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.
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.
- Common Courses
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.
- Psychosocial Aspects of Aging: This course analyzes the connections between the sociological forces and psychological challenges that accompany the aging process. Students examine age-related psychological changes and psychopathologies, as well as the psychological and social dynamics between caregivers and older adults. Coursework also explores issues such as elder abuse, ageism, retirement, sexuality, and societal attitudes toward death and dying.
- Aging in a Diverse Society: This course examines patterns of diversity in aging populations, focusing on race, ethnicity, social class, and gender. Coursework presents research on different attitudes and social perceptions about aging, demographic shifts, health and life expectancy variations, and cohort differentials. Students learn how to apply cultural competencies in diverse social service and healthcare settings.
- Geriatric Pharmacology: Gerontologists working in healthcare and human services must learn about common medical and psychological conditions related to the aging process, such as diabetes, heart disease, memory loss, and depression -- as well as pharmacological treatments. This course introduces students to medications prescribed for the most common age-related conditions, drug interactions, and other risks. A special focus covers the spiraling costs of medications.
- Long-Term Care Administration and Policy Analysis: Designed for students interested in administrative careers in public and private settings, this course examines the ways that healthcare, social services, and government agencies deliver services to aging populations. The course also explores both the economic, social, and political forces that influence public policy on aging and the delivery of institutional and community-based long-term care for older adults.
- Research Methodology in Gerontology: This course focuses on both the application of social scientific research methods in the study of aging and the use of qualitative and quantitative tools in data collection and analysis. Students compare and evaluate research methods commonly used by administrators and policy analysts, including experimental and descriptive research models, needs assessments, and program evaluation.
What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Gerontology Program?
- Long-term Care Administration: Coursework in this specialization presents the major organizational and management models for long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, and retirement communities. Courses also cover program assessment, organizational behavior and leadership, government healthcare regulations, and financial and managerial accounting.
- Geriatric Social Service and Advocacy: This specialization equips students with the methods and tools to assess the physical, emotional, and social needs of the elderly. Course content addresses medical, psychiatric, and social services for aging populations; financial and insurance issues; and counseling and mental health treatments for older individuals. Students also learn how to advocate for elderly clients in healthcare organizations and government agencies.
- Grief and Bereavement Management: Students learn how to recognize psychological conditions in the elderly related to prolonged grief and bereavement over the death of a loved one. Coursework analyzes prevailing conceptual models for the phases of grief and cultural differences in expressing and experiencing these emotions. Students also learn the counseling techniques and intervention models most effective with aging populations.
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%.
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.
- Median Salary: $99,730 per year
- Currently Employed: 352,200
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +20%
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.
- Median Salary: $69,660 per year
- Currently Employed: 6,100
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +9%
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.
- Median Salary: $65,320 per year
- Currently Employed: 147,300
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +18%
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.
- Median Salary: $49,470 per year
- Currently Employed: 682,100
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +16%
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.
- Median Salary: $35,630 per year
- Currently Employed: 119,300
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +13%
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.
- Gerontological Society of America: The oldest professional association in gerontology, GSA represents over 5,500 members, providing information on research, education, and practice in the field of aging. Membership benefits include access to two online journals, webinars, professional development workshops, and an annual conference.
- American Society on Aging: ASA advocates for practitioners who seek to improve the quality of life for the aging population and their families. It offers programs to enhance knowledge and build leadership skills, including continuing education courses, webinars, and a leadership awards program.
- American Geriatrics Society: This nonprofit organization serves 6,000 members dedicated to improving the quality of life for aging populations. Members include geriatric healthcare providers, policymakers, and other gerontology professionals who advocate for better health programs, clinical care, and public education.
- Association for Gerontology in Higher Education: AGHE represents colleges, universities, and other organizations that engage in gerontological education and research. The association provides career resources and fellowship and scholarship opportunities. AGHE maintains a national database and a Directory of Educational Programs in Gerontology and Geriatrics.
- National Association for Professional Gerontologists: NAPG offers credentials for gerontology professionals, consulting services for the public and private sector, and opportunities for professional development and networking. Students may apply for a discounted membership, granting them access to conferences, courses, and networking events.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.