for Aging Research advocates for health education related to aging populations.
- A society of professionals dedicated to improving quality of life for elderly people, the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry promotes healthy aging and highlights geriatric mental health issues.
- This nonprofit professional society features a journal for members, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
- An association with diverse members, the American Society on Aging supports individuals dedicated to improving quality of life for older individuals and their families.
- This multidisciplinary organization supports education and research in gerontology, including social, biological, and psychological elements. The Gerontological Society of America is the oldest and largest organization of its kind.
- The National Association for Professional Gerontologists features credentialing opportunities for gerontology professionals, promotes credibility efforts, and sets standards for practice.
- Dedicated to improving the economic and health security of older adults, the National Council on Aging improves the lives of the elderly community by cultivating a caring and just society for aging individuals.
- This organization features a diverse group of professionals who participate in a forum that allows them to share their ideas on aging. The society also facilitates connections between the practice of gerontology and research efforts.
- The Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education is a membership organization of colleges and universities that offers training, education, and research programs in gerontology.
- The Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston highlights important research efforts across a variety of prevalent issues in gerontology, including security and health ideas.