Gerontology Degree: Helping the Elderly to Age Gracefully

Gerontology schools offer interdisciplinary programs that involve the comprehensive study of human aging and the experiences that surround growing old. Students learn about the physiological, psychological, sociological, and political factors that influence the aging process. The field of aging services includes long-term care, service-supported housing, health services for seniors, and community-based services. A degree in gerontology can prepare you to work in a variety of industries, including social work, public and health administration, business, and medicine. Dive into the challenging and compassionate industry of gerontology by pursuing a gerontology degree.

Types of Gerontology Programs

Degree Levels

Gerontology schools offer certificates, as well as degrees at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level. Degrees are offered both online and in traditional classrooms.

Related Areas of Study

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the subject, degrees in geriatric studies often act as a complement to additional study in a variety of related fields, such as public health; social work; human services; health education; physical, occupational, or recreational therapy; business administration; healthcare administration; psychology or nursing, among others. Gerontology may be a concentration in one of the above areas of study or a stand-alone major.

Degree Requirements for Gerontology Programs

Undergraduate Prerequisites

The admissions requirements for certificate, associate’s degree, and bachelor’s degree programs in gerontology include a high school diploma or GED, minimum required GPA, and SAT/ACT scores. Certificates can typically be completed in a short period of time, while associate’s degrees will take two years, and bachelor’s degrees will require four years of study.

Graduate Prerequisites

The admissions requirements for master’s and doctoral degree programs in gerontology are typically a bachelor’s degree, minimum required GPA, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Master’s degrees will take two years to complete, and doctoral degrees may take from three to five years.

Curriculum of Gerontology Programs

Gerontology programs prepare you to implement and manage health and human service programs in gerontology, as well as shape goods and services that cater to the needs of the aging population. Roles that a degree in gerontology may train you for include program development, education, administration, research, and advocacy. Your gerontology courses might include study in:

  • Aging & society
  • Introduction to gerontology
  • Aging & ethnicity
  • Aging & social policy
  • Psychological aspects of aging
  • Health promotion in older adults
  • Family, health, & aging
  • Research methods
  • Theories of gerontology

Career Opportunities in the Gerontology Field

Types of Careers

Graduates of gerontology programs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, government agencies, home health services, and counseling centers. As a gerontologist, you can work directly or indirectly with the aging population in a variety of careers related to aging services—some of which will require additional education and state licensure. Possible career paths include:

  • Program manager
  • Policy analyst
  • Housing & facilities manager
  • Medical & health services manager
  • Health educator
  • Mental health counselor
  • Social worker
  • Researcher
  • Services developer
  • Community health worker
  • Rehabilitation counselor
  • Social & human service assistant
  • Recreational, occupational or physical therapist

Employment Outlook

The growth of the aging baby boomer population will lead to an increase in jobs for those with knowledge and expertise in aging, particularly in the healthcare and social work fields. For example, positions for health educators and community health workers, as well as social and community service managers, should grow at a faster than average rate of 21% from 2012 to 2022, whereas employment for medical and health services mangers should grow by 23%, which is a rate that is much faster than average. Positions for healthcare social workers should increase by a whopping 37% in the coming decade.

Salary

The salary for graduates of gerontology programs will vary by career path and industry. In 2013, the median annual salary for the below positions were as follows:

Pursuing a Degree in Gerontology

If you have a genuine interest and empathy for older people, consider pursuing a career in gerontology. Not only does a degree in gerontology enhance your career, it also provides you with an in-depth understanding of your own and your loved ones’ aging process. Earn a gerontology degree and learn how to better serve the needs of the aging population in order to create healthier lives and brighter futures for all.