Best Online Gerontology Programs of 2021

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by Marisa Upson
Published on November 24, 2021
Edited by Darlene Earnest

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An online bachelor's in gerontology program can prepare graduates to care, advocate, and show support for older adults. Students learn about the sociological, biological, emotional, and psychological aspects of aging. The program also helps students recognize the personal issues people experience as they grow older.

In addition, they can develop skills to support this population through community services, public policy, and healthcare options.

Due to the aging of baby boomers, the 65-and-older population makes up the fastest-growing age group, growing by over 34% from 2010-2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This growing population requires professionals with expertise in aging and the unique challenges older adults face.

An online bachelor's in gerontology takes about four years to complete. According to the College Board, the average tuition costs at four-year institutions ranged from $10,560-$37,650 for the 2020-2021 academic school year. PayScale reports that individuals with a bachelor's in gerontology earn an average annual salary of $56,000, as of October 2021.

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Gerontology Program?

Having patience, perseverance, and effective communication skills can help individuals succeed in this field. A career in gerontology often involves working with people experiencing health challenges, including cognitive and physical decline. Compassion, a positive disposition, and a respectful attitude can help ease the growing uncertainty they face.

Most online bachelor's in gerontology programs require the completion of 120 credits. The program typically takes four years of full-time study to complete. Some online programs offer dual degrees, allowing students to earn their bachelor's and master's in five years. For students considering administrative roles, some programs offer a concentration in long-term care administration. This specialization incorporates courses in management, accounting, and economics, with traditional gerontology coursework.

Gerontology programs offer bachelor's of science (BS) and bachelor's of arts (BA) degrees. A BS typically focuses more on research and statistics, while a BA emphasizes humanities and provides a broader educational foundation. Some programs also offer a bachelor's in human services, healthcare management, or multidisciplinary studies with a concentration in gerontology.

Most programs culminate in an internship or practicum. Practicums may include observing professionals in the field in an agency serving older adults. Internships involve supervised work experience in social service agencies, community facilities, or long-term care settings.

Students interested in a career as a nursing home administrator should consider their state's licensing requirements and the needed hours of supervised experience. Many schools offer students support in finding local opportunities.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Degree Programs.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Gerontology Program?

Introduction to Gerontology

This course emphasizes the physical and psychological aspects of aging. Students also learn about changing family interactions and socialization as people age. Covered topics include the perception of older people and the effects of retirement.

Community Resources for the Elderly

This class examines the organizations and community resources available to older adults. Students learn about the growing support for aging in place and the local, state, and national efforts to support this demographic.

Introduction to Statistics

This course introduces students to appropriate statistical tests and inferences and predictions obtainable from select data. Students learn to organize and interpret data and present findings using graphs and tables. Covered topics include probability and regression.

Death and Dying

This course covers the perception of death, the socio-cultural response to death and bereavement, and the grief cycle. Covered topics include ethical considerations and how to work with older adults and their families.

Long-Term Care Administration

This course provides an overview of operational and administrative procedures in long-term care facilities. Students learn about an administrator's responsibilities, including finance, policy and practices, and staffing.

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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Gerontology Program?

While online and campus-based programs usually have similar admission requirements, some online bachelor's in gerontology programs consider a more holistic approach. These programs typically do not require standardized test scores or a minimum cumulative GPA. Some do not even charge the standard application fee. All programs, however, differ in their requirements, so make sure to read application instructions carefully.

Application

School-specific application forms usually consist of 2-4 pages requiring general information, such as the high school attended, extracurricular activities, and academic honors and achievements. Students may submit their college applications via the school's online portal. Many schools also accept applications through a centralized online platform, such as the Common App.

Test Scores

While some colleges require students to submit official SAT or ACT scores, many consider these college entrance exam scores as optional. If the exam scores are optional, students should consider submitting them if they will strengthen their admissions package. Nonnative English speakers may also need to submit their TOEFL or IELTS scores.

Letters of Recommendation

Many gerontology programs request 2-3 letters of recommendation. These references should come from teachers, high school counselors, or supervisors who can discuss an applicant's readiness for college-level work. Consider asking for letters of recommendation at least two months before the application deadline.

Essays

Some schools may also ask for a personal essay. This allows applicants to demonstrate their writing skills and state their academic and career goals in gerontology. Additionally, students should explain how the program fits into these goals and aspirations. They can also write about the traits they have that can help them succeed in college and in this field.

Official Transcripts

Students must submit official transcripts from all high schools and colleges they've attended. Most colleges also accept GED transcripts. Online bachelor's in gerontology programs may require a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher. Some colleges also accept up to 90 transfer credits, which can substantially reduce program costs and completion times.

What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Gerontology Degree?

Career Outlook

An online bachelor's in gerontology program can prepare graduates for roles as social workers, healthcare administrators, policy advocates, and educators. These professionals may work in hospitals, retirement communities, long-term care facilities, government agencies, and social service organizations. They offer support and assistance to older adults.

Due to the growing number of individuals over 65, graduates may be in increasing demand in this fulfilling career. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 12% job growth for social workers and 17% employment growth for health educators from 2020-2030, much faster than the average 8% growth for all occupations. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $51,760 and $56,500, respectively, as of May 2020.

Discover some of the most popular college majors and where a bachelor's in gerontology degree can take you. Learn more about gerontology careers.

Career Paths

Geriatric Social Worker

Geriatric social workers advocate for older adults. These professionals usually work for government agencies, community service organizations, and ambulatory healthcare services. They may connect people with needed community resources, such as assistance with housing or healthcare, and help them transition from hospitals to their homes or long-term care facilities.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $51,760


Long-Term Care Administrator

Long-term care administrators manage staff, finances, and resident care for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They develop processes that improve the quality of care and the efficiency of staff and services. This role usually requires work experience, with some employers preferring candidates with a master's degree. In addition, nursing home administrators require state licensure.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $89,880


Senior Center Director

These directors oversee staff, operations, and finances for facilities for older adults. The centers they operate connect older adults to community services, encourage social interaction, and offer nutrition or health and wellness programs. Directors may also oversee funding for these nonprofit agencies, which may come from the government, private grants, and businesses.

Average Annual Salary (as of November 2021): $47,090


Senior Health Educator

These educators work with older adults, providing information on aging and addressing individual concerns. Subjects may include long-term care, dealing with loss, independent living, and dietary needs. Social health educators may work in community centers, hospitals, assisted living facilities, and adult daycare centers.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $56,500


Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers supervise organizations and programs that support community members and their well-being. They may work for an organization that helps a specific population segment, such as older adults. These managers oversee staff, ensure a program's effectiveness, and implement new services as needed.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $69,600


Gerontology Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

While a bachelor's in gerontology offers access to entry-level positions, a master's degree can help increase opportunities and earning potential. Supervisory roles, as well as positions in clinical settings, often require a master's degree. Some medical and nursing students earn their bachelor's in gerontology with a concentration in pre-health before pursuing an advanced degree.

The following represent some of the typical master's degrees students consider after earning their online bachelor's in gerontology:

Graduates interested in a career as nursing home administrators must have state licensure. While each state varies, many require 500-1,000 supervised work experience hours. Passing a state or national exam may also be required.

How Do I Choose an Online Bachelor's in Gerontology Program?

Cost

Costs can vary significantly, based on the type of school and resident status. Tuition for online bachelor's in gerontology programs can typically range from about $260-$600 per credit.

Private institutions usually have the highest tuition rates. The lowest rates are found at public schools for in-state students. Compared to on-campus programs, online programs may offer some savings. Some do not charge nonresident fees. They may offer reduced student fees.

When calculating the true cost of an online program, be sure to include indirect expenses. These can include costs for room and board, transportation to any on-site requirements, and books, supplies, and course materials.

Program Format

Online gerontology programs offer synchronous and asynchronous learning formats. Synchronous formats usually require scheduled weekly virtual class sessions. Asynchronous learning gives students the greatest flexibility, allowing them to set their study schedules. Students may also opt for part-time or full-time enrollment and accelerated online options that can reduce completion times.

Location

Some online gerontology programs charge out-of-state tuition fees, significantly increasing the cost. Additionally, while many schools offer 100% online learning formats, some programs require on-campus participation. Therefore, students should research requirements when choosing a program and weigh the costs versus convenience.

Accreditation

While the Accreditation for Gerontology Education Council awards programmatic accreditation, few gerontology programs go through the accreditation process. Those with specializations in long-term care administration receive accreditation from the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards. To ensure high academic standards, make sure the college or university you choose is regionally accredited.

Student Support

Many online bachelor's in gerontology programs give students the opportunity to connect with peers and professors. Look for programs that offer a host of student support services for online students. These may include mentorship opportunities, career and admissions advisors, and alumni connections. Many also provide help locating internships close to home.

2021 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Gerontology Programs

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Madonna University true View School Profile Livonia, MI

Based in Livonia, Michigan, Madonna's bachelor of science in gerontology prepares students to become experts in advocating for older adults, while also providing information on how to access community resources for this cohort.

Experienced faculty members go over case studies, and classes focus on topics like psychology, population health and aging, program development, and legal issues. Students may also obtain experience through internships at community and long-term care settings. The program caters to first-year and transfer students.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost per Credit: $460 per credit
  • Program Length: 3-4 years
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 120 credits
  • Degree Completion Program: No
  • Format: Online
  • School Status: Private
  • Program Accreditation: None
  • School Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
University of Nebraska at Omaha true View School Profile Omaha, NE

UNO's bachelor of science in gerontology with a concentration in administration offers both online and on-campus options. The program takes a multidisciplinary approach, covering social, psychological, and physical aspects of the aging process.

Coursework focuses on areas like critical thinking and analysis, communication, and interactions with others. The curriculum for the administration concentration includes classes that cover issues and aging, long-term care administration, and senior housing.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost per Credit: $259 per credit (in-state); $398 per credit (out-of-state)
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 120 credits
  • Degree Completion Program: No
  • Format: Online
  • School Status: Public
  • Program Accreditation: None
  • School Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
University of Maryland Global Campus true View School Profile Adelphi, MD

The bachelor of science in gerontology and aging services offered by UMGC's online campus provides a foundation in the physiological, social, and psychological aspects of aging. Learners gain knowledge related to various programs and policies that impact older adults.

Required major courses include health and aging, long-term care administration, the business of aging, and psychosocial aspects of aging. Students may also pursue hands-on internships. Graduates may qualify for careers in program management, policy analysis, and housing and facilities management.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost per Credit: $306 per credit (in-state); $499 per credit (out-of-state)
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 120 credits
  • Degree Completion Program: No
  • Format: Hybrid (on-campus component included)
  • School Status: Public
  • Program Accreditation: None
  • School Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Gerontology Programs

Is a bachelor's in gerontology worth it?

An online bachelor's in gerontology can lead to a rewarding career for individuals looking to help older adults through the mental, physical, and social changes that aging brings. As baby boomers age, the 65-and-older population grows rapidly. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 2010-2020, this group increased by over 34%, adding almost 13.8 million people.

This growth translates to an increasing need for professionals with specialized training in gerontology. Graduates work in healthcare facilities, social service agencies, and government organizations, caring directly for older adults or advocating for the general population.

What can I do with a bachelor's in gerontology?

A bachelor's in gerontology can provide students with the skills needed to address the mental, physical, and emotional changes older adults experience. The program also focuses on the practical aspects of policy and program analysis, healthcare administration, and social services.

These skills can prepare graduates to work as social workers, community service managers, senior health educators, and long-term care administrators. They may work for the government or lobbying groups, advocating for older adults or addressing needed policy changes. Some go on to pursue a graduate degree in public health, healthcare administration, or social work.

Are gerontology majors in demand?

An aging population translates to high demand for gerontology majors. For example, between 2020 and 2030, the BLS projects 12% job growth for social workers, 15% growth for social and community service managers, and 32% growth for residential care facilities managers. The BLS also reports that the healthcare and social assistance sector is projected to add the most new jobs from 2020-2030.

Gerontology majors can also utilize their understanding of aging to work for changes. This can involve advocating for older adults on a large scale, which may affect communities, states, and countries. It may also include organizing supportive campaigns, petitioning the federal government for funds, or addressing intervention strategies.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in gerontology?

Salaries vary based on the employer, experience level, and location. For example, the BLS reports that social workers earn a median annual wage of $51,760, as of May 2020. However, those who work as healthcare social workers make a median annual salary of $57,630, and those who work for the local government earn $57,660.

Where you work also makes a tremendous difference. For instance, social workers in California earn an annual mean wage of $73,620, while those working in Arkansas see annual mean earnings of $50,590. Social workers in Massachusetts boast some of the highest salaries at $84,540.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's in gerontology?

One of the highest-paying positions for those with a bachelor's in gerontology is health services manager or long-term care administrator. The BLS reports that these professionals who work in nursing and residential care facilities earn a median yearly wage of $89,880, as of May 2020.

Social and community service managers earn a median annual pay of $69,600, with the top 10% making $115,800. Those who work for the government earn a median wage of $87,720 a year. Social service managers who work in the District of Columbia boast a mean yearly wage of $105,560.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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