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.
|1||University of Southern California||Los Angeles, CA|
|2||University of South Florida||Tampa, FL|
|3||George Washington University||Washington, DC|
|4||University of Utah||Salt Lake City, UT|
|5||Webster University||Saint Louis, MO|
|6||Iowa State University||Ames, IA|
|7||Michigan State University||East Lansing, MI|
|8||University of Missouri||Columbia, MO|
|9||McDaniel College||Westminster, MD|
|10||Concordia University Chicago||River Forest, IL|
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.
What are the best online master's in gerontology programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
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.
Choosing a Program
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.
2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Gerontology Programs
University of Southern California
|Los Angeles, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 92%||
USC's master's in gerontology program prepares students for careers as researchers and managers. The curriculum emphasizes social policy and aging, lifespan developmental sociology, and the physiology of development and aging. The program culminates in a field practicum. Full-time learners can graduate in approximately two years.
USC's career center provides virtual workshops with potential employers, archived career videos, and resume guidance. Students can also access specialized advice on how to research and apply to Ph.D. programs.
Admission requirements include GMAT or GRE scores, a resume, and 1-2 recommendation letters. All students pay the same tuition rate.
University of South Florida
|Tampa, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
Students who earn USF's online master's degree in gerontology develop the knowledge and skills needed to improve older adults' quality of life. The 30-credit curriculum of this MA program includes core courses in human development, physical change, and health and ethnicity. Additionally, the degree features five electives and a directed research capstone.
Distance students can learn about the latest job openings and attend a virtual career fair online. Prospective students with a minimum 3.25 undergraduate GPA do not need to submit GRE scores. Additional requirements include a resume and two recommendation letters. Florida residents receive a tuition discount. Competitive students may be eligible for assistantships or other types of financial aid.
George Washington University
|Washington, DC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 82%||
Registered nurses who want to specialize in treating older adults can enroll in GW's MSN in adult-gerontology acute care program. This hybrid degree requires multiple on-campus visits so that students can gain hands-on experience with ventilators, chest tubes, and other medical equipment. Graduation requirements include 650 clinical hours.
GW's School of Nursing offers students career resources like a career guide and links to top nursing job boards. Students can also enhance their resumes by joining one of nine on-campus student nursing organizations.
Although GW requires a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, applicants with a lower GPA may still receive conditional admission. Applicants do not need to submit standardized test scores. Veterans receive an automatic tuition discount through the Yellow Ribbon Program.
University of Utah
|Salt Lake City, UT||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 70%||
The U's online master's degree in gerontology blends synchronous and asynchronous courses. Required classes in this 33-34-credit program include service agencies and programs, health and optimal aging, and aging and the arts. Additionally, learners complete a 150-hour practicum and either write a master's thesis or complete a capstone project.
The university's career center provides an updated list of career opportunities throughout the state, and learners can prepare for interviews by using Stand Out software.
Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and students with a GPA of at least 3.2 need not submit GRE scores. Utah residents receive a tuition discount. Learners can apply for federal financial aid programs by submitting their FAFSA results.
|Saint Louis, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
Webster's master's in gerontology program features 36 credits of coursework, including classes in the physiology of aging, social science perspectives in gerontology, and economic issues for older adults. Students also take four elective courses. Participants must maintain a minimum 2.7 GPA to remain in good academic standing. This program is only available online.
Students may also pursue 12- or 18-credit gerontology certificates; the credits from these programs can also be applied towards a master's degree. Nearly 95% of the university's gerontology alumni achieve a positive career or education outcome soon after earning their degree.
Admission requirements include a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. Webster does not require recommendation letters for admission.
Iowa State University
|Ames, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 75%||
Students who earn Iowa State's online master's degree in gerontology prepare to lead other professionals in the fields of social work, public policy, and adult education. The curriculum features courses in aging in the family, adult development, and perspectives in gerontology. Additionally, students can gain hands-on experience by enrolling in a practicum elective.
More than 80% of program alumni begin a career or a doctoral program within six months of graduating. Students can research jobs and graduate schools and receive cover letter and resume critiques through Iowa State's website.
Admission requirements include two recommendation letters and a statement of purpose. Out-of-state online learners pay the same tuition rate as Iowa residents. The university's students use OneApp to apply for all institutional financial aid programs.
Michigan State University
|East Lansing, MI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
Registered nurses who want to work as a nurse practitioner may be interested in MSU's online MSN in adult gerontology program. This program is designed for clinical nurses and offers a concentration in nurse education. Classes include health promotion and a four-part intensive in clinical diagnosis. Additionally, students can complete internship requirements at a job site in their own communities.
MSU's career center offers resume critiques and cover letter templates to help students prepare for a promotion or a new job. The center also hosts virtual career fairs for online learners.
Admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, three recommendation letters, and an active nursing license. Applicants must also submit a resume and a personal essay. Departmental funding opportunities require a separate application.
University of Missouri
|Columbia, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 69%||
Mizzou's online master's in human development and family science features a gerontology emphasis. This program includes required coursework in adult development, aging in the family, and perspectives in gerontology. Students customize the program by selecting two elective classes. Additional requirements include a comprehensive exam, which participants take during their final semester.
More than 90% of Mizzou alumni achieve a positive career outcome within six months of graduation day. Degree-seekers can access Mizzou's online resources, including guides, videos, and software suites.
Prospective students must have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. However, the program does not require GRE scores for admission. All graduate students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Additionally, most of Mizzou's gerontology students receive significant financial aid.
|Westminster, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
McDaniel's master's in gerontology program awards an MS and features an optional certificate in aging. In their second year, students choose between a traditional master's thesis and a capstone project. Both options feature original academic research. Additional requirements include maintaining a 3.0 GPA.
The college provides distance learners with virtual coaching sessions, networking events, and access to Handshake software. McDaniel also maintains a blog that shares alumni success stories.
Admission requirements include a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA, three recommendation letters, and a letter of intent. McDaniel does not charge out-of-state tuition. Active-duty
military personnel and their dependents may qualify for the Military Legacy Scholarship.
Concordia University Chicago
|River Forest, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
CUC offers an online master's degree in gerontology. Faculty deliver the 33-credit curriculum through eight-week sessions. Coursework covers topics like perspectives in gerontology, introduction to research, and public policies and aging. Participants also complete a thesis or an applied/analytical project. Additionally, each course enrolls no more than 20 students.
Students can access gerontology job boards on the program's website. CUC also provides distance learners with a career webinar video series and practice interview questions.
The program accepts applications throughout the year and may grant probationary admission to prospective degree-seekers who do not meet the 3.0 undergraduate GPA cutoff. The school does not charge an application fee.
|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.|
Employment Outlook for Master's in Gerontology
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)|
|Medical Health and Services Manager||1.7%|
|Dietitian and Nutritionist||2.9%|
|Clinical Social Worker||3.4%|
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|
|Medical Laboratory Scientist||$50,547||$58,685||$59,664||$65,387|
|Retirement Plan Specialist||$44,091||$51,956||$64,927||$73,242|
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.
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)
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.
Financing Your Online Master's in Gerontology
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.
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