We’ve done the research and created comprehensive guides to online schools for gerontology. Continue below and dive into the details on gerontology degree programs, tuition and fees, related career outlooks, employable skills and much more.
Nov 17, 2017 | By OnlineColleges Editors
Despite incredible advances in science, the human aging process is still shrouded in mystery. Professionals in the field of gerontology have the task of shedding light upon the cellular aging process, with the hope of finding ways to help humans age more gracefully and with less chronic disease. As the Baby Boomer generation enters their twilight years, the growing number of aging adults has created an increased demand for skilled gerontologists. According to information from the Gerontological Society of America, these professionals are essential in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes and senior citizen centers.
Featured Online Colleges for Gerontology in 2018-19
Working gerontologists who wish to increase their understand of aging-related issues and develop aging-related programs for seniors often need to first earn a master's degree in their field. To help you find the right college for pursuing this goal, we used data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to find 10 noteworthy colleges offering online programs for gerontology.
Visit our methodologies page to learn more about how we use official data to evaluate schools.
Please feel free to make use of our list of 10 featured online colleges for gerontology.
The first star of our featured list — the University of Nebraska at Omaha — offers a Master of Arts in social gerontology degree program that can be completed with or without a thesis. Prospective students in this program must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university and have earned at least a 3.0 grade point average.
The thesis option is oriented towards working professionals who wish to learn more about the research currently going on in the field of gerontology and perhaps to conduct their own research as well.
Meanwhile, the non-thesis option is suitable for professionals who aspire to work with or are currently working with older adults, covering topics such as normal and abnormal age-related changes and the process of designing, implementing and evaluating programs for elders and their families.
This is not the last of this university's gerontology programs, however — not by a long shot. In addition to the M.A. in social gerontology, the university offers a Bachelor's of Science in gerontology; a minor in gerontology; both an undergraduate and a graduate certificate; a PhD program; and even two unique fusion programs: a gerontology certificate with a concentration in interior design, and a dual program in gerontology and law. All told, the University of Nebraska at Omaha has the widest breadth of programs on this list, which is certainly worth recognition.
Just over 1,100 of the University of Louisiana Monroe's 7,778 students in the 2016-2017 academic year were distance learners from outside of the state of Louisiana. That's quite a percentage of students enrolled online, and as the school with the fourth-highest admissions rate on our list, this is a reassuringly accessible school for an aspiring gerontologist looking for an online program.
Prospective students looking to enroll in ULM's online Master of Arts in gerontology program must have earned a bachelor's degree and have at least a minimum GPA of 2.75 in their final 60 hours of undergraduate studies. Furthermore, all students must take the Graduate Record Exam either before graduate enrollment, or within the first semester afterwards. Once enrolled, students are expected to complete a core curriculum and then choose from one of the following concentrations:
Program administration: Focused on the social service needs of the elderly, as well as administrative positions within various social service agencies
Aging studies: Focused on research and policy issues, as well as continuing on to earn a more advanced degree
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
A small private independent institution, McDaniel College was founded in 1867 by a teacher who purchased the land for the institution atop a nearby hill. While it opened its doors with a student body of 37 men and women — making it the first coeducational college south of the Mason-Dixon Line — as of 2017, McDaniel enrolls more than 3,000 students from all over the country and most of the continents of the world. An enormous percentage of those students graduate every year, too; in fact, McDaniel has by far the highest graduation rate of all 10 schools featured on this list.
McDaniel offers a Master of Science in gerontology degree program, as well as a graduate certificate in gerontology program, both available fully online. The M.S. emphasizes hands-on and application-oriented activities as it explores the interrelations between aging, health and social structure and helps students to develop research and/or a teaching portfolio. Meanwhile, the certificate is aimed at helping existing professionals in the senior service sector to improve their existing knowledge and skills. Prospective students must have a bachelor's degree and at least a 2.5 cumulative GPA in undergraduate studies to be considered for admission into the program.
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Home of the Golden Tigers, Brenau University is an institution that respects its online learners. 29 percent of students at Brenau are enrolled in distance education programs, and no shortage of those students are participating in Brenau's Master of Science in applied gerontology program — a most acclaimed program, as Brenau is the first university in Georgia to be granted a chapter of the National Gerontology Academic Honor and Professional Society of Sigma Phi Omega. With these credentials, it's no surprise that Brenau University awarded the highest percentage of gerontology degrees in 2015 out of all the schools featured on this list.
Brenau's interdisciplinary M.S. in applied gerontology degree program requires 30 total credits to complete and includes 18 credit hours of study in the core curriculum and 12 credits in elective coursework. With its focus on applied gerontology, the program at Brenau is not as research-oriented as some other programs; rather, it is designed to provide working professionals with additional skills needed to advance in their current careers. This program also has rolling admissions dates to accommodate different start times for prospective students.
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
Kansas State University has students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries attending via its online K-State Global Campus, which runs on the Canvas system. Being a school that values family, teamwork and community as tenets of the "Wildcat Way," it's only natural that KSIS would value its many online students as highly as it does. Both accessible (boasting the highest acceptance rate of any school on our list without an open admissions policy) and productive (with the third-highest graduation rate of these 10 schools), KSIS has many qualities to recommend it.
Students looking for gerontology may thus wish to consider KSIS's online Master of Science in gerontology, which is offered through the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (Great Plains IDEA). This program focuses on the core competencies identified by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, utilizing graduate faculty and graduate courses from several universities to prepare students for working directly with senior populations. Prospective students must have earned a bachelor's degree with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 in their final 60 credits of undergraduate studies.
Concordia University-Nebraska is a private Lutheran institution founded in 1894. The university offers a Master of Healthcare Administration degree program with a concentration in gerontology, 100 percent online with no residency required. This program focuses on the social aspects, challenges and issues of the rapidly aging population in the U.S. Each of the 12 classes runs for eight weeks, adding up to a total of 36 credits to complete. Students can transfer up to nine credits of qualifying transfer credits into the program.
Concordia University-Nebraska performed quite admirably by our metrics, having the fourth-highest graduation rate and the second-highest percentage of gerontology degrees awarded in 2015 of all 10 schools on the list. All coursework at Concordia University-Nebraska is taught through a Christian ethics framework, the college notes.
As a flexible institution devoted to equality and diversity, National University has over 70 degree programs offered completely online. One of them is the Master of Arts in gerontology, which endeavors to provide students with the educational foundation needed to develop and design services to assist aging populations. Students in the M.A. program typically are mid-level career professionals to desire career and educational advancement. Coursework can be tailored to one of the three following areas:
Working professionals who service the elderly
Scholars and professionals who study and research aging and aging-related issues
Professionals who work for public and private organizations that service the needs of the elderly
National University's master's program in gerontology requires 54 quarter units to complete, including an integrative project consisting of nine quarter credits. Fortunately, National is an approachable school; the university follows an open admissions policy — meaning any applicant who has earned a high school diploma or a GED certificate can be accepted — and also accepts up to 13.5 quarter credits of transferable credits for equivalent graduate-level coursework.
Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
11255 N. Torrey Pines Rd. La Jolla Calif. 92037-1011
Founded in 1915, Webster University serves nearly 17,000 students each year from its flagship campus in St. Louis and additional locations in 59 other U.S. cities and 11 international campuses. Webster University is a prevalent institution, to be sure, and also an institution with a healthy respect for gerontology. In total, Webster University offers the following programs in the field to its students:
A Master of Arts in gerontology
A Master of Business Administration in gerontology
A graduate certificate in gerontology
A graduate certificate in applied gerontology enhancement and specialization
Webster University's M.A. in gerontology program focuses largely on the social, economic and political issues related to the aging population in the U.S., covering topics such as case management, administration, counseling and medical planning. The university appears to teach its students well regardless of their program selection, as it comes in on our list with the second-highest graduation rate of all 10 schools.
Capella University had a total enrollment of more than 38,000 students in March of 2017, and nearly half of all students at Capella were pursuing master's degrees. One of Capella's many master's degree programs is a fully online Master of Science in human services degree program with a specialization in gerontology, offered through the university's School of Public Service Leadership. This program requires 48 total quarter credits to complete, and its coursework can be self-directed or follow a guided path depending on the student's preference. Students are slated to learn the impact of aging on elderly citizens, their families and surrounding communities in order to prepare them for pursuit of a career such as:
Director of nursing
Mental health counselor-aging
Nursing home administrator
Program applicants must have a bachelor's degree and a minimum GPA of 2.3 in undergraduate studies. Students can transfer up to 12 credits of applicable study into the program; this is particularly easy to do with Capella's open admissions policy, which guarantees admission to any applicant who has earned a high school diploma or a GED certificate.
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
225 S. Sixth St., 9th floor Minneapolis, Minn. 55402-3389
The online Master of Arts in gerontology program at Concordia University-Chicago is based on guidelines provided by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education. The degree requires 33 credits to complete, as well as 240 hours of service in practicum experience and a 16-week capstone course where they complete a thesis, applied or analytical project. Coursework includes advanced study of topics in gerontology such as:
Public policy and aging
Aging in literature and film
Sexuality and aging
A particularly special feature of Concordia University-Chicago is their unique 60+ College Program — a non-degree track program for those aged sixty and older that allows participants to audit virtually any course Concordia offers for personal enrichment and the pursuit of special interests. Considering that Concordia ranked No.5 out of these featured schools for graduation rate, taking advantage of this program if you are able would certainly be a wise idea.
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
7400 Augusta St. River Forest Ill. 60305-1499
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Degree Overview: Gerontology
For those who have a passion for helping senior citizens, programs in gerontology can be a good fit. Gerontology coursework is structured to educate students about the unique health and lifestyle issues facing the elderly, including the need for long term care, assistance with daily living and other challenges. But what does this coursework actually consist of, and what skills can you learn by completing it? Answering these questions is the purpose of this section.
Online Gerontology Courses
Gerontology programs have a lot of educational ground to cover in order to prepare their students for service positions in locations as diverse as assisted living facilities, nursing homes, public health programs, senior centers, hospitals, home health care systems and more. Because of this, the topics covered in these programs tend to be the same regardless of the level of the degree program. What changes is the degree of detail the program covers, as well as the amount of control students in the program have over the direction of their studies.
For this reason, undergraduate degree programs in gerontology tend to be quite well-rounded, spreading their focus across mental health, social policy and diversity issues. Students are typically introduced to a broad spectrum of gerontological topics, providing a grounding in the basics of them all rather than drilling down into the specifics of one particular area. Some programs will be dedicated entirely to gerontology, while others may be offered as a concentration of a larger subject, such as health education or human services. Either way, these programs are likely to include courses such as:
Psychosocial Aspects of Aging
Economics of Aging
Long-Term Care Administration
Ethnic Diversity in Aging Societies
Social Policy & Aging
Graduate degree programs in gerontology are much more likely to dig deeper into the particulars of the aforementioned social, behavioral, and policy-driven topics. In fact, some programs at the master's or doctorate level offer the choice to follow a track that focuses on just one aspect of aging. Such tracks may include:
Geriatric Care Management
The Biology of Aging
Following one of these tracks allows a student who is pursuing a specific gerontology career to concentrate their effort on only the topics that are most relevant to their interests. In almost all cases, a large percentage of courses in these tracks — particularly at the PhD level — will be specific to the track's subject. For example, biology-focused programs differ from other graduate programs in gerontology in that they usually include advanced science courses like molecular genetics, biochemistry and neuroscience.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
Students in online gerontology programs should find their programs offering multiple opportunities to hone communication, research and reasoning skills that can help them to be successful in this line of work. These skills include, but are not limited to, the following:
Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Graduates of gerontology programs have probably spent a great deal of time in their courses working with research findings related to biological, psychological and social processes in the context of aging and longevity. The impact of factors such as gender, ethnicity and social class need to be considered when providing services and care; analyzing research on these factors can be crucial for knowing how to address them.
Critical Thinking: Everyone's body is different, and everyone ages differently, resulting in very different experiences and challenges for different clients. The situations a gerontologist is tasked to work with are not all going to be previously documented, or even previously observed. When no guidance exists, these professionals need to don their critical thinking caps to come up with the best solution they can.
Interpersonal Communication: Gerontological work is often quite social. Clients are not mannequins; they have feelings, histories and often families that are going to be involved in their care. Graduates should be able to apply their knowledge and communication skills to work directly with older adults and their families on a personal level, as dictated by their chosen area of practice. Online gerontology programs can teach students the proper service delivery models for the aged, helping students know how to address clients with courtesy and sensitivity.
Moral and Ethical Reasoning: An important aspect of gerontology programs is learning the legal and ethical standards of the field. Gerontology graduates must be both aware of and fully capable of practicing within these parameters. They should recognize how those legal, ethical, and even financial factors can have an effect on retirees' independence, and thus use proper moral judgement when providing care and services.
Gerontology Career Outlook
Provided nobody stumbles across the Fountain of Youth in the next few years, it seems safe to say that our populations will continue to age, which will necessitate continued — and possibly increased — attention to the field of gerontology. If you're interested in this valuable field of study, here are a few of the careers you might find available once you've graduated with your degree.
Projected Job Openings
Projected Job Growth
Doctoral or professional degree
Behind most medical breakthroughs and historic health care achievements there was a team of medical scientists who, through conducting extensive research and evaluating the outcomes, came up with solutions that have revolutionized our modern world. Medical scientists design and conduct studies, perform clinical trials and investigate various disease treatments. Most medical scientists spend their days in laboratories supervising teams of researchers or analyzing data. Those who specialize in gerontology focus their research on the science of aging, unraveling the secrets behind illnesses that primarily affect the older population in an effort to discover treatments that will improve their quality of life.
Projected Job Openings
Projected Job Growth
Although this is a broad term, social scientists analyze some aspect of human behavior, whether it's psychology, anthropology or a number of other disciplines. Social scientists in the gerontology field, however, focus their research on older demographics in an effort to promote the health and well-being of aging populations. They may study socioeconomic trends; public health and long-term care; the psychology of aging; and more. People interested in this wide-ranging field can usually find work both in government and public organizations, as well as in the private sector.
Health Care Social Workers
Projected Job Openings
Projected Job Growth
These professionals play an integral role in helping families with aging loved ones cope with chronic illnesses, diseases, and caregiving issues. Health care social workers are often a lifeline for confused and distraught families, helping them to gain access to medical care. They also provide patient education, advice and moral support. They are sometimes referred to as case managers, care coordinators or patient advocates, but ultimately their title is unimportant. What really matters is how their intervention helps ensure that a patient receives appropriate treatment, while preserving their dignity and removing part of the burden from the caregivers.
Social and Human Service Assistants, BLS, Accessed May 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-and-human-service-assistants.htm#tab-2
Medical Scientists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accessed May 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/medical-scientists.htm#tab-2
Sociologists, BLS, Accessed May 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/sociologists.htm#tab-2
Increased Enrollment, Diversity Continue UNO's Metropolitan University Mission Momentum, Sam Petto 9/9/2016, University of Nebraska Omaha, https://www.unomaha.edu/news/2016/09/increased-enrollment-diversity-continue-unos-metropolitan-university-mission-momentum.php
Master of Arts in Social Gerontology, University of Nebraska Omaha, https://www.unomaha.edu/college-of-public-affairs-and-community-service/gerontology/academics/master-of-arts-in-social-gerontology.php
Master of Arts in Gerontology, University of Louisiana Monroe, http://www.ulm.edu/onlinedegrees/ma_gero.html
Stats, University of Louisiana Monroe, http://www.ulm.edu/admissions/facts.html
Master of Science and Graduate Certificate, McDaniel College, http://www.mcdaniel.edu/graduate/online/gerontology