The Best Online Master’s in Gerontology Programs

Gerontology is a multidisciplinary field focused on the physiological, psychological, social and cultural factors that impact human aging. Unlike geriatrics ― the medical field dealing with treatment methods for elderly patients ― gerontology is not strictly limited to healthcare. Other areas of interest for gerontologists include economics and finance, social services, geography, politics, law and public policy.

Gerontology graduates often find work in medical health and services management, occupational therapy, adult care, social work, and research.

A large number of professionals in this field begin their career by earning a master’s degree in gerontology. Some of these master’s programs are concentrated in gerontology; other pathways allow students to earn a gerontology degree specialization in master’s subjects like public health or social services. In addition to standard coursework, gerontology degree programs often require students to receive supervised onsite training from experienced professionals as part of a practicum course; a capstone or master’s thesis project may also be included. Many of today’s students are choosing to earn their master’s degree in gerontology online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of job opportunities for successful graduates. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule and study-from-home format are also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other obligations that may conflict with on-campus learning.

Learn more about what you can do with an online master’s in gerontology and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN GERONTOLOGY PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

A master’s in gerontology will prepare students for a wide range of professional settings. Those pursuing a career in academic or medical research will learn how to collect, analyze and evaluate data related to different aspects of human aging. A gerontology in master’s track is also suitable for students who plan to work in fields like social and community based services, counseling and health management; the best online master’s in gerontology programs will cover certification and licensure requirements (such as exams and/or residency hours) related to these career paths.

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN GERONTOLOGY PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

Online master’s in gerontology degree programs offer a flexible, easily accessible alternative to traditional college education. Students can download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors on their own schedule. Current technology also enables them to study away from home using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable devices with Wi-Fi capabilities. For added convenience, online gerontology master’s students can usually coordinate practicum courses at facilities that are reasonably close to their current residence.

WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY MASTER’S IN GERONTOLOGY?

Students who graduate with a master’s in gerontology online will be qualified for many different occupational roles. Some of the most common job titles for gerontology degree-holders include medical and research scientists, medical health and services managers, occupational and recreational therapists, adult care specialists, social workers and postsecondary teachers. The master’s in gerontology will also equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in a Ph.D. or doctoral gerontology program.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MASTER’S IN GERONTOLOGY PROGRAMS?

Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online MBA in healthcare management programs in the United States. If you are considering an online MBA in healthcare management, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Enrolled Online Location Description
1University of Southern California80.463/513%Los Angeles, CA

USC is a renowned private research university in Los Angeles. The school was an early proponent of distance education, and remains a pioneer in optimizing digital media technology to deliver its online degrees. At USC, aspiring gerontologists can pursue five different master's degrees and a graduate certificate program. The school’s gerontology program prepares candidates for careers focused on research and policy. Online gerontology courses examine aging as a societal phenomenon, and cover how to write grants and conduct research in the field. The MS program is augmented by an on-site practicum experience. USC's online master's in gerontology is geared towards professionals in social work, public health, and related arenas that cater to the needs of aging adults. Other available graduate programs include aging services management, long term care administration, nutrition, and longevity.

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2Webster University68.203/531%Saint Louis, MO

Webster’s MA in gerontology is designed for professionals who aspire to careers facilitating the needs of the elderly. The curriculum requires students to complete eight core classes and a variety of electives. Popular courses including the physiology of aging, economic issues for older adults, and social science perspectives in gerontology. Graduates leave school prepared for a range of careers in the field, including policy development, facility management, community services, and case management. Webster also offers its online students an MBA program with a concentration in gerontology, along with an 18-hour graduate certificate in gerontology.

Based in St. Louis, Webster serves students at five area campuses. Additionally, undergraduate and graduate students can take advantage of this accredited private school's distance learning options. All online classes at Webster are taught asynchronously, and students are never required to appear on campus. Classes are delivered in blocks of eight, nine, or 16 weeks, and are taught by the same faculty who teach on campus.

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3McDaniel College64.603/514%Westminster, MD

Graduates from McDaniel College's online MS in gerontology program leave school prepared for leadership roles in industries that support our elder population. This program delivers the knowledge necessary to improve the quality of life of older adults from all walks of life. The curriculum explores the biological and psychological aspects of aging, bolstered by study of research methodology and its applications. The program culminates with either a thesis or research project of your choice.

Located in Westminster, Maryland, McDaniel is a small private liberal arts school that serves the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area. Though the college has fewer than 700 full-time graduate students, master's candidates have a number of scholastic options. In addition to the MS in gerontology, students who are interested in the field can also pursue a graduate certificate in gerontology, or the five-year BA-to-MS program. Graduate students can complete all degree requirements online, attend classes on campus, or combine the two in a hybrid format. All online master's in gerontology classes are taught asynchronously, and feature the same small class sizes McDaniel is famous for providing.

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4Nova Southeastern University56.804/554%Fort Lauderdale, FL

Nova Southeastern’s online master’s in gerontology program encourages graduates to fight against ageism in society. Inspired by the belief that life holds meaning and purpose at all ages, NSU’s curriculum explores how the lives of the elderly can be enhanced or impaired by the world we live in. Leadership skills are an essential part of each core course, as are real-world applications. Core courses include emergency preparedness, gerontology and the family, public health, and more. Graduates are well-suited for management positions in the human services or senior housing industries. Students may also be interested in the school’s six-course graduate certificate in gerontology.

NSU is a large private school based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with regional campuses located throughout the state and in Puerto Rico. NSU began as a technical school, and the university remains committed to providing a quality education for working professionals. Classes are taught asynchronously, and students do not ever need to commute to campus. NSU can also help students facilitate internships.

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5Concordia University – Nebraska56.413/540%Seward, NE

Students at Concordia University-Nebraska have multiple online graduate-level study options in gerontology. The MS in gerontology and aging studies program delivers instruction on natural lifespan development, linguistic issues common in this population, and the psychosocial environment elder adults must navigate. In the administration concentration, students focus on issues related to managing elder-care facilities and events. In the mental health concentration, students examine the biological changes that affect the brain and their applications in counseling.

Professionals who aspire to careers in long-term care can also pursue an online master of healthcare administration with a concentration in gerontology. The program's curriculum emphasizes business skills essential to health care administration, and their particular applications in the senior long-term care industry. This accelerated program can be completed in two years. All online courses are taught asynchronously. Distance learners can arrange to complete practicums at a local facility; they are not required to commute to campus.

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6Kansas State University55.313/520%Manhattan, KS

At Kansas State University, professionals aspiring to careers in gerontology can pursue an MS in family studies and human services with a specialization in gerontology. Hosted by the school's College of Human Ecology, the 36-hour curriculum covers aging, adult development, research methods in the field, and more. A nine-hour online graduate certificate program in gerontology is also available, which may include on-site practica in some cases.

Kansas State is a public university, and one of the largest schools in the region. KSU was an early leader in online study, and today, the school’s global campus educates distance learners throughout the U.S. and internationally. As with all online students, KSU offers fixed tuition rates for those enrolled in the online master's in gerontology program and does not charge non-residency penalties.

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7University of Massachusetts – Boston52.382/520%Boston, MA

Graduate students who want to pursue a career delivering services to elderly adults may pursue a master of science in aging services at UMass-Boston. The entirely online gerontology master's program covers applied business skills in the context of housing and care for this population. Core courses explore a variety of topics, including service-delivery to the aging, residential care management, psychological processes unique to aging adults, and environmental gerontology. All students develop a research project as part of a capstone seminar.

UMass-Boston is a medium-sized urban public research university that boasts a 16-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. Most students complete their degree with three years of part-time study. Classes are taught asynchronously, though most classes also have scheduled, synchronous chats weekly or biweekly. These chats are held in the evening or on weekends.

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8University of Indianapolis42.663/56%Indianapolis, IN

UI’s online MS in gerontology program boasts a special distinction, as it was designated as a Program of Merit by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education. The school devotes considerable resources to the study of aging, also offering undergraduate and graduate certificates in the specialization. The online master's in gerontology curriculum is designed for both professionals in the field and traditional students, and it delivers a comprehensive exploration of theory and application. After core courses are completed, students can pursue concentrations in public policy or aging in place. Other required courses cover the psychosocial aging process, physical aging, economics in aging, and business skills essential to a leader. Degree candidates with no experience working with aging patients must complete an on-site practicum in an approved facility. The program culminates with an original research project as part of a capstone course.

Online classes at UI are small, averaging 12 to 18 students each. Though all class study is asynchronous, participants can expect to work on several group projects with classmates. Some candidates choose to present their capstone over Skype to an audience on campus. Financial aid options are particularly generous for an online graduate degree program. Online students who live in the region may apply for graduate assistantships on campus, and three scholarship funds are designated for post baccalaureate study in the field.

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9University of Louisiana at Monroe41.292/532%Monroe, LA

Located in Monroe, ULM offers an online master of arts in gerontology program. The 36-hour curriculum prepares graduates for careers in research, public policy, or administration in social services. After completing core courses, students can follow one of two available concentration tracks. The program administrator track examines the needs of the aging and the leadership skills necessary to manage agencies that meet these needs. The aging studies track focuses on research and policy, and prepares graduates for doctoral study.

ULM is a small public school that enrolls fewer than 8,000 students per year. Distance learners at ULM study asynchronously in classes that last either four, eight, or 16 weeks. The school offers a comprehensive list of benefits for its online students, including advising, a writing lab, organizational tools, and extensive employment preparation. Though positions are limited, online gerontology students may apply for graduate assistantships on campus.

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10National University36.894/575%La Jolla, CA

National’s online MA in gerontology program is targeted toward mid-career professionals in research, healthcare delivery, or the aging services industry. Allied health workers who want to advance their careers may find this program particularly suitable. The program's core curriculum features a variety of engaging classes, including wellness in the aging, aging psychology, public policy, and management skills. The program culminates in a two-course integrative project, where students conduct original research and present their findings in a master's thesis.

Based in La Jolla, California, National University is an accredited private school that provides educational options to working professionals. Traditional classes are offered at nontraditional times on convenient campuses across the state and in New Mexico; distance learners can complete most programs entirely online. All courses are taught asynchronously, and students are never required to attend class on campus. Students with demonstrate financial need may be eligible for need-based scholarships.

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How Long Is an Online Gerontology Program?
18 months to 2 years
Program Costs
$25,000 to $50,000
Concentrations
Public Health, Biology, Psychology, Social Work, Occupational Therapy, Medical and Health Technology
Accreditation
Accreditation will vary by program. Some will receive programmatic accreditation from the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE), or other related agencies like the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Commission on Accreditation (COA) or American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA). Others will receive regional accreditation through the college or university where the program is offered.

Job Placement: Master’s in Gerontology

The demand for qualified gerontologists has risen in recent years, largely due to the aging baby boomer population; according to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), there are roughly 46.2 million elderly men and women (age 65 and older) currently living in the United States. This number is expected to double between 2015 and 2055. As a result, the employment outlook for gerontology-related professions is currently quite strong.

Using data from U.S. News & World Report, the following table looks at unemployment rates for some of the most common careers among gerontology degree recipients.

Occupation Unemployment Rate (2016)
Occupational Therapist 1.1%
Physical Therapist 1.2%
Medical Health and Services Manager 1.7%
Dietitian and Nutritionist 2.9%
Clinical Social Worker 3.4%
Epidemiologist/Medical Scientist 3.9%

Source: ‘Best Health Care Jobs‘, ‘Best STEM Jobs‘ and ‘Best Social Services Jobs‘ by U.S. News & World Report.

Of the six professions listed in the table, the average unemployment rate is 2.4%. This figure is significantly lower than the national unemployment rate for all industries, which currently sits at 4.6%.

Earning a Living

According to the 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report, students who graduate with a master’s in gerontology earn a median annual salary of $46,000 during their first five years in the workforce and $60,600 once they hit the 10-year mark. This amounts to a 31.7% earnings increase after their first decade on the job. By comparison, the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for all industries is $36,200.

Like unemployment rates, however, the earning potential for gerontology master’s recipients will largely depend on the degree-holder’s specific job title. The next table explores career salary growth projections for some of the most popular occupations related to gerontology.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
Medical Social Worker $48,343 $51,525 $56,112 $59,446
Geriatric Social Worker $42,000 $44,000 $46,000 $55,000
Occupational Therapist $61,425 $71,554 $75,079 $77,957
Medical Laboratory Scientist $50,547 $58,685 $59,664 $65,387
Retirement Plan Specialist $44,091 $51,956 $64,927 $73,242

Source: PayScale

All five occupations listed in the table experience a career salary growth rate of at least 23%. Retirement plan specialists reported the most substantial growth: a 66.1% increase between the entry-level and late-career stages. Medical laboratory scientists placed second with 29.4% career earnings growth, followed by occupational therapists with 26.9% growth.

Career Opportunities

Students who graduate with a master’s in gerontology will be qualified for dozens of top-level positions, although individual eligibility will depend on additional factors like company size and city/state of employment. Four of the most common career pathways in gerontology are detailed below.

Medical Scientists: Medical scientists specialize in research rooted in human health and medical treatment. Some focus their work on epidemiology and disease pathology, while others target pharmacology, drugs and medical devices. Their most common workplaces include higher-learning institutions, hospitals, pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing centers and medical diagnostic laboratories.

Social Workers: Social workers assist members of the public with various issues that impact their daily lives. Within the gerontology field, most of these professionals work directly with elderly clients to secure accessible housing, obtain medical benefits, receive medical treatment and address other important concerns related to aging.

Medical and Health Services Managers: Also known as healthcare executives or healthcare administrators, these professionals oversee the various services offered at hospitals, clinics, physician’s offices and other care-based facilities. Their day-to-day duties may involve medical billing and recordkeeping, equipment maintenance, facility upkeep, and staff hiring and training.

Occupational Therapist: Occupational therapists assist clients with injuries, chronic illnesses and other conditions that negatively impact their daily routines. They specialize in treatment and therapeutic techniques that utilize everyday objects and activities.

Occupation Median Annual Salary Projected Growth (2014-24)
Medical Scientists $82,240 8% (+9,000 jobs)
Social Workers $49,500 12% (+74,800 jobs)
Medical and Health Services Managers $94,500 17% (+56,300 jobs)
Human Resources Managers $80,150 27% (+30,400 jobs)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to gerontology is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for gerontology professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • Gerontological Society of America: Founded in 1939 as the ‘Club for Research on Ageing’, the GSA today represents more than 5,500 members. The organization publishes two online journals, hosts an annual conference and offers webinars and professional development courses.
  • International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics: Also known as the International Federation on Ageing (IFA), this Canada-based organization boasts more than 45,000 members worldwide and 73 member organizations in 65 different countries. Membership benefits include reduced conference fees, networking events and opportunities to become part of the IFA Board of Directors.
  • American Society on Aging: The ASA abides by a mission to “to support the commitment and enhance the knowledge and skills of those who seek to improve the quality of life of older adults and their families”. Online webinars and continuing education courses are available, and the ASA honors individuals and organizations through its comprehensive awards program.

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WOMEN

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.