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.
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?
|1||University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
Graduates with a bachelor’s in gerontology enter careers in government administration, healthcare, and retirement centers. The multidisciplinary bachelor’s degree in gerontology from UNL prepares graduates for a variety of careers by helping students develop a broad skillset, while still emphasizing gerontological studies. The gerontology concentration covers topics such as the psychology of aging, death and dying, legal services for older adults, and long-term care administration. The 120-credit program is available entirely online.
Online students at UNL receive the same resources and benefits as on-campus students, including an academic advisor to help them map out the best degree trajectory to achieve their academic goals. Using UNL’s interactive online platform, gerontology students learn from qualified practitioners in the field. Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED and must take the SAT or ACT.
|2||University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 46%||
Based in the heart of Omaha, UNO offers an extensive array of fully online programs for distance learners. The bachelor's of multidisciplinary studies in gerontology provides students with a strong liberal arts foundation and a solid knowledge base in gerontology. The 120-credit program requires at least 30 gerontology credits, including courses in adult development, aging, and programs and services for the elderly. Students may choose to take nine credits in a related field, such as social work or public administration. Students must receive a grade of C- or better in each gerontology course to earn credit.
Applicants must submit official SAT or ACT scores. Online students may submit the FAFSA to be considered for university-based financial aid.
|3||University of Maryland-University College Adelphi, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 10%||
UMUC offers a highly focused bachelor's of science in gerontology online program. Unlike liberal arts-based degree programs in gerontology, UMUC's program takes a science-based approach, with required courses including health and aging, biology, and the psychosocial aspects of aging. The program requires 120 credits, and completion time varies by student.
While this bachelor’s in gerontology program is offered almost entirely online, students complete a small in-person component at one of UMUC’s campuses, which are located around the country and abroad to serve military students. Some online students qualify for a monthly, interest-free tuition payment plan. Applicants must submit official high school transcripts and required test scores.
|4||Mount Saint Mary's University Los Angeles, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 61%||
MSMU's campus is located in Los Angeles, but students from anywhere in the world can take advantage of the university's extensive online degree options. The gerontology bachelor’s degree program is offered as a bachelor's of arts. Students focus their studies in the field of gerontology, but they also gain a strong liberal arts foundation. The program covers a variety of topics, including human services ethics, research methods, psychotherapy, and public policy.
The program requires 124 credits, including 36 credits of gerontology major coursework. While all core course requirements can be completed online, the program does require an internship. MSMU is only authorized to assign clinical placement in certain states; students residing outside these states may have to make other internship arrangements.
|5||Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
With more than 80,000 online students, SNHU is one of the most rapidly growing universities in the country. Its extensive online offerings include a gerontology bachelor’s degree program, which is part of the BA in human services degree. The 120-credit program includes an arts-based general education track, which covers topics such as arts and humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and history. The gerontology major requires courses such as lifespan development and case management, and students complete a capstone in human services.
SNHU online students complete their degree at their own pace. Courses are offered in six eight-week terms each year, rather than in two semesters. Transfer students may apply up to 90 approved credits toward their degree. Tuition rates are competitive, and eligible students may receive university-based funding.
|5||Thomas University Thomasville, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 14%||
Thomas University's gerontology bachelor’s degree program is ideal for students considering pursuing advanced study after earning their undergraduate degree. Students who complete their bachelor's of science in rehabilitation studies at Thomas are qualified to earn “advanced standing” status in the university’s clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling master’s program. In addition to required general education courses, students in the gerontology concentration take courses in abnormal psychology, end of life issues, and family issues of caretakers.
Thomas University urges out-of-state applicants to confirm their state is eligible for Thomas' online degree programs. Applicants must submit high school or GED transcripts and official SAT or ACT scores. Transfer students must have at least a 2.0 GPA.
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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