Online Master’s Programs in Gerontology

ASO Staff Writers
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Updated June 5, 2023
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All baby boomers, the population born between 1944-1965, will reach the age of 65 or older by 2030, outnumbering people under the age of 18 for the first time in U.S. history. This demographic shift fuels the demand for skilled professionals in the field of aging. Earning a campus-based or online gerontology master’s degree provides the specialized training needed to enter a variety of rewarding careers helping the elderly and their families meet the challenges that accompany the aging process.

This page presents an overview of online gerontology master’s degree programs. Students can learn about curriculum and graduation requirements, financial aid opportunities, professional resources, and career and salary potential.

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What to Know About Online Master’s in Gerontology Coursework

Students who enter a master’s in gerontology online program learn about the unique issues that confront aging populations. They also learn how to deliver and manage healthcare and social services for these populations and about ways to advocate for their needs.

An online gerontology master’s degree equips students with the specialized knowledge and applied skills to work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and social work agencies. Gerontology master’s programs typically require 30-36 credits. Distance learners usually complete a master’s program in two years, although some schools offer accelerated formats that enable students to finish degree requirements in 12-18 months.

Master’s in gerontology online programs use the same curricula as campus-based options and lead to the same career opportunities. Web-based formats offer more flexibility than brick-and-mortar programs, especially for students balancing work or childcare responsibilities with their studies.

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master’s in Gerontology Program?

While course requirements vary by school, almost all programs offer an interdisciplinary curriculum that examines the connections among the physical, psychological, social, and cultural aspects of aging. Some of the best online gerontology master’s degrees design their programs to meet or exceed the competencies developed by the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education. Below are common courses found in online gerontology master’s programs.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Almost all master’s in gerontology online programs require students to complete a research project or practical experience, such as an internship or practicum. An increasing number of schools feature a capstone project or thesis. A master’s thesis requires original, independent research related to a research question conducted under the supervision of a faculty advisor. Students must present their research in a written report.

Many online programs include culminating capstone courses that typically require students to prepare a written or oral project for presentation. Capstones differ by program, but they all require learners to apply what they learned in coursework to a gerontology issue or problem.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master’s in Gerontology Program?

Before enrolling in an online gerontology master’s degree, make sure that the school you choose holds regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation, conferred by one of six independent regional agencies, ensures the quality of curricula, student services, faculty reputation, and financial viability. Most degree-granting institutions hold or seek regional accreditation. Technical, vocational, and for-profit schools usually seek national accreditation. Accreditation expands employment, education, and financial aid opportunities.

Some academic programs also qualify for specialized accreditation. The Accreditation for Gerontology Education Council (AGEC) awards the only programmatic accreditation for gerontology. While AGEC accreditation provides a highly respected credential for gerontology education, relatively few master’s programs hold this designation. If the graduate program that interests you does not hold AGEC accreditation, make sure that the school is regionally accredited by one of the independent accrediting organizations recognized by the U.S Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Career Opportunities With a Master’s in Gerontology Degree

The aging baby boomer generation fuels the demand for healthcare providers, geriatric social workers, and other professionals who provide services for the elderly. By 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for social and community service managers to grow by 18% and social workers by 16%.

Career Profiles

Medical and Health Services Managers

Healthcare administrators oversee medical and health services and coordinate patient care in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other medical facilities. They supervise staff members, collaborate with insurance carriers and vendors, and ensure compliance with laws and regulations. Most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree, but employers increasingly prefer to hire managers with a master’s.

Epidemiologists

These public health professionals plan and direct studies that identify patterns and causes of disease and injury. They work with healthcare providers, policymakers, and the public to develop programs that reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes. Epidemiologists need a master’s degree in fields that provide training in public health, biological and physical science, and research methodology.

Social and Community Service Managers

These professionals work in social service agencies and community organizations, identifying program needs and services in collaboration with stakeholders. They assess the effectiveness of programs, write grant proposals to fund special projects, and develop outreach activities that serve the needs of targeted demographic groups, such as older adults or veterans.

Social Workers

The demand for social workers continues to expand across specializations and settings, including healthcare facilities and private practice. While a bachelor’s degree in social work or a related field provides the minimum educational credential for many entry-level positions, clinical social workers who provide individual and group therapy need a master’s degree.

Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitative counselors provide counseling and develop treatment plans to help people with physical, mental, and developmental disabilities find employment or live independently. Employers generally require a master’s in rehabilitation counseling or a related field. Some positions require a state license or certification in specialized areas, such as geriatric counseling and grief management.

What’s the Expected Job Growth for Gerontology Careers?

The growing aging population will expand career opportunities for gerontology professionals such as healthcare specialists, educators, researchers, and counselors. Opportunities will also increase for business and marketing professionals who specialize in older consumers. The BLS projects job growth rates significantly higher than the national average for gerontologists in healthcare, social services, and counseling positions.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Gerontology

Graduate students who join a professional association in gerontology learn about industry trends, legislation, and new research while building networks with other professionals. Student members can often take advantage of discounted membership rates that give them access to scholarship opportunities, internship programs, and career services and job banks. This list provides links to prominent professional organizations in geriatrics and gerontology.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Gerontology Degree

An online gerontology master’s degree is a considerable investment. While many students rely on federal or private loans to pay for their degree, you should also investigate other sources of aid. Grants and scholarships, unlike federal or private loans, do not require repayment. Many graduate programs also offer fellowships and work-study grants to help defray tuition costs.

Federal Financial Assistance

All students should begin their financial aid search by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines eligibility for federal aid, including low-interest direct unsubsidized loans and direct PLUS loans. Many schools require that students complete the FAFSA for grants, scholarships, and work-study programs.

American College of Medical Practice Executives Harry J. Harwick Scholarship

Applicants for this $3,000 scholarship must be enrolled in a U.S. college or university that offers undergraduate or graduate programs in medical practice management, including public health, business administration, and healthcare administration. Applicants must submit a letter outlining career goals, a resume, and three letters of recommendation.

Sigma Kappa Foundation Alzheimer’s/Gerontology Scholarship Award

The Sigma Kappa Foundation offers this annual scholarship to promote the continued study of gerontology and confront the critical problems facing older Americans. Applicants must be upper-division undergraduate or graduate students with a minimum 3.0 focused on gerontology at an accredited U.S. institution. Students must submit two letters of recommendation, including one from a Sigma Kappa advisor, board supervisor, or district director.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Educational Advancement Foundation Scholarship

This foundation provides merit-based and financial need scholarships to advance education in gerontology, geriatric health, and human services. Applicants must be full-time students in an accredited graduate program and demonstrate a record of community service and involvement.

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