Students earning an online Masters degree in Gerontology may be looking for ways to improve life for the aging population through research, advocacy, and science. Studies normally focus on issues such as senior housing, aging policy, geriatric psychology, and the biology behind aging. Most importantly, students evaluate how they could make a positive impact on growing numbers of elderly people.
Online Colleges Offering Gerontology Masters Programs
Students may be able to earn a degree from one of many top-ranked gerontology programs. USC gerontology online is one to potentially consider. USC online masters programs in gerontology have a rich history, since USC opened the nation’s first professional school of gerontology in 1975.
The UMass Boston gerontology online program is also worth exploring. The Management in Aging Services program covers the management of long-term care, health, and other essential services for the elderly.
You’ll also find other online gerontology masters programs that are offered in our sponsored listings on this page. You can also search for online gerontology programs at all levels, including certificate, bachelor, and doctorate.
Online Gerontology Master's Degree Overview
An online masters degree in gerontology is typically a program that builds on previous knowledge or experience related to working with the aging. Students may focus on changes in the evolving field of gerontology, as well as ways to improve quality of life for the elderly. They may conduct research to seek answers and potential solutions.
Credit hours required for the degree may vary, but are often in the neighborhood of 33 to 36. Other potential requirements depend on the program, but may include a thesis, a graduate independent study, and even an internship. The thesis or capstone project is typically a research project in an area of scholarly interest to the student. It may be an opportunity both to make use of knowledge gained during the program, and dig deeper into a particular question or problem.
Length of Degree Program
Earning a gerontology masters online may take as few as 18 months in an accelerated program. However, the average masters degree takes at least two years to earn. The program length may depend on whether a student is enrolled part-time or full-time, number of credits transferred, and the length of the school’s academic year. Some programs may have a time limit, such as six years, on how long the student can take to earn the degree.
Gerontology programs may exist in several different areas. A management of aging services degree tends to focus on how best to manage services that involve the elderly, like housing, health, community-based services, and marketing to an aging population. Those interested in more of an interdisciplinary approach may consider an aging studies masters program. This program may cover societal theories of aging, plus topics like health, nutrition, and communication.
What Is the Difference Between Gerontology and Geriatrics?
Gerontology is the general study of aging, while geriatrics specifically refers to the medical care of older adults. So, while gerontology is multidisciplinary and deals with aging across the sciences and humanities, geriatrics only refers to the medical specialty of treating aging adults.
Online masters degree in gerontology programs pertaining to healthcare often include the term “geriatric.” On the other hand, multidisciplinary programs, like a gerontological management studies degree, fall under the header of “gerontology” because they may study aging across multiple areas, from psychology to economics.
However, both gerontology and geriatrics have a shared goal: to better understand aging. Studying one or the other, or both, is important in order to help the elderly improve their quality of life and make plans for the future.
Online Masters Degree in Gerontology
An online Gerontology Master's Degree tends to focus on aging and geriatric research, with the goal of improving quality of life for the elderly in many areas. Students in an online masters degree in gerontology program may study aging from different perspectives, like the clinical or the psychological. Programs may also encourage research in molecular biology, neuroscience, public policy, and other subjects that affect the elderly.
What Classes Will I Take?
Courses you may take include:
- Research Methods in Gerontology
- Theories of Aging
- Biology of Aging
- Law and Ethics of Aging
- Age-Related Disease
More than one potential track may be available, such as gero nursing or geropsychology. Gero nursing pertains to the unique nursing needs of the elderly population, including physical and psychosocial differences. Students in this track may study how gerontological nurses can help elderly patients manage the transition to old age. They may learn to evaluate care plans, assess caregivers, and make recommendations to improve clinical outcomes.
Geropsychology focuses on the challenges of the aging mind. Students may study the unique needs of patients with age-related conditions like dementia. They may learn what normal cognitive aging looks like, as well as how to handle mental and behavioral disorders. This track may emphasize skill areas like case management, caregiver assessment, and communicating care plans to the elderly and their loved ones.
What Are the Admissions Requirements?
Admissions requirements for an online masters degree in gerontology may vary, but you must have earned a minimum of a bachelors degree. Some programs may require a minimum GPA, like 3.0 (B), as well as GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores. Other potential requirements include letters of recommendation, a resume or CV, and a statement of purpose detailing your scholarly interests, reason for pursuing the degree, and career goals.
Online Master of Arts in Aging Studies
An online MA in Aging Studies may be aimed at students with prior experience in a range of disciplines, like:
- Social work
- Nursing Home Administration
- Health Studies
The goal of the program may be for students to transition their current skills and service areas into the field of gerontology. For example, someone with a background in administration might explore how these principles apply to elder health care or living facilities. Students studying aging online may take an interdisciplinary approach, or they may be able to choose a track like social science, public health, or administration.
An MA in aging studies with a concentration in social science may help candidates apply principles of psychology, social work, and other social sciences to the field of gerontology. Students may prepare to work with the aging population in various social settings.
A public health concentration may focus more on healthcare policy and programs. Besides exploring courses like environmental health and biostatistics, students may explore how healthcare challenges and public health initiatives affect the lives of the elderly.
Finally, an administration track may cover areas like nursing home facility operations, personnel management, and more.
Students in an online master of aging studies program may participate in an internship or practicum, to potentially pursue experience in the workforce. They may also be able to work toward potential licensure like Licensed Nursing Home Administrator (LNHA), Social Service Designee, Certified Senior Advisor, and other credentials.
Coursework in this program may depend on the student’s interests and area of concentration. Potential courses include:
- Health and Aging
- Aging Policy
- Nutrition for Older People
- Sexuality and Aging
- Death and Dying
- Health Care Policy and Administration
- Financing Health Care Services
Since an Aging Studies masters program is often interdisciplinary, this degree path may not require your prior education to be in any particular field. However, you may need to have earned a minimum GPA. Applicants may also have to submit an essay or statement, connecting their personal background, interests, and goals with what the degree has to offer.
Master of Science in Management of Aging Services Online
An online MS in Management of Aging Services typically focuses on the development and management of services for the elderly. In other words, it covers the business of delivering services to aging people – like transportation, long-term care, and health services. The program may be aimed at professionals who are already working in a related field, who wish to enhance their knowledge. Or, it may be perfect for those hoping to transition to a new career path that helps older people.
Students may explore elderly services in both the public and private sector. They may learn how to both develop and manage programs that affect the aging population. Gerontological management studies degree candidates may study business concepts like organizational finance and marketing, while also discovering how these topics intersect with the science of aging. For example, students may examine the psychology of aging as it relates to service delivery, or how aging law and policy affects business.
Types of Classes
Available courses in an aging services management masters program may include:
- Research Methods for Managers
- Marketing Aging Services
- Senior Transportation
- Aging Policy and Programming
- Human Resources and Personnel Management
Admissions requirements may vary, but all applicants must have earned an undergraduate degree. Some management of aging services masters programs may require a minimum GPA, as well as letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and other materials.
Master of Gerontological Social Work
An online Master of Gerontological Social Work degree may be a chance to explore how the theories and principles of social work can be applied to a special population: the elderly.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, geriatric social workers help elderly people find services like meals, home healthcare, and assisted living. They help aging clients and their families plan for progressive health concerns or increasing dependency. Students pursuing an online masters in social work may have to pursue more of a general overview in social work, including the history, practices, and policies within the field. However, they may be able to pursue gerontology as a specific career interest.
Courses may include:
- Social Work Research
- Human Diversity and Oppression
- Human Behavior and the Social Environment
- Social Welfare History and Policy
Requirements for Admission
Admissions requirements to pursue a master of gerontological social work will depend on the institution. However, students may need to have earned a liberal arts undergraduate degree that included courses in social and behavioral sciences like psychology, sociology, and other foundational subjects. The program may also require work or volunteer experience that is related to social work.
Students may even need to be able to demonstrate that they are emotionally stable and have a genuine interest in helping people.
Online Master of Geriatric Counseling Degree
Students pursuing a masters in counseling psychology or a related area may have the chance to pursue a concentration in geriatric counseling. An online geriatric counseling degree may focus on the unique psychological needs of the aging. Students may study mental disorders common in older adults, as well as potential treatments and clinical intervention. They may study end-of-life issues, including how to counsel patients, loved ones, and caregivers during this challenging time.
In addition to more general counseling courses, students pursuing a geriatric counseling concentration may study:
- Death and Dying
- Geriatric Counseling
- Biopsychosocial Dimensions of Aging
- And more
Admissions & Other Requirements
While admissions requirements depend on the program and school, you will need to have earned a minimum of a bachelors degree. Among other requirements, some programs may conduct interviews to learn more about you and your goals as a prospective counselor.
Online Geriatric Nurse Practitioner Programs
An online Masters in Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner program focuses on the clinical knowledge needed to pursue primary care for the adult and elderly population. Students may learn how to coordinate and deliver patient care, manage the health and illness of aging clients, and communicate effectively with patients and families. They may also explore nursing leadership, and how best to embody the role of nurse practitioner according to one’s professional philosophy.
An online geriatric nurse practitioner masters program is aimed at those who already have clinical nursing education or experience. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing is typically required, and the program may also favor students who have at least a year of clinical nursing experience.
What Do Classes Look Like?
Courses build on this prior knowledge, while emphasizing the unique needs of geriatric patients. You may study:
- Issues Across the Life Span
- Advanced Pharmacology
- Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
- Clinical Ethics
- Leadership Strategies
- And more
Online or On Campus?
While geriatric nursing masters programs may be offered online, in some cases students may have to visit campus for reasons like clinical orientation, lab experience, or human patient simulation (HPS) experience. That way, students may enjoy the flexibility of online learning while still gaining access to a clinical practice environment.
As mentioned, a BSN is typically required for admissions to a geriatric NP program. Other requirements may include a minimum GPA, as well as transcripts that clearly show the courses you have taken during your college career. Applicants may also need to meet certain technical standards for nursing. These include motor skills, communication abilities, skills of observation, the ability to manage stressful scenarios, and other abilities.
Finally, prospective students in a masters in adult gerontology nurse practitioner program may need to meet clinical compliance standards. These may include immunizations, background checks, drug screenings, required training modules, and more.
Masters in Gerontology Online Courses
Available online courses may depend on the school, the particular degree being pursued, and the student’s track or concentration. However, masters in gerontology online programs may have some overlapping knowledge areas.
Courses you may take include:
Healthy Aging Perspectives – While this potential course may go by other names, its foundations may be part of most gerontology programs. Healthy Aging Perspectives examines the process of aging from a variety of standpoints, like the physical, psychological, social, and economic. The course may also cover how public policy and programs can address the effects of aging.
Ethical Decision Making in Healthcare – This course (or other, similar courses in ethics) may teach students to recognize ethical dilemmas that occur when working with elderly patients, as well as how to reason through these professional challenges and solve the problem. Students may explore the theories and principles behind healthcare ethics.
Biology of Aging – This area of study focuses on age-related processes and mechanisms, as found in the human body. In other words, the course breaks down the natural phenomenon of aging and helps students understand what happens when people grow old.
Death and Dying – Those working in the field of gerontology may help elderly patients plan for and come to terms with death. This course may encourage students to understand the psychological impact of death and dying. It may explore mourning and grief practices, funeral rituals, euthanasia, suicide, and caring for the terminally-ill.
Aging Policy and Programming – A course like this may study policy-making that pertains to the elderly, at the federal or state level. Students may explore issues like health care access, nursing home care, financial security, and other issues impacting the aging population.
Students may find that their coursework is different than what is listed above. In addition, they may have access to many other fascinating courses and electives related to their corner of the gerontology field. It all depends on the online masters degree in gerontology program you pursue.
Gerontology Master Degree Careers Overview
Each online masters degree in gerontology program may be aimed at students with different career goals. It’s important to match your goals to the masters in gerontology online program that seems best suited to what you hope to accomplish. Here are just a few potential career paths that are related to the field of gerontology and may call for a masters degree.
Geriatric Social Worker – These are healthcare social workers who focus on the elderly and their families.i 92% of healthcare social workers earned a masters, and they earned a median salary of $53,760 in 2016.ii
Nursing Home Administrator – These medical and health services managers make sure every aspect of a nursing home runs smoothly. A masters degree is a common requirement.iii In 2016, the median salary for this role was $96,540.iv
Nurse Practitioner – Some NPs focus on adult and geriatric care.v They must earn at least a masters degree, and their 2016 median salary was $107,460.vi
Social and Community Service Manager – Some managers run programs for particular population, like aging adults.vii The median salary in 2016 was $64,680, and 15% said they needed a master’s degree for their current role.viii
Accreditation of Online Masters Degree in Gerontology Programs
Accrediting agencies ensure that a school upholds certain quality standards. Students may find online masters degree in gerontology programs that are accredited by regional organizations like the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), and many others.
Gerontology has only one specialized accreditation council, The Accreditation for Gerontology Education Council (AGEC). However, this organization was only created in 2016, so don’t expect to find many programs with this accreditation, yet!
Finally, some colleges and universities are members of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE). However, AGHE is not an accrediting body, but a membership organization for schools that offer gerontology programs. Over 160 institutions in the United States and the world are members of AGHE.
Earning a Masters in Gerontology Online
These days, many colleges and universities offer online masters degree in gerontology programs, as an alternative to traditional classroom learning. One reason may be that candidates for a masters in gerontology are often working practitioners. Online learning may allow them to enhance their current knowledge while continuing to work.
Every online masters degree in gerontology program may be a bit different in terms of how courses are organized. For example, a program may feature synchronous courses, where students and instructors must meet online at a certain time each week. This makes it possible to experience live lectures, interact with classmates, and ask questions.
Other online masters degree in gerontology programs may offer asynchronous courses. That means students can log on at the time that works best for them. That’s especially important for those with irregular working hours. There are benefits to both, and your choice may depend on your preferences and what your schedule looks like.
While some programs are 100% online, others may also have some in-person requirements. This tends to be true for Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner masters programs, since students may need to demonstrate hard, clinical skills. You may need to take some courses on campus, in addition to your online courses. Students might also be required to visit campus for certain program components, such as a standardized patient lab experience (SPL).
Find an Online Masters Degree in Gerontology Program That’s Perfect for You
Check out our sponsored listings to compare accredited online masters degree in gerontology programs that may be earned online. You’ll find online masters degree in gerontology programs in a variety of concentrations, from gerontological nursing to aging services management.
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[i] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-2 [ii] https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1022.00 [iii] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-4 [iv] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-1 [v] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-2 [vi] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-1 [vii] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/social-and-community-service-managers.htm#tab-2 [viii] https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9151.00