Online Master’s Programs in Gerontology

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According to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2035 elderly people are expected to outnumber children for the first time in the country’s history. To keep pace with the growing demand for services for an aging population, gerontology careers can expect above average growth in the years to come. However, many careers in gerontology require professionals to hold master’s degrees. For individuals already working in the field, pursuing gerontology master’s programs can lead to more career opportunities and higher salaries.

Some graduates may want to enroll in a doctoral program to broaden their career possibilities and salary potential even further. However, a master’s in gerontology is an excellent gateway to other advanced degree opportunities. Read more to learn about pursuing a master’s degree in this growing and rewarding field.

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.

Geropsychology

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.

Gerontologist

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.

Geropsychologist

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.


  • Sociologist

    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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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

GRADUATE ASSISTANTSHIPS

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.

STUDENT LOANS

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.

MILITARY AND VETERAN FINANCIAL AID

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: $1,000

    SEE 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: $1,000

    SEE 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: Varies

    SEE 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: $500

    SEE 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: $1,000

    SEE 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.

Alliance for Aging Research

  • 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.

American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry

  • 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.

American Geriatrics Society

  • This nonprofit professional society features a journal for members, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

American Society on Aging

  • An association with diverse members, the American Society on Aging supports individuals dedicated to improving quality of life for older individuals and their families.

Gerontological Society of America

  • 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.

National Association for Professional Gerontologists

  • The National Association for Professional Gerontologists features credentialing opportunities for gerontology professionals, promotes credibility efforts, and sets standards for practice.

National Council on Aging

  • 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.

Southern Gerontological Society

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

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