Online Master of Gerontology
in_context_title In Context

By 2030, more than 20% of US residents are projected to be aged 65 and over, compared with 13% in 2010 and 9.8% in 1970. Policy makers and programs will need to address the challenges this demographic change will bring to everyday life, including processes for Social Security and Medicare. Families, businesses, and health care providers will also be affected. [1]

The study and practice of gerontology will be essential in addressing these issues. The master’s in gerontology addresses a range of pertinent topics, including insights into how people change as they age and the impact that has on society. Graduates emerge capable of applying skills to plan and manage effective policies and programs for this underserved patient population.

Why earn a Master of Gerontology?

Earning a Master of Gerontology sets you up to fill a critical void in two growing sectors. In 2015, health care and social assistance industries added jobs at their fastest rates since 2001 and outpaced employment growth in all private sector industries. [11] Completing your master’s in gerontology can lead to career paths in research, clinical, and management fields.

It also offers a robust salary potential, since the five top-paying roles in services for the elderly and persons with disabilities (as listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) require a bachelor’s degree, and prefer a graduate degree. [12]

To help graduates remain competitive, master’s in gerontology programs are typically designed to include a practicum, which can help introduce career changers to the practical demands of the job.

What is a Master of Gerontology?

A master’s degree program in gerontology should provide students the skills and knowledge they need for roles as directors, managers, and administrators of elderly services. A program should also explore how to conduct research and perspectives on psychology, sociology, and physiology and how these factors impact the aging process.

From a practical viewpoint, courses will also consider community and government initiatives that promote positive health and well-being in the elderly population. This may include how competent existing health care and social service organizations currently are, and how they implement social policies. Other topics on the standard syllabus include the influence culture, ethnicity, and gender has on aging. Students should expect a research-intensive program which encompasses a range of transferable skills, such as finance and marketing, gerontechnology, health promotion, and dementia care.

Who might choose to earn a Master of Gerontology?

According to recent data, women receive 86% of gerontology degrees, [5] and 52% of them are master’s degrees. Professionals working in this field call themselves gerontologists and come from a wide range of academic and vocational backgrounds including nursing, social work, public health, sociology, psychology, public policy, social sciences and economics. [3] It’s estimated that one in four gerontologists holds a master’s degree. [6]

What are key attributes of gerontologists?

Ideal candidates for a Master of Gerontology exhibit these qualities:

  • Skilled at organizing and interpreting information
  • Hold the aging process in serious regard
  • Interested in the biological, psychological, social, health, and economic aspects of aging
  • Driven to improve the health and well-being of the elderly
  • Dedication to developing and managing innovative programs that serve older people
Why is the Master of Gerontology important?
  • The industry is expanding.
    Due to a growing elderly population, students who earn a master’s in gerontology can position themselves to advance in a fast-growing industry. [7]
  • Specialist knowledge is in demand.
    The study of aging is a multidisciplinary field covering biology, sociology, psychology, public policy, humanities, and economics. A master’s in gerontology offers knowledge that can be applied to many industries. Students can tailor their programs to meet their career goals. [8]
  • You can make a difference.
    Gerontologists are committed to the care and well-being of the elderly. They develop an advanced understanding of the physical and mental demands of aging in order to improve the daily lives of an increasingly overlooked patient base. [9]
Master of Science in Gerontology Career Advancement

There are abundant job opportunities in the field of gerontology. These fall broadly into administrative roles (such as urban planners), financial and legal services (such as retirement planners), fitness professionals (such as physical therapists), and more.

These professionals also often work with elderly clients alongside those in the housing sector, such as retirement housing professionals, advocates, personal trainers, travel agents, and employment specialists. [14] Courses in the program accommodate this range and typically cover a broad combination of topics within policy development, human resources, administration, and health services. Specialized parts of the syllabus might include services such as counseling, medical services, and financial planning.

Due to the sector’s broad scope, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) suggests college-level gerontology programs look to the following learning outcomes for students: [15]

  • Frameworks for understanding human aging
  • Biological aspects of aging
  • Psychological aspects of aging
  • Social aspects of aging
  • The humanities and aging
  • Research and critical thinking
  • Attitudes and perspectives
  • Ethics and professional standards
  • Communication with and on behalf of older persons
  • Interdisciplinary and community collaboration
  • What are potential career outcomes?
    Jobs for gerontology professionals fall into three main categories: practitioners, administrators, and researchers.As practitioners, most professionals hold bachelor’s degrees, earn clinical certification/licensing and work directly with patients in roles such as:

    • Nurse practitioners (median salary of $104,740) [31]
    • Psychologists (median salary of $72,580) [32]
    • Physical therapists (median salary of $84,020) [33]

    As administrators, gerontologists are responsible for planning, developing, administering, and evaluating programs that address the needs of older adults. Some of these roles are available to those with bachelor’s or associate degrees. Residential care management will usually require state licensing. Positions in this area may include:

  • Social and community service managers (median salary of $63,530) [34]
  • Financial managers (median salary of $109,310)
  • Sales managers (median salary of $86,420) [35]

As researchers, professionals studying gerontology look for ways to improve the quality of life and well-being of older persons. Roles in this field may include:

  • Medical scientists (median salary of $82,240) [36]
  • Postsecondary teachers (median salary of $72,470) [37]
  • What is the career outlook for gerontology?
    The AGHE expects the rapid growth of populations over 65 to expand career opportunities for gerontology professionals in many disciplines. This includes recruitment for practitioners that offer daily care, social workers in assisted and senior living communities, and other professionals with applicable skills in nursing homes, hospices, and long-term care facilities.The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment of medical and health service managers will grow by 17%, faster than the national average for all jobs over the period from 2014 to 2024. [29] Social workers should also see faster-than-average job growth over the same period, at 12%. [30]
  • How does my level of gerontology education impact my career?
    • An associate’s degree in a field related to aging allows you to access entry-level positions such as a nursing aide or program coordinator.
    • A bachelor’s degree in gerontology qualifies you for entry and mid-level positions such as a case manager or home administrator (with additional licensing). You could also find a post as a gerontology research assistant.
    • A master’s degree in gerontology allows you to move into a variety of mid- and senior-level positions in applied, administrative, and academic gerontology. These could include researcher positions, program planners, and care managers.
  • Where can I practice with a Master of Gerontology?
    Graduates with an advanced gerontological degree are equipped to take on management positions in offices and organizations that provide direct or indirect support and care for aging populations. Potential job settings include: [46]
  • Community organizations
  • Retirement communities
  • Nonprofit agencies
  • Social services offices
  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Hospices
  • Government agencies
  • Home health care facilities.

They may also move into extended research on the issues that emerge from this area.

Some graduates will take the Nursing Home Administrators Licensing Examination or the Residential Care/Assisted Living Administrators Licensing Examination and become licensed administrators of social housing facilities. [10]

Students with an interest in extended study or teaching at institutes of higher education can apply to a doctoral degree program in gerontology.

Gerontological roles vary according to whether you work as a practitioner, an administrator, or a researcher.

  • Practitioners work directly with the elderly to assist them with everyday life. Their clients may be persons with mobility, speech, or budgeting issues and they may require support in administering medication, nutrition, or learning. Practitioners may be nurses, social workers, psychologists, or doctors.
  • Administrators in this field are responsible for planning, developing, administering, and evaluating programs for the elderly. They work to make sure services are effective, cost efficient, and meet the needs of older adults.
  • Gerontology researchers study aging in general and will not usually work directly with older adults. Their studies help to increase our understanding of the aging process. Research gerontologists may also teach in a college or university setting.
Master of Science in Gerontology Curriculum Overview

Core courses in a master’s in gerontology program often cover the biology, psychology, and sociology of aging. These courses will usually comprise 12 hours of a typical 36-hour program. Students may also choose elective courses to further specialize their degree, in subjects such as family relationships, economics, recreation, or death and dying. Most programs also require a practicum or other field experience component.
Do Master of Gerontology programs require a capstone project?
Yes, an online gerontology master’s degree will require a thesis or capstone project. This will bring together the theory and skills-based knowledge students have been developing during the program. Graduate programs most often design capstone projects to stretch over one semester.

What electives can I take?
The AGHE suggests additional studies in the following areas for those seeking a career in gerontology: [22]

  • Well-being, health, and mental health
  • Social health
  • Program/service development
  • Education
  • Arts and humanities
  • Business and finance
  • Policy
  • Research, application, and evaluation
Master of Science in Gerontology Program Length

The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.

Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.

You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.

How Long Does It Take to Complete My Master of Gerontology Program?
If you are going to study full-time, then you should expect it will take approximately two years for you to graduate with a Master of Gerontology. To graduate you will need to have completed somewhere around 30 to 50 credit hours.

Master of Science in Gerontology Admission Requirements

While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.

Will my Master of Gerontology require prior work experience?
Due to the broad spectrums of careers available in gerontology, many programs do not require specific work experience in order to qualify for admission.

However, experience working with aging adults is the best way to identify gerontology as the right career path for you. Students with experience and an affinity for assisting, treating, or advocating for older adults are more likely to enjoy long-term career satisfaction.

No work experience is required to enter a master’s degree in gerontology.

Are there any prerequisite courses for my Master of Gerontology program?
Some master’s programs require applicants to complete undergraduate coursework in foundational topics related to gerontology. Inquire with your program’s admissions office to learn what prerequisites you will need to qualify for admissions.

Master of Science in Gerontology Alternative Degrees/Fields of Study

Undertaking your master’s degree is a big commitment, both academically and financially. It’s important to do your research to make sure your educational plan is a good match for your desired outcome.

The following master’s degrees touch on the same topics and learning outcomes as the Master of Gerontology, but they offer a different focus or specialization. As you do your research, consider learning more about these degrees to see whether they might be a better fit for your goals and interests.

  • A Master of Social Work can provide a path to working with the elderly population in a variety of clinical or support roles. The degree is focused more on providing support services for people to access resources.
  • A Master of Counseling can give students an understanding of behavioral theories and how these theories are applied to practice. This program often offers knowledge and practice in clinical skills and treatment. Students work in the field to get on-the-job experience. Graduates can find jobs within health clinics, mental health centers, hospitals, and private practice.
  • A nursing master’s program to qualify as an adult geriatric nurse practitioner (AGNP) is designed to prepare registered nurses to deliver a range of acute, chronic, and preventive health care services.
  • A Master of Science in Nursing with a Family Nurse Practitioner concentration can give you the skills to treat people of all ages throughout the lifespan.
Master of Science in Gerontology Accreditation Overview

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.

Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

Specialized accreditation
The varied nature of gerontology roles means that a single body offering accreditation is a difficult concept. However, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) brings together colleges and universities that offer programs in the field of aging and is the most recognized form of accreditation for gerontology programs.

The AGHE’s Program of Merit provides a seal of approval for degree programs run by member and non-member institutions if they complete a voluntary program of evaluation. This will require them to provide evidence of program quality and appropriate learning outcomes. [44]

Master of Science in Gerontology Certification/Licensure Overview

Certification requirements may vary depending on your field or the state in which you practice. In order to obtain certification/licensure in your specific field, you will need to earn either a bachelor’s or master’s degree and then pass an exam conducted by an organization relevant to your field.

Why get licensed or obtain certification?
The National Association for Professional Gerontologists gives credentials to those who can demonstrate that they possess a core body of gerontological knowledge. This will include a broad background in the social, psychological, and physical/biological aspects of aging as well as an in-depth awareness of the practical concepts behind working with older adults. To qualify for these credentials, applicants must evidence their successful study in the field of gerontology and pass a qualifying exam. [26]

Gerontologist jobs don’t always require licensure or certification, as some professionals work in diverse roles such as research or policy, where they do not interact with patient populations. However, professionals who plan to practice medicine, administer drugs, or perform other clinical functions (such as therapists) should follow the requirements for their particular profession. Each state has its own rules, but eligibility to practice usually requires a degree from an accredited medical school, passing a standardized national licensure exam, and completing a residency.

Students that wish to take the NHA Examination for Nursing Home Administrators or Residential Care will need to sit the NAB Examination as a requirement for licensure. [27] This focuses on resident-centered care and quality of life, human resources, finance, environment, and leadership and management. A Master of Gerontology program can prepare you for your licensure examination.

History of the Master of Gerontology

The first serious efforts to put in place effective services for elderly populations came with the Social Security Act in 1935 and, later, the Older Americans Act in 1965. This created the “formal aging network,” a hierarchical system that includes the Administration on Aging (AoA) at multiple levels of government. [12]

Each time the OOA is reauthorized, new programs and services that meet the newly assessed needs of older adults are added. To meet the need for knowledge that drives these developments, more than 500 institutions of higher education have offered majors and degrees in gerontology in the last decade. [13]

Tuition and Fees Overview

There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.

For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Gerontology is the study of the aging process, including physical, mental, social, and spiritual changes. [47] Gerontologists work across many industries to provide health care, social, and other services to the aging population.

The population of people 65 and older is projected to more than double from 2000 to 2030. This has created a huge need for workers in the field of gerontology. [48] The study of aging includes fields such as biology, sociology, psychology, public policy, humanities, and economics. Gerontology degrees and the knowledge gained can be applied to many industries and career fields. [49]

Gerontology is a multidisciplinary program that can be tailored to fit the student’s interests and career goals. Programs cover biology, sociology, psychology, public policy, humanities, and economics. [49]

Master’s in gerontology programs appeal to a wide variety of students since the field covers many industries. Students can use the degree to work in health, finance, travel, wellness, and many other areas. Primary audiences are those who have an interest in serving an aging population. [50]

Whether you will need to complete the GRE prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen. There are many programs that do not require a GRE. Check the admissions requirements for your school before applying.

No. This degree will appeal to those from a wide background and can be tailored to the student’s interests. Skills gained can be applied to health care, banking, insurance, social work and other industries.

Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students who may be working around a busy work schedule or home life. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees.

Yes. Many institutions offer Master of Gerontology degrees online.

Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.

No — attaining management/senior positions is not guaranteed through the completion of a master’s degree. These positions often require many years of experience and a significant level of career achievement. However, an advanced degree can help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for these positions and also prove your dedication to the field.

Graduates from gerontology programs have been known to pursue careers in health care, social work, financial planning, career planning, the travel industry, human resources, nursing home management and others. [51]

The population of people 65 and older is projected to more than double from 2000 to 2030. This has created a huge need for workers in the field of gerontology. [2] Aside from the growing older population, the ability to apply skills from these programs to multiple industries gives graduates ample career opportunities.

Accreditations are a strong indication of quality, but are also required for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.

SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses. [52]

Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. [52]

Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.

The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It supplies college-level or career school students with loans, grants, and work-study funds. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA. [53]

There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded.