Best Online Master’s in Gerontology Programs of 2021
Published on December 9, 2021 · Updated on April 25, 2022
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Gerontology is the study of aging and its effects. This multidisciplinary field combines elements of physiology, psychology, health science, sociology, and public policy. A master's in gerontology program can help career-minded learners gain the knowledge and tools to enhance the quality of life for older adults.
An online master's in gerontology program can offer students an efficient, convenient way to earn advanced credentials in this important scientific field. Demographic trends suggest impending increases in demand for gerontologists. Between 2020 and 2040, the number of U.S. adults over age 65 is expected to rise from 54 million-80 million.
According to Payscale, professionals with a master's in gerontology earn an average base salary of $76,000 per year, as of October 2021. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups gerontology researchers in its "medical scientists" category. The BLS projects 17% employment growth for this labor market segment between 2020 and 2030.
This guide explains what to expect from gerontology programs offered at top online schools.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Gerontology Program?
A master's in gerontology usually consists of about 36-44 credits. Schools typically structure their full-time programs to lead to graduation in about two academic years. Part-time learners may need 3-4 calendar years to complete the program.
Master's programs in gerontology lead to various degree designations. Understanding the distinctions between these designations can help prospective students choose their educational paths. Common designations include the master of science (MS), master of public health (MPH), and master of arts (MA).
MS programs focus on scientific and data-driven approaches to the theory and practice of gerontology. Specialized MPH programs in gerontology apply these science-informed perspectives to public policy development. MA programs focus more on the field's qualitative elements, especially as they apply to interpersonal interactions.
Some schools offer specialized programs that target highly focused gerontological practice areas. These may appeal to students with particular academic interests or career goals. Examples of these specializations include:
- Geriatric Care Management
- Medical Physiology
Many programs also require applied practice experiences, field studies, or internships. Degree-seekers must complete these components in person. Keep this in mind as you prepare for graduate school if you decide to pursue an online master's in gerontology.
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Popular Online Master's in Gerontology Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Gerontology Program?
Physiology of Aging
This required course delivers a focused study of the physiological changes that take place as the human body ages. It covers both normal and dysfunctional physiological changes across all major bodily systems.
Psychology of Aging
This course examines the psychology of aging through social, perceptual, interpersonal, cognitive, and personality-based perspectives. Many programs require this course, usually during the first or second semester.
Comparative Studies in Healthcare Delivery
In this course, students learn about the ways in which healthcare systems engage older adults. Potential topics include continuity of care, government policy, and economic considerations. Schools typically include this as an optional course in MS or MPH programs.
Applied Health Policy and Aging
MPH and MA programs in gerontology typically offer this as an upper-semester elective. Learners explore points of contact between health policy and social access, healthcare delivery, and quality of life in older adults.
Health Psychology Across the Human Lifespan
As people age, their behaviors and perspectives on healthcare often change. This course examines the typical course of changing perspectives and how they impact people entering and proceeding through old age.
What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Gerontology Program?
Schools set graduate admission requirements internally. So standards vary from one institution to the next. Requirements also depend on the program's focus and degree designation.
However, similar or identical standards usually apply to both campus-based and online master's in gerontology programs.
Some master's in gerontology programs prefer applicants with bachelor's degrees in a related field. Examples include health sciences, psychology, sociology, and public policy. Others only require a four-year bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.
In some cases, officials will request that candidates participate in an interview as part of the admissions process. Other common application materials include:
The admissions process typically includes a general institutional application to the school hosting the program. This document provides admissions officials with an overall profile of your personal and academic background. It also gives you an opportunity to highlight any relevant awards or achievements that can strengthen your application.
Letters of Recommendation
Graduate programs in many fields including gerontology frequently request that students submit 2-3 letters of recommendation. These should come from individuals familiar with the applicant's academic abilities and professional potential.
Resume and Work Experience
Gerontology programs sometimes prompt students to submit resumes and CVs that document their employment backgrounds. They may prefer applicants whose personal histories demonstrate an interest in caring for older adults. However, extensive gerontology-related work experience is rarely required for admission.
Admission essays give applicants the opportunity to explain their strengths and their reasons for seeking entry into a program. The most effective grad essays tell a compelling story about your background and how your educational goals reflect your larger plans.
Applicants to a master's in gerontology program must also submit official academic transcripts from all previously attended institutions and college transfers. Graduate schools rarely request high school transcripts. Instead, they will review your academic performance in previous degree programs.
Some schools offer advanced standing placements to applicants with graduate-level coursework in relevant subject areas.
What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Gerontology Degree?
The U.S. Census Bureau projects that adults over age 65 will outnumber children in the United States by the mid-2030s. Experts believe this demographic trend will trigger a surge in demand for caregivers and gerontology professionals. Others note that the elder care system needs major policy reform, creating further opportunity for gerontologists.
A master's in gerontology may open doors to careers in medical research, therapy and rehabilitation, and social work. Some graduates become sociologists or psychologists specializing in elder care. Others enter government, where they become policy analysts and policy advisors.
Earning potential depends on your career path. The BLS cited the following median salaries for gerontology-related jobs as of May 2020:
- $91,510 per year for medical scientists
- $51,760 per year for social workers
- $82,180 per year for psychologists
- $104,280 per year for medical and health services managers
- $86,110 per year for sociologists
See where you can go with a master's in gerontology. Learn more about gerontology careers.
Gerontology researchers conduct studies into the physical and psychological effects of aging. Their work provides a foundation for policy reforms and medical breakthroughs with high-impact potential.
The BLS includes gerontology researchers within its broader "medical scientists" category. It projects very strong employment growth of 17% for these professionals between 2020 and 2030.
Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $91,510
Social workers play a crucial frontline role in improving the lives of older adults. They advocate on behalf of vulnerable populations and help resolve interpersonal conflicts and disputes.
Older adults may interact with a specialized class of social workers known as clinical social workers. These professionals have advanced training and work in institutional settings. They also require state-level licensure.
Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $51,760
Geropsychologists are licensed specialists who help older adults and their loved ones prepare for, meet, and overcome age-related biopsychosocial challenges. They assist with issues related to mental disorders, dementia, behavioral health, cognitive and emotional changes, and grief, among others.
Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $82,180
Occupational therapists help older patients recover or preserve their mobility, daily living skills, and ability to perform everyday activities. All U.S. states require occupational therapists to hold special licenses.
Some gerontology programs offer concentrations in occupational therapy. In other cases, occupational therapy programs feature gerontology specializations. Investigate both options if this career path interests you.
Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $86,280
Care Facility Administrator
A master's in gerontology may open doors to careers in long-term care facility management and administration. Candidates may ascend to upper management roles after acquiring multiple years of experience in lower-level administrative positions. Adding an MBA in healthcare administration could boost your prospects.
Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $104,280
Gerontology Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.
A master's in gerontology can provide a sound educational base from which to launch a career in the field. However, you may prefer or require additional education depending on your specific professional aspirations.
For instance, those planning to become psychologists or medical researchers may benefit from pursuing doctoral gerontology studies. Examples of relevant doctoral programs include healthcare management, occupational therapy, family counseling, and gerontological psychology.
Clinical social workers must also complete additional training to secure their licenses. In other cases, an optional advanced degree like an MBA can help elevate your advancement prospects.
How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Gerontology Program?
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) tracks trends affecting higher education costs in the United States. NCES data for the 2019-20 school year reports the following average tuition and required fees for U.S. graduate schools:
- $12,410 per year at public institutions
- $14,289 per year at for-profit private institutions
- $28,430 per year at nonprofit private institutions
Costs of campus-based and online master's in gerontology programs usually line up with these averages.
Some format models are similar for both campus-based and online learning. These include full-time and part-time enrollment. Accelerated programs for qualified learners who already hold advanced degrees are also available for both.
Other models apply only to online delivery formats. For example, the distinction between synchronous and asynchronous learning is unique to online programs.
Consider your learning style, personal situation, and graduation timeline preferences as you weigh your options.
Location can affect both campus-based and online learning in different ways. On-campus learners generally pay less to study locally or attend a public college as an in-state student. Online learning opens up a wider range of school options, but remember that in-person attendance requirements may apply.
Some online programs require students to participate in a limited number of campus-based learning activities. In gerontology programs, they can also include field learning components that students must complete in person. You will need a plan to meet these requirements if you enroll in an online program at an institution far from your home.
Students should only consider programs based at nationally or regionally accredited schools. Higher standards apply to regional accreditation. Thus, it holds preferred standing.
Some master's in gerontology programs also feature optional programmatic accreditation. Endorsements from specialized agencies like the Accreditation for Gerontology Education Council can signal exceptional academic quality.
Learners in both campus-based and online master's in gerontology programs qualify for departmental and institutional student support services. Depending on the school, these may include:
- Peer mentorship programs
- Academic support, counseling, and inclusion services
- Specialized support for online learners
- Internship opportunities
- Career and job search services
Schools sometimes extend certain services to alumni after they graduate. Research available support services and their access terms carefully if you think you might use them during your studies.
2021 Best Accredited Online Master's in Gerontology Programs
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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Gerontology Programs
The rapidly aging U.S. population appears poised to add tens of millions of older adults to the nation's demographics in the coming years. This signals the likelihood of strong, sustained opportunities for professionals in fields like gerontology. Investing in a gerontology degree could pay dividends for many years.
The BLS also tracks typical earnings by degree level. Workers with a master's degree can typically earn more than someone with only a bachelor's. This can represent hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra income over the course of a 20-year career.
A master's in gerontology may open doors to multiple career paths related to caring for older adults. Graduates work in medical, psychological, and sociological research. They can also launch careers in institutional administration and a variety of frontline, patient-facing roles.
Additional training and licensure can help lead to even more career opportunities. Examples include physical and occupational therapy, counseling and psychology, clinical social work, and more. Professionals with advanced gerontology degrees can also help improve older adults' lives by working in policymaking.
Careers in elder care are sometimes characterized as "recession-proof." This means they enjoy strong, constant demand regardless of prevailing economic conditions. Older adults are a permanent fixture in society. Those uniquely qualified to meet their care needs can have access to a stable and potentially lucrative employment market.
Gerontology majors also seem likely to benefit from rising demand in the years and decades ahead. Analysts project the U.S. population of people over age 65 will soar to an estimated 80 million by 2040.
Payscale data indicates that professionals with a master of science degree in gerontology earn an average base salary of $76,000, as of October 2021. Those working in gerontology-related careers may earn less or more than this average.
Many factors play a role in determining earnings. Key examples include experience level, responsibility level, and local labor market conditions.
Also, consider job location. Major metro cities consistently rank among the highest-paying destinations in the United States.
According to the BLS, medical and health services managers rank among the highest-paying professions open to those with a gerontology master's. These jobs paid a median salary of $104,280 per year, as of May 2020. However, remember that it can take years of experience in supporting roles to reach this earning level.
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