Best Online Master’s in Gerontology Programs of 2021

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by Staff Writers
Published on December 9, 2021
Edited by Darlene Earnest

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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:

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.

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

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:

Application

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.

Test Scores

Some schools request standardized test scores from applicants seeking entry to master's in gerontology programs. Those that do usually ask for GMAT or GRE scores.

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.

Essays

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.

Official Transcripts

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?

Career Outlook

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:

See where you can go with a master's in gerontology. Learn more about gerontology careers.

Career Paths

Gerontology Researcher

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 Worker

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

Geropsychologist

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 Therapist

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.

Continuing Education

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?

Cost

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:

Costs of campus-based and online master's in gerontology programs usually line up with these averages.

Program Format

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

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.

Accreditation

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.

Student Support

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:

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

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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Georgetown University true View School Profile Washington, DC

Georgetown's hybrid master of science in nursing with an adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner specialization requires 40 credits and 600 clinical hours over three intensive experiences. This master's in gerontology program uses live streaming classes and a 3D anatomy tool to provide distance learners with an immersive nursing education. Students treat patients at approved clinical sites near them.

Relevant courses include adult gerontology, anatomy for healthcare professionals, and diagnostic reasoning. Applicants need an RN license and a bachelor of science in nursing with a minimum 3.0 cumulative and science GPA.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost-per-Credit: $2,278/credit
  • Program Length: 23 months
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 40 credits
  • Instruction Style: Synchronous
  • Format: Hybrid
  • School Status: Private
  • Program Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • School Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
George Washington University true View School Profile Washington, DC

GW offers a full-time hybrid master of science in nursing program with an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner specialization. The program requires 650 clinical hours and 1-2 weeks of on-campus requirements in Washington, D.C. These on-campus intensives focus on areas like critical thinking and crisis, suturing and chest tube insertion, and comprehensive critical care management.

All applicants need an accredited bachelor's degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They also need an active, unencumbered RN license.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost-per-Credit: $1,395/credit
  • Program Length: 3 years
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 48 credits
  • Instruction Style: N/A
  • Format: Hybrid
  • School Status: Private
  • Program Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • School Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Stony Brook University true View School Profile Stony Brook, NY

Stony Brook offers an online master's in gerontology that prepares graduates to serve as adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners. Each distance learner must complete clinical requirements at an approved site in their communities. Notable courses include clinical pathophysiology across the lifespan, advanced health assessment, and organizational leadership and role transformation.

Prospective students need a bachelor of science in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They also need a current RN license and at least one year of recent and relevant experience. Applicants without a bachelor's degree in nursing can submit a clinical practice portfolio.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost-per-Credit: $471/credit in-state; $565/credit out-of-state
  • Program Length: N/A
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 45 credits
  • Instruction Style: N/A
  • Format: Hybrid
  • School Status: Public
  • Program Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • School Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
University of Connecticut true View School Profile Storrs, CT

UConn's hybrid adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner master's program requires 700-800 clinical hours and three on-campus intensives. The 45-credit curriculum features a three-part clinical practicum experience, and students can enroll full time or part time. The program is transitioning to a fully online format for both full-time and part-time learners in fall 2022.

Applicants need a bachelor of science in nursing and at least 2,080 hours of RN-level acute care experience within the past two years.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost-per-Credit: $925/credit
  • Program Length: 5-7 semesters
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 45 credits
  • Instruction Style: N/A
  • Format: Hybrid
  • School Status: Public
  • Program Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • School Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
Michigan State University true View School Profile East Lansing, MI

Based in East Lansing, MSU offers a master of science in nursing with an adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialist focus that requires 54 credits over two years. Students complete courses in leadership in complex health systems, health policy and advocacy, and healthcare informatics.

Prospective students must hold a bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited school with a minimum 3.0 GPA, including a minimum 3.0 GPA during their final two undergraduate years. They also need an unencumbered RN license.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost-per-Credit: $45,279 total in-state; $46,629 total out-of-state
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 54 credits
  • Instruction Style: N/A
  • Format: Online
  • School Status: Public
  • Program Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • School Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
University of Louisiana at Monroe View School Profile Monroe, LA

ULM's online master's in gerontology prepares graduates for careers as gerontological clinical nurse leaders. This is the only advanced practice gerontology nursing program in Louisiana. Relevant courses include social gerontology, biology of aging, and patient safety.

Prospective students must hold a bachelor of science in nursing with a minimum 2.8 GPA from an accredited school of nursing. They must also have an unencumbered RN license. Applicants who don't meet the GPA requirement can still earn admission by submitting GRE scores.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost-per-Credit: $366/credit
  • Program Length: 20 months
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 38 credits
  • Instruction Style: N/A
  • Format: Online
  • School Status: Public
  • Program Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • School Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
University of South Carolina View School Profile Columbia, SC

Based in the capital city of Columbia, UofSC's adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner master's program requires 672 clinical hours. All students complete a practicum at an approved healthcare site in their local areas. Relevant courses include management of acute care adult and gerontological health problems.

Admission requirements include a bachelor of science in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA, at least one year (2,400 hours) of relevant nursing experience within the past two years, and an unencumbered RN license. Applicants also need basic life support and advanced cardiovascular life support certification.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost-per-Credit: $573/credit in-state; $1,240/credit out-of-state
  • Program Length: 8 semesters
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 46 credits
  • Instruction Style: N/A
  • Format: Hybrid
  • School Status: Public
  • Program Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • School Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Drexel University View School Profile Philadelphia, PA

Drexel's adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner master's program allows students to find clinical sites and preceptors in their local areas. They can complete all remaining requirements through synchronous and asynchronous online coursework. Nonclinical courses include advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology, and research methods and biostatistics.

Admission requirements include an accredited bachelor of science in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students also need two years of relevant acute care experience and an unrestricted RN license.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost-per-Credit: $1,037/credit
  • Program Length: 3 years
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 57 quarter credits
  • Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous
  • Format: Online
  • School Status: Private
  • Program Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • School Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Seton Hall University View School Profile South Orange, NJ

Based in South Orange, New Jersey, Seton Hall offers a hybrid adult-gerontology nurse practitioner master's program three requires three on-campus immersion experiences:

an orientation, a practicum, and a final practicum. Students can choose between an acute care track (675 clinical hours) and a primary care track (600 clinical hours).

All applicants need an accredited bachelor of science in nursing. Acute care applicants need a minimum 3.2 undergraduate GPA and two years of patient care experience, while primary care applicants need a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and one year of patient care experience.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost-per-Credit: $1,383/credit
  • Program Length: 3-4 years
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 48 credits
  • Instruction Style: Asynchronous
  • Format: Hybrid
  • School Status: Public
  • Program Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • School Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University View School Profile Tallahassee, FL

FAMU's online master's in gerontology program requires two on-campus intensives. Relevant courses in the 42-credit curriculum include primary care for adults across the lifespan, special issues across the adult lifespan, and clinical management of older adults. All students must complete at least 675 clinical hours.

Prospective students need an RN license and a bachelor of science degree from an accredited nursing school with a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA and a minimum 3.0 GPA during their final 60 undergraduate credits. Students who do not meet this threshold can earn admission with a score of 300 on the GRE quantitative and verbal sections.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost-per-Credit: $732/credit
  • Program Length: N/A
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 42 credits
  • Instruction Style: N/A
  • Format: Hybrid
  • School Status: Public
  • Program Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • School Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Gerontology Programs

Is a master's in gerontology worth it? true

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.

What can I do with a master's in gerontology? true

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.

Are gerontology majors in demand? true

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Other median salaries for career paths in gerontology include medical research ($91,510 per year), occupational therapy ($86,280 per year), and psychologist jobs ($82,180 per year).

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