As the baby boomer generation ages, jobs in human and health services are growing exponentially. Earning a bachelor's in gerontology is a great way to begin a fulfilling career in this rapidly expanding industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs in the field to increase by 11% in next few years alone, which is just one reason interest in gerontology undergraduate degrees is growing.
There are many great options for online gerontology bachelor degree programs. This guide will introduce some of these options and help you understand the important factors that go into choosing the best program for you.
What are the best gerontology programs of 2020? Here are our top 5:
|1||University of Nebraska Omaha||Omaha, NE|
|2||Madonna University||Livonia, MI|
|3||University of Maryland Global Campus||Adelphi, MD|
|4||University of Nebraska Lincoln||Lincoln, NE|
|5||Thomas University||Thomasville, GA|
Choosing a Program
Gerontology, put simply, is the study of aging. More specifically, gerontology covers the physical, emotional, and social changes that aging people face as well as the aging population's effect on society.
Prospective gerontology students can choose between bachelor's of arts, bachelor's of multidisciplinary studies (BMS), or bachelor's of science degrees. The specific type of program you choose will determine course requirements, projects, and topics covered. For example, a BMS degree in gerontology has a relatively broad focus, with opportunities for students to study in a variety of related fields, including social work, public health, or psychology. A BS degree emphasizes scientific areas of gerontology, such as biology or physiology.
However, there are a several topics that the program will cover regardless of the specific degree type you choose. These topics include the fundamental principles of gerontology, programs and services for the elderly, public policy regarding elderly care, and adult development.
What are the Best Online Bachelor's in Gerontology Programs?
University of Nebraska Omaha
|Omaha, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
UNO serves over 15,000 students, many of whom earn online certificates and degrees — like a bachelor's in gerontology — through the Canvas platform. Learners in the gerontology program can complete a fully online curriculum or take some classes on campus.
The program's 120-credit curriculum includes courses like biology of aging, long-term care administration, and working with minority elderly. Students also take two classes in research and statistics and three guided electives. Learners round out the program by completing a 156-hour practicum at a site in their community.
UNO maintains fall, spring, and summer start dates. First-year applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores. They should also have a minimum 3.0 GPA or rank in the upper half of their high school graduating class.
|Livonia, MI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 61%||
Based in Livonia, Michigan, MU delivers affordable online degrees through the Blackboard platform. Distance learners can enroll in MU's bachelor of science in gerontology program, developing the specialized knowledge and skills needed to help older adults access healthcare and community resources. Graduates are prepared for careers as life enrichment directors, service coordinators, and volunteer managers.
Program coursework covers topics like spirituality of aging, legal issues for older adults, and Alzheimer's disease. Students learn how to create effective adult education programs while adhering to budget constraints. Learners gain hands-on experience by completing a 225-hour internship.
To enroll in MU's online bachelor's in gerontology program, first-year applicants need a minimum 2.75 GPA. They must also score at least 18 on the ACT or 960 on the SAT.
University of Maryland Global Campus
|Adelphi, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 15%||
UMGC offers more than 90 online certificates, degrees, and specializations, including a fully online bachelor of science in gerontology and aging services. Program graduates can pursue leadership roles in policy analysis, community services development, and housing and facilities management.
The program's 120-credit curriculum includes required courses like gender and aging, health promotion in older adults, and workplace learning in gerontology. Students also learn about the psychological aspects of aging. Learners pursuing this online bachelor's in gerontology personalize their experience by taking 46 elective credits.
UMGC does not maintain a GPA cutoff or require ACT or SAT scores, and the university accepts up to 90 transfer credits. Students benefit from over 100 scholarship opportunities, including awards specifically for Maryland community college graduates.
University of Nebraska Lincoln
|Lincoln, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 69%||
Nebraska maintains its flagship campus in Lincoln and powers distance education through the Canvas platform. The university offers a fully online bachelor of multidisciplinary studies with a concentration in gerontology that helps students develop the research and assessment skills needed to succeed in master's and doctoral programs. Graduates can also pursue entry-level jobs as caregivers, assisted living administrators, and geriatic case coordinators.
The program includes courses in community resources for older adults, legal aspects of aging, and senior housing. Learners also delve into midlife development tasks in the context of career change and pre-retirement planning. The program culminates in an integrative practicum.
Nebraska offers fall, spring, and summer entry dates. Applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores.
|Thomasville, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 20%||
Founded in 1950 as a junior college, TU now administers comprehensive academic programs to approximately 1,300 students. The university offers several fully online degrees, including a bachelor of science in rehabilitation studies.
Major coursework in TU's rehabilitation studies program includes ethical practices in rehabilitation, assistive technology, and case management and community resources. The program also requires students to complete a counseling practicum. Students use 15 elective credits to pursue advanced topics or complete a complementary minor. The program delivers all coursework asynchronously, and each course lasts eight weeks.
Applicants must have a minimum 2.0 GPA. Students without at least 14 transferable credits may need to take placement exams in math and English. TU offers a variety of financial aid opportunities, including general merit scholarships and awards for athletic or artistic talent.
What Else can I Expect from an Online Bachelor's in Gerontology Program?
As mentioned earlier in this guide, gerontology bachelor degree programs can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors. Whether the program is housed under an arts, multidisciplinary, or science degree is one of these contributing factors, but programs and their requirements also vary from school to school.
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN GERONTOLOGY
Depending on the school and program you choose, your bachelor's in gerontology may require different coursework and even cover different topics. Below are a few examples of courses you might encounter while earning your degree.
- Studies in Aging: As gerontology is the technical term for the study of aging, this is a foundational course you will take regardless of which program you choose. This course introduces issues and theories in aging from both scientific and social perspectives. It also examines how aging affects families, communities, and society as a whole.
- Lifespan Development: Also sometimes called adult development, this course teaches gerontology students about the changes that happen over the course of the human lifespan, including physical, social, and emotional shifts. This course also covers how culture and community contribute to different developmental processes.
- Human Services: Many gerontology bachelor degree programs include courses in human services, as many students studying gerontology will go on to work in this field. The goal of these courses is to provide an understanding of the role human services plays in the lives of aging adults, and the different services these organizations provide.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN GERONTOLOGY?
Generally speaking, undergraduate degrees can take between two and four years to complete, but this amount of time can vary greatly from program to program and student to student. There are a handful of factors that affect program duration. Students in traditional on-campus programs are more likely to enroll full time, and often can dedicate more time to their school work. Meanwhile, students who are enrolled part-time often require more time to complete their degree.
Some schools and programs offer accelerated options or shorter terms than full-length academic semesters. Others offer the option to "test out" of certain degree requirements if the student can prove their competence in that specific area. Certain programs have students enter in cohorts, groups of students who begin programs together and progress through the entire program with that same group of peers, while other programs allow students to progress at an individualized pace.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Gerontology Degrees
More than likely, you've heard the term "accreditation" before, but what exactly does it mean? Accreditation is essentially the way schools and individual programs are held to specific standards of education by accrediting agencies. Accreditation is very important when it comes to selecting a reputable school or program. Unaccredited schools or programs are often non-reciprocal, meaning that degrees and credits earned from these institutions and programs are often not recognized by other institutions and employers.
A school might be accredited regionally or nationally, but regional accreditation is generally the more popular of the two. Regional accrediting agencies are widely recognized and degrees and credits from regionally accredited schools are easily transferred to other institutions. In addition to regional accreditation, some majors also have field-specific accreditation. Gerontology, on its own, does not have its own specific accrediting body, but some gerontology programs may be accredited by broader agencies based in related fields, including public health or social work.
The Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation both offer comprehensive databases of all regionally and nationally accredited institutions. Choosing a school from one of these lists is important, as students enrolled in unaccredited schools are also ineligible to receive federal financial aid.
Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Gerontology Graduates
BACHELOR'S IN GERONTOLOGY CAREERS
Graduates with a bachelor's in gerontology work with older adults in retirement centers, public health administration, or even public policy. Below are a few potential careers for graduates of gerontology programs, and an overview of what these different careers entail.
- Medical and Health Services Managers
These professionals take on managerial roles within medical and health services, including retirement homes and elderly care facilities. These managers may run or supervise an entire facility, or may work in a specific department of a larger organization. They are often tasked with keeping up with changing laws and policies in healthcare, and making sure their facility meets these requirements.
Median Annual Salary: $96,540
Projected Growth Rate: 17%
- Social and Human Services Assistants
The main objective of these professionals is to connect clients with the community resources they need. Many pursue jobs in retirement homes, acting as a support system for the families of aging patients. The role often includes working closely with other professionals, such as social workers, to manage a specific patient's case.
Median Annual Salary: $31,810
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Social Workers
Social workers work with clients of all ages, including older adults. They manage the cases of clients dealing with difficult conditions, such as physical and mental disabilities, emotional issues, or addiction. Social workers help clients cope with these issues and improve their mental and physical states.
Median Annual Salary: $46,890
Projected Growth Rate: 12%
- Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides
These professionals work alongside licensed occupational therapists to help patients recover from (and cope with) injuries, illnesses, or disabilities. Older adults often require occupational and/or physical therapy to address physical changes as they age. Occupational therapy assistants work directly with therapists to administer occupational therapy while aides complete support duties.
Median Annual Salary: $56,070
Projected Growth Rate: 40%
- Health Educators and Community Health Workers
These educators work within communities to promote health and wellness. Community health workers and health educators often work with adults in retirement homes or elderly care facilities, developing and implementing wellness plans with the goal of improving health among community members.
Median Annual Salary: $44,390
Projected Growth Rate: 13%
BACHELOR'S IN GERONTOLOGY SALARY
According to PayScale, location is the most important factor in determining your salary as a health and medical services worker, the primary career area for those with degrees in gerontology. Based on annual mean wage, the chart below maps the five top-paying states in this career field.
|State||Annual Mean Wage|
|District of Columbia||$142,380|
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Gerontology Program
Determining how to finance your bachelor's in gerontology can seem a bit daunting, but there are some ways you can make your degree more affordable. The first and most important step is to complete the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) each year you are enrolled. The FAFSA connects you with any available federal funding, including grants and scholarships (which do not have to be paid back) and loans (which do). Students earning their bachelor's degree in gerontology may also consider looking within their communities for potential funding. For example, health services-based non-profit organizations may offer scholarships for qualified students.
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