If you have a passion for working with the elderly, you might want to consider a Ph.D. in gerontology. This discipline encompasses the study of and strategies related to the issues that elderly people may encounter. You will learn how to make vital decisions regarding aging care, the culture behind aging, and the pressing issues that affect this group of people.
Whether you choose to enter a career in research or one that works directly with the elderly, a Ph.D. in gerontology is the terminal degree that you can receive in this field. Students will be prepared to pursue leadership opportunities in all realms, including those in business, public policy, counseling, healthcare, and more.
What kind of gerontology degree should you get?
Gerontology is a loose term referring to work with the elderly. As a gerontologist, your job duties will be varied. There are multiple industries in which a Ph.D. in gerontology would help you advance your career. As a result, you should find a Ph.D. program that best fits your personal goals.
Ask yourself a few key questions when you are searching for the perfect degree. Which setting would you like to work in? Would you prefer working with the elderly in a hands-on setting, or would you rather conduct research to help improve public policy and services for this population?
Most importantly, what kind of learning format would best help you meet your goals? Do you want to attend classes online or on-campus? Part-time or full-time? Do real-life projects, like internship experiences, interest you?
Because earning a Ph.D. is a major commitment, you want to make sure you find a program that is best suited to your personal and professional goals. If you’re not sure that a Ph.D. in gerontology is right for you, be sure to take a look at our inclusive ranking of the Best Online Colleges and Universities.
How much money do people make with a degree in gerontology?
Because gerontology refers to an academic discipline and not one specific career, it is difficult to provide accurate average salaries for these professionals. Each gerontologist will earn a different salary depending on his or her industry, as well as the education and experience that he or she has received. However, gerontologists who have doctoral degrees – which are terminal degrees in this discipline – will earn the highest salaries overall.
Pay is highly influenced by the sector in which you work. Facility directors earn the highest salaries, most earning in excess of $94,500 each year. These jobs are also in high demand, expected to grow 17% by 2024. If you decide to become a personal care aide, however, you will only earn an average salary of about $20,980 – but these jobs are expected to increase by a whopping 26%.
After earning a Ph.D., it is not uncommon for many professionals to pursue careers in academia. Here, you will instruct students in the discipline and conduct research of your own. These careers are fast-growing, about 15% by 2026, and also high-paying as most professionals earn around $78,470 per year.
What can you do with a degree in gerontology?
You have numerous career opportunities once you receive a degree in gerontology. Whichever career you choose, you will work either directly with older adults as caregivers or advocates, or you will work to advance their wellbeing through education, administration, or research.
You might work as a geriatric social worker, helping to assist seniors whose physical, mental, or emotional well-being is jeopardized due to their living conditions. You could also become a life enrichment professional, helping to provide recreational therapy to senior citizens via art, physical therapy, herbal remedies, or other treatments.
If you prefer to work behind the scenes, there are plenty of options available to you as well. You could become a geriatric advocate, working in healthcare business management, public policy, grant writing, or education. Because there is so much schooling involved to obtain a Ph.D. in gerontology, most professionals with these degrees end up teaching at the college level.
What are the requirements for a degree in gerontology?
To receive a degree in gerontology, you will need to meet some prerequisite requirements. These requirements will vary depending upon your intended field of practice. For example, if you want to go into social work, you may need to have some advanced training in psychology or social services in order to be qualified for your job.
However, many degrees offer this additional training as a subspecialty of a concentration within the degree. All gerontology programs will give you a solid background in health services, nursing, psychology, management, and other areas that are crucial to improving the quality of life for seniors.
Before beginning coursework for your Ph.D., you will likely need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a related subject. You might have already taken coursework in public health, psychology, child and family development, or nutrition. Either way, some prerequisite education is necessary before moving on to a doctoral degree in gerontology. Once you begin your Ph.D., you will take theoretical and hands-on classes to prepare you for your career – as well as to prepare you to write the dissertation that almost every doctoral degree requires.
What are the best degrees in gerontology?
Gerontology is a diverse and rapidly-evolving discipline. As a result, there is no single best program for every learner. However, our top-ranked programs are ones that are globally respected for their academic rigor and student services. Many provide pathways to career advancement via academic programming and internship opportunities, while others are recognized by the American Society on Aging.
What they all have in common, however, is that they offer first-class training in a discipline that is showing a growing demand as our population ages. When we tell you that these are the top Ph.D.’s in gerontology, we don’t expect you to just take our word for it. We make sure that our ranking is backed by solid research, and that these schools offer the best support services, instruction, and affordability to help you meet your goals.
If you’re interested in learning more about how we choose the best schools in gerontology, you’ve got to take a look at our methodology page. Here, you can get an up-close-and-personal look at how we determine the best programs in gerontology to help you meet your goals.
If you’re ready to learn more about how you can obtain a rewarding career that improves the services and care provided to our elderly population, consider one of these best Ph.D.s in gerontology.
University of Southern California
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $32,892
A private university founded in 1880, the University of Southern California is located in the heart of Los Angeles, California’s downtown Arts and Education Corridor. This school is home to 22 different graduate and professional schools, including the award-winning USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. In addition to the many undergraduate programs offered in this school, such as the Bachelor of Science in Lifespan Health and the Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Aging, there is a phenomenal Ph.D. in Gerontology as well.
The Ph.D. in Gerontology at the University of Southern California is housed within the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. This program explores all aspects related to aging and offers unparalleled experiences to help graduates be successful in their carers. Internship programs help students gain experience about an array of industries including public policy, healthcare, and business. Required classes include:
- The Aging Society
- Psychology of Aging
- Politics and Policy in an Aging Society
- Data Analysis Strategies
- Health and Aging
The USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology is the oldest and largest school of its kind in the entire world. The department offers a wide variety of degree programs as well as superior research and internship opportunities. Because this school is housed within a world-class research university in the middle of one of the world’s most influential cities, learners receive hands-on experiences that are second to none. All masters and graduate programs are available both on-campus and online, with multiple specialties available for study.
College Choice Score: 96.94
Average Net Price: $20,316
Miami University-Oxford is located in Oxford, OH and first opened its doors in 1809. A large public university with an undergraduate enrollment of 17,147, this school is an original Public Ivy with over 115 potential majors. Doctoral degrees are available in twelve disciplines at this school, which is named a top National University by U.S. News & World Report. One of these doctoral degrees is the award-winning program in Social Gerontology. This degree was the first of its kind in the state of Ohio and was one of the first in the country.
The doctoral program in social gerontology at Miami University-Oxford helps to create scholars who can meet the demands presented by our aging population. Learners go on to some of the best positions in research and teaching at institutions of higher education. Sixty post-master’s credit hours are required, including dissertation work. Required and elective classes include:
- Qualitative research methods
- Sociology of Aging
- Communicating Gerontological Knowledge
- Global Health and Health Systems
- Demography and Epidemiology
This degree offers a premium education to learners from all over the country. Assistantships are available to full-time students depending on academic qualifications. Learners can also engage in research positions and international study. Doctoral candidates receive exceptional hands-on learning opportunities in policy, administration, and more, helping them establish crucial networks for career planning and professional development. This program has a Ph.D. graduate job placement rate of 100%.
University of Kentucky
College Choice Score: 95.24
Average Net Price: $19,361
Located in Lexington, KY, the University of Kentucky is a public university that was founded in 1865. Just 80 miles from Cincinnati, this school is home to a whopping 120 different master’s programs and features award-winning programs in public affairs, health, and of course, gerontology. The Doctor of Philosophy in Gerontology is housed within the College of Public Health and prepares graduates to work in rewarding careers in aging services, teaching, and research.
Founded in 1996, the Graduate Center for Gerontology is one of the oldest gerontology programs in the nation. Faculty are active scholars, working to advance public knowledge and education in aging by conducting original research in nutrition, therapy, policy-making, and more. Students have a number of hands-on and theoretical courses available to them, including classroom experiences and laboratory practicums in topics such as:
- Aging Issues and Family Relations
- Mental Health and Aging
- Research Design in Gerontology
- Aging of the Nervous System
- Health Promotion and Aging
With so many opportunities for hands-on research and practice, it’s no wonder that this program is top-ranked. Students may participate in over 350 clubs and student activities. Extensive hands-on learning opportunities are provided in these diverse and technology-based courses. The school is home to the acclaimed James W. Stuckert Career Center, which helps doctoral candidates find jobs and internships. As a result, this school is ranked a top National University and a Best Value School by U.S. News & World Report.
University of Maryland-Baltimore County
College Choice Score: 92.07
Average Net Price: $16,056
A public university founded in 1966, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County is just one school within the University of Maryland system. Located just 45 minutes from the nation’s capital, the school is home to over 30 graduate programs, including award-winning options in science, engineering, and public policy. The Doctoral Program in Gerontology at the University of Maryland is an interdisciplinary, inter-campus reach program that is available on two campuses: the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
This interdisciplinary program requires students to take an integrative approach to the process of aging. It examines all of the factors that influence the aging experience, including those that are historical, environmental, social, biological, cultural, political, and economic in nature. Students will take a range of core and research-based courses before moving onto a track specialization and eventual dissertation. Sample classes include:
- Biology of Aging
- Psychology of Aging
- Socio-Cultural Gerontology
- Issues in Aging Policy
- Epidemiology of Aging
This degree is one of the few that allows doctoral candidates to choose a specialty within the major. There are multiple options available to learners, including Social, Cultural, and Behavioral Sciences, Policy for the Elderly, and Epidemiology of Aging. This school is regarded as one of the most innovative and is nationally recognized for providing students with an educational experience that is diverse, affordable, and hands-on. All students receive mentoring from faculty members and have the opportunity to engage in publishable academic research.
North Dakota State University
College Choice Score: 88.58
Average Net Price: $14,848
Founded in 1890, North Dakota State University is located in Fargo, ND. This school offers over 100 different academic majors as well as numerous graduate programs like engineering, business, and education. The Doctor of Philosophy at North Dakota State allows students to combine a major in Gerontology with either Developmental Science, Occupational and Adult Education, or Exercise Science and Nutrition.
This discipline-based program helps candidates learn how to enhance the quality of life for an aging population. A highly interdisciplinary program, students can combine academic coursework with a specific area of interest. The program is aligned with recommendations by the National Research Council, helping broaden the education that doctoral students receive. In addition to a dissertation, required classes include:
- Environment and Aging
- Perspectives in Gerontology
- Aging Policy
- Nutrition, Health, and Aging
- Instructional methods for Adult Learners
As a land-grant research university, North Dakota State offers learners exceptional hands-on opportunities. The school actively works to conduct primary research and to advance technology and other developments in the field. The school has over $156 million in annual research expenditures and is listed as one of the top 100 research universities in the United States. As a result, the school is top ranked as a Top Public School and National University by U.S. News & World Report.
Concordia University Chicago
College Choice Score: 87.66
Average Net Price: $17,846
Concordia University Chicago was founded in 1864 and is a private university located in Chicago, IL. The university is a comprehensive university of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and is gospel-centered with a liberal arts focus. This suburban school is small with a total undergraduate enrollment of just 1,411. Nevertheless, it offers some of the country’s best and most hands-on academic programs. Among them is the online Ph.D. in leadership with a specialization in gerontology.
This multidisciplinary program answers some of the most pressing age-related questions and provides intensive training for students who wish to pursue leadership roles in addressing aging-related issues. It produces highly qualified social scientists who are prepared to work in academia, healthcare, or government. Required classes, which start every eight weeks, include:
- Gerontological Theory
- Sociocultural Aspects of Aging
- Leadership, Applied Ethics, Aging, and Global Change
- The Psychological Aspects of aging
- Diversity in Aging Societies
With a flexible course format and tuition that is guaranteed to not increased during a student’s program of study, this degree has some of the smallest class sizes around. Doctoral candidates have the opportunity to get to know their peers and instructors in classes that do not exceed eighteen students apiece. Despite its small size, this school has received several accolades among top publications like U.S. News & World Report. It is highly respected as a top Regional University – Midwest as well as a Best Value School.
College Choice Score: 85.52
Average Net Price: N/A
Northcentral University was founded in 1996 as one of the country’s leading proprietary universities. The school is unique in that it offers degrees fully online, focusing mostly on masters and doctoral level programs. The school mentors students one-to-one with top credentialed faculty, offering students the ability to succeed academically and to become valuable contributors to the global community. The Ph.D. in gerontology at Northcentral is offered as a concentration within the non-certification Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology. It is available entirely online.
Although this program is not a licensure pathway, it nevertheless prepares learners to work in a wide variety of career opportunities. As a gerontological expert, you can pursue a degree in a health facility, mental health clinic, government agency, community organization, or research university. Sixty total credit hours, consisting of 20 courses, takes most students about 48 months to complete. Required courses include:
- Gerontology and Systemic Intervention
- Psychological Practice in Gerontology
- History and Systems of Psychology
- Human Development and Functioning
- Professional Ethics, Law, and Psychology
This regionally accredited school offers weekly course starts, allowing students maximum flexibility in completing their coursework. There are no pre-scheduled lecture hours and no group assignments. Students instead can schedule courses around their personal obligations. Learners can interact one-on-one with their instructors and receive personalized mentoring, allowing them to receive hands-on learning opportunities no matter what level or type of degree they pursue.