The senior service sector is growing rapidly. In addition to today's aging Baby Boomer generation, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that people older than 65 will outnumber those under 18 for the first time in 2056. All of the most common positions within the field, from geropsychologists to social workers to acute care nurse practitioners, will experience significant growth. For instance, the need for gerontology aides is projected to increase by 16% between 2016 and 2026.

Job opportunities are abundant for graduates dedicated to improving the aging experience of senior citizens. If you are interested in obtaining a gerontology graduate certificate online, the following details will help you determine whether pursuing a career in this sector is the right decision for you.

Rank School Cost Enrolled Online Description Toggle
1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 60%

Located in Gainesville, UF is home to almost 5,000 faculty members and more than 100 online programs. Its graduate certificate in gerontology online is designed for UF graduate students. It is required for students in the university’s aging training program, but also open to other graduate students interested in geriatric studies. This 12-credit program has one required online course and three electives. Only one elective may be taken online, while the remaining courses must be taken on-campus. UF has an “approved aging” course list from which electives may be chosen. Students must maintain at least a "B" in each course.

Students must submit required documents at least two semesters before the scheduled completion of their graduate degree. Through its Department of Aging and Geriatric Research, UF also has an online gerontology master’s degree program with three tracks available.

2 Indiana University-Bloomington Bloomington, IN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 6%

IU-Bloomington has an online graduate certificate in gerontology and health. It is administered through its School of Public Health -- one of IU’s 16 colleges and schools. The program is designed for current graduate students and professionals working in gerontology-related fields. Coursework covers the diverse elements affecting the aging population, from biology and sociology to family and pharmacology. Materials and case studies are provided by experts in aging worldwide.

This program requires 12 credits: three courses and a practicum, all fully online. One course is mandatory and the other two are electives. Each student is assigned a practicum supervisor to determine the scope and deliverables of their practicum. Students often select an internship or develop a special project at their place of employment. Certificate program applications have two parts: an online graduate and professional admissions piece and one through the School of Public Health Application Service. Just one application fee is required.

3 McDaniel College Westminster, MD Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: N/A

Established in 1867, McDaniel was the first co-educational college south of the Mason-Dixon line. It is located in Westminster, Maryland, and its graduate school has more than 60 programs. The school offers a gerontology graduate certificate online targeted toward working professionals and those entering graduate school. Coursework can be used as continuing education credits for social workers, psychologists, and counselors in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Students enjoy small classes and affordable tuition, with no fees for out-of-state online students.

The program consists of 18 credits: 12 in core gerontology courses and six electives. One elective is a special studies course, allowing students to design a project with an advisor. All courses are online but students may elect to take some on-campus courses. Course grades of “B” or better may be transferred to the school's MS program in gerontology. Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree with a GPA of 3.0 or better. Applications are accepted any time, but McDaniel recommends submitting materials several months prior to the anticipated start date.

4 University of South Florida-Main Campus Tampa, FL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 49%

USF’s main campus is located in Tampa, where it serves more than 10,000 graduate students with a 22:1 student-to-faculty ratio. USF offers a graduate certificate in gerontology online through the School of Aging Studies within the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences. The program is available online, though certain electives are only taught on-campus. The certificate requires 15 credits: six from core courses and nine electives. Online electives include women and aging and family caregiving in aging and chronic illness. Students may fulfill an elective requirement with a field placement.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA in upper-level courses. Twelve of the certificate program’s 15 credits may be transferred toward USF’s MA in gerontology degree. USF is a Tillman Partnership University, a distinguished recognition for its support of veterans and military families. It is one of 16 universities selected by the Pat Tillman Foundation to provide the scholarship program to service members, veterans, and their dependents.

5 University of Missouri-Columbia Columbia, MO Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 29%

The University of Missouri has more than 100 degree and certificate programs online through the Mizzou Online platform. The fully online graduate certificate in gerontology is a 21-credit program with five required courses and two electives. Most courses are taught asynchronously, but some include synchronous class discussions. Courses have specific beginning and end dates and are semester-based.

Faculty from a variety of universities teach the courses, as the program is part of the 19-member Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (IDEA). No out-of-state or distance education fees are applied. The Mizzou Online Military Tuition Award provides a 10% tuition discount for online programs for servicemembers and their families.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA in upper-level courses, but no GRE scores are required. Applicants are accepted on a rolling basis. Interested out-of-state students should verify their state online education requirements prior to applying. Please note that Massachusetts residents are currently ineligible for the program.

Curriculum for an Online Graduate Certificate in Gerontology

Coursework for a graduate certificate in gerontology online program typically includes several general core requirements related to the field. You can also choose electives based on your area of interest and/or profession. Classes range from in-depth studies of the physical and psychological changes that occur with age to ethical, social, and medical concerns. The following classes are examples of topics you may cover in your program.

  • Biology of Aging: This course examines the human aging process and the common disorders and diseases that occur with age. Coursework promotes an understanding of the physical changes that affect the human body over time; this is useful for students who to plan work with the senior population in healthcare, counseling, and home settings. Students also study current clinical research techniques.
  • Geriatric Pharmacology: This course multifaceted issues of medication for senior citizens are reviewed in this course. Topics include prescribing, dosing, administration, and oversight of drugs; the common errors inherent within each aspect; and the ramifications of those errors. This class is important for all professionals in the senior sector and is critical for those working in the healthcare field.
  • Perspectives on Death and Dying: This course provides a global examination of the end-of-life experience, from historical and cultural aspects to physical and psychological changes. It also provides an understanding of the grief process for caregivers and family members. This is important knowledge for counselors, social workers, and healthcare workers.
  • Ethical and Legal Issues in Aging: Students gain an understanding of the complex health and legal concerns affecting the aging population. These range from end-of-life care and decision-making to the rights afforded to seniors, their families, and caregivers by the legal system and certain legal documents. The ethical concerns related to these topics are examined, often through case studies. This course is important for jobs involving senior healthcare, law, and social work.
  • Aging and the Family: This class examines the dynamics of aging within the context of family, work, and community. Changes that occur within family units regarding roles, responsibilities, and caregiving - and how they affect seniors psychologically and socially - are reviewed. Counselors, psychologists, and social workers benefit from this course.

How Long Does it Take to get an Online Graduate Certificate in Gerontology?

If you choose to pursue a gerontology graduate certificate online, you should expect to dedicate 15 to 18 months to your studies. Some students take up to two years to complete their certificates, depending on their schedules. Programs typically require the completion of 12 to 15 credits.

Some programs utilize a cohort learning model, which organizes students into groups who pursue their certificate as a unit. This method provides shared learning experiences and deepens the impact of class discussions, which are often delivered synchronously. Certain cohort programs are accelerated and can be completed in 15 months. Alternatively, an individually-paced program lets students take classes at their convenience. Most of these courses are taught asynchronously and distance learners can access coursework at any time.

Professionals who earn a gerontology graduate certificate online can work in a variety of capacities within the senior service sector. Psychologists, social workers and their assistants, and counselors support seniors and manage issues affecting mental or emotional health, while nurse practitioners deliver expert healthcare. Anyone interacting with seniors should be compassionate and caring. They must also have excellent communication, listening, and problem-solving skills. Most of these positions require advanced degrees, state and/or board licensure, and internships.

Icon - Person Geropsychologists

These psychologists work with the senior population. They observe, analyze, and treat patients for mental or emotional disorders. They may also assist them in the short-term with issues related to grief or trauma.

Median Annual Salary $75,230
Projected Growth Rate 19%

Gerontology Social Workers

This type of social worker helps seniors manage disorders or adjust to changes in their lives, such as altered living situations or grief. They work in senior living communities, hospitals, and nonprofit organizations serving seniors. They may be licensed or clinical social workers.

Median Annual Salary $46,890
Projected Growth Rate 12%

Mental Health Counselors

Some mental health counselors specialize in assisting seniors and provide them with strategies to manage grief, substance abuse, stress, anxiety, and other issues.

Median Annual Salary $44,170
Projected Growth Rate 19%

Gerontology Aides

These professionals assist social workers and help seniors who live independently. Tasks may include coordinating meal and housekeeping assistance. In some cases, gerontology aides also help seniors find residential communities or nursing homes.

Median Annual Salary $31,810
Projected Growth Rate 11%

Acute Care Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners provide a higher level of professional care and often specialize in senior health management. Acute care nurse practitioners deal with urgent healthcare needs in hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. They can prescribe medication and order lab tests.

Median Annual Salary $107,460
Projected Growth Rate 31%

Graduate Certificate in Gerontology Salary

Students who complete a graduate certificate in gerontology online typically find employment in a profession within the senior service sector. They may have already earned a master's degree and have several years of work experience. The following table features data collected by PayScale. It outlines the correlation between years of work experience and salary increases for professional positions commonly held by individuals with an online graduate certificate in gerontology.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees Median Salary for Late-Career Employees
Psychologist $75,330 $67,522 $81,479 $90,443
Hospice Social Worker $49,667 $49,667 $52,615 $54,315
Mental Health Counselor $40,270 $39,073 $42,373 $49,061
Social and Human Service Assistant $33,617 $29,000 $29,000 $34,000
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner $98,328 $95,114 $102,706 $107,172

There are a variety of resources available to students seeking financial aid. By completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you'll receive eligibility information about federal loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities. There are also private sources of funding you can use to finance your online graduate certificate in gerontology. These include personal loans, private and organizational scholarships and grants, and employer tuition reimbursement programs. Some employers may cover some of your educational costs in order to hire you or retain your services in this specialized field.


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