Gerontology is the study of aging and encompasses some of the issues that elderly people may encounter. In addition, this degree covers policy decision-making regarding aging care, as well as how aging affects different cultures and societies. Gerontologists work as caretakers, nurses, and other administrative roles to serve the aging. Gerontology is also very integrated within the field of psychology. Geropsychologists work with older patients to address issues such as depression, and to help those who are going through life changes.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of people aged 65 years or older is expected to more than double between 2012 and 2060. This will no doubt cause a significant demand for aging healthcare workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also states that medical and health service managers will experience a growth of about 17 percent from 2014-2024. Based on these statistics, those who possess a Master’s in Gerontology are likely to have several career options open to them.
What kind of Gerontology degree should you get?
The most common Master’s in Gerontology degree is a Master of Science or a Master of Arts degree. Sometimes these degrees are in conjunction with other degrees, such as health administration. In general, a Master’s in this field focuses on research and professional development in order to prepare people for administrative roles in the field of aging care. Most students must complete an internship or clinical hours in order to graduate. Because these programs are aimed at working professionals, some schools offer programs entirely online as well.
On the other hand, an MS in Nursing with a specialization in Gerontology is specifically for already registered nurses who wish to specifically continue their career as a nurse. These programs always require clinical hours to graduate. The good thing about this program is that students will be eligible to sit for advanced nursing/licensure exams upon completion of the degree.
Another option is to earn the degree online. If you are interested in that check out the rankings for Best Online Master’s in Gerontology Degrees.
How much money do people make with a degree in Gerontology?
Because a degree in Gerontology can take one down many paths, average salaries within the field vastly differ depending on profession. For instance, according to the Bureau Labor Statistics, healthcare social workers earn a median annual salary of $52,350 in May 2015. According to Payscale, the median annual salary for a geriatric nurse in 2016 was $60,206. Geriatric psychologists earned $70,649.
In general, people who work in clinical settings tend to make more on average and have higher earnings potential in the long run.
What can you do with a degree in Gerontology?
Because Gerontology is a specialized field rather than a general healthcare administration program, the majority of people work as health services assistants, social workers, nurses, health services managers, or other health care top professionals that directly work with the aging. Aging care career options are not just limited to the public sphere in places such as hospitals but are also increasingly spreading into the private sphere due to the aging population. For example, gerontologists that work in the private sphere may be a personal care assistant that makes house calls.
It is important to note that each position within Gerontology might require a slightly different certification and/or licensure. For instance, nursing aids require a minimum of 75 hours of training along with an exam. Social workers must be registered within the state they wish to practice. Most schools will guide students with this process before they graduate so they can get the job they desire, along with the necessary qualifications.
What are the requirements for a degree in Gerontology?
General MS or MA programs in Gerontology require that the applicant has a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Although the undergraduate degree does not have to be related to health or Gerontology, students who have previous knowledge within the field will find the coursework to be significantly easier. In addition, some schools require the GRE.
Nursing programs in Gerontology require a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited university, also with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Students must also possess an active nursing license, letters of recommendation, transcripts, resume, and a personal statement.
What are the best Master’s in Gerontology?
CollegeChoice has compiled the 15 Best Master’s in Gerentology degrees based on overall institutional excellence and student success. Data was gathered from the U.S. News & World Report, Payscale, the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDs database, and individual college websites and rankings. Institutional excellence was based on a variety of data points such as graduation rate, entering students’ test scores, and endowment size. Student success was measured based on financial aid given, average starting salary for early grads, and tuition cost.
See our rankings methodology page.
University of Southern California
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $32,932
Located in the bustling city of Los Angeles, the University of Southern California is one of the world’s most prominent private research universities, ranking 15 out of over 1,000 universities by The Wall Street Journal. When USC first started offering classes in the 1870s, LA was not even a developed town. Today, USC has an annual economic impact on the county and the state of about $8 billion. With over 45,000 students enrolled in their 22 schools, USC is an all-encompassing university dedicated to excellence and innovation.
USC’s Master of Health Administration/MS in Gerontology dual degree is ideal for those who wish to have a strong understanding of healthcare issues while specializing in Gerontology.
- 72 units: 36 in Gerontology, 36 in Health Administration
- Sample Courses: Social Policy and Aging, Life Span Development Sociology, Legal Issues in Health Care Delivery
- Online courses available
This dual degree is offered by the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and the USC Davis School of Gerontology. Currently USC Price is ranked the fourth best graduate schools for public affairs according to the U.S. News & World Report.
George Washington University
College Choice Score: 98.65
Average Net Price: $39,562
George Washington University is located in the nation’s very own capital. Founded in 1821 by an Act of Congress, the university’s goal was to establish a centrally located university after George Washington expressed his wishes in his State of the Union address in 1790. Today the university is nationally known as one partners with major businesses to provide students with amazing internships. GW’s Gerontology program is operated in the School of Nursing, which is ranked among the top 11 percent of all graduate nursing schools.
GW’s Master of Science in Nursing: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program trains students to become a licensed nurse that specifically works with adult patients.
- 54-credit program; 625 clinical hours
- Sample Courses: Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology, Nursing Leadership, Community and Public Health Nursing
- Graduates are qualified to sit for the ANCC and AANP certification exams
There are two required on-campus components: One class teaches students how to perform a physical examination, and the other one is a skills assessment evaluation.
College Choice Score: 96.45
Average Net Price: $11,693
Purdue University was founded in 1862 after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land Grant Act, which turned public land into the university’s campus. Since its beginning, Purdue has always been committed to freedom of expression, promoting critical thinking and diverse thought. The university offers 13 colleges, with its MS in Gerontology program offered via its School of Nursing. Purdue is currently ranked among the best public universities in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 edition of “America’s Best Colleges.”
Purdue’s MS in Nursing and Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner specialization integrates other disciplines to prepare students for a career in nursing.
- 630-hour preceptorship
- Research opportunities
- Sample Courses: Pharmacotherapeautics for Advanced Practice Nursing, Sociocultural Influences on Health, Health Policy: Local to Global
Students will have the opportunity to practice at two nurse-managed clinics near campus. This is a great way to impact the community while developing professional skills.
Michigan State University
College Choice Score: 92.98
Average Net Price: $14,970
Michigan State University has over 150 years of history, having been founded in 1855 in the city of East Lansing. As Spartans, MSU is committed to excellent research, innovation, and inclusivity. This is seen throughout MSU’s numerous training programs, scholarships for active students, and rewards to deserving community members. According to the Times Higher Education, MSU was ranked among the top 80 universities in the world in 2017. MSU is also among the top eight percent of universities in the nation for this year as quoted by the Wall Street Journal.
MSU’s MS in Nursing with an Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist prepares future registered nurses who wish to work in adult care.
- Graduates eligible for a certification as an Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Students allowed to take as long as six years to complete the degree
- Sample Courses: Clinical Diagnosis and Management, Advanced Pathophysiology for Advanced Practiced Registered Nurses, Health Policy and Advocacy
As this is a nursing program, graduates will also be eligible for certification as a Nurse Practitioner and recognition as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.
Kansas State University
College Choice Score: 92.88
Average Net Price: $16,431
Since its founding in 1858, Kansas State University has followed the Wildcat Way, meaning it has always strived to provide excellent teaching, research, and service to the community at large. KSU has four campuses, with its main campus located in “The Little Apple,” or in the vibrant college town of the city of Manhattan. In fact, KSU was ranked the number one university for great town-gown relations by the Princeton Review, and the tenth best college town in the nation by the American Institute for Economic Research.
KSU’s Master’s in Gerontology is a distance learning degree that prepares graduates to work in a rapidly aging world.
- Part of the Great Plains IDEA, KSU’s fully online course system
- Sample Courses: Gerontechnology, Physical Health & Aging, Public Policy: Economic and Social Impact on Older Adults
- No GRE or graduation thesis
This is a 36-credit hour program that can be completed in three years or less if students are full-time.
Georgia State University
College Choice Score: 92.61
Average Net Price: $14,573
Originally founded as the Georgia Institute of Technology’s “Evening School of Commerce” in 1913, the school changed its name and gained university status after 1957 when humanities and science programs were added. Today GSU has a total of 11 colleges, with its Gerontology program offered through the College of Arts & Sciences. This college offers 80 degree programs at both the graduate and undergraduate level, and received over $51 million in the year of 2015 to pursue extensive research.
GSU’s MA in Gerontology is for both full and part-time students who wish to someday gain a leadership position in the field of aging.
- 36-credit hours; estimated 2-year completion time
- Concentrations: Research, Program Administration
- Sample Courses: Communication and Aging, Diversity and Aging, Geriatric Nutrition
The Research concentration is ideal for students who wish to enter into a doctoral program upon graduation, while the Program Administration concentration is more career-focused and ideal for future managers.
Iowa State University
College Choice Score: 91.44
Average Net Price: $13,623
Iowa State University started as a small agricultural and farming college in 1858. In 1959, it was renamed as Iowa State University of Science and Technology, shifting its focus towards technology to create change for the future. Today ISU continues its strong pursuit of academic excellence and innovation, having attracted over $503 million in grants and other support money for research.
ISU’s Master’s in Gerontology degree is perfect for students who are just beginning their education in this field.
- Online and on-campus programs available
- No previous experience necessary
- Personalized curriculum plan that is created for each student with a close faculty advisor
By 2050, a fourth of the population will be aged 65 and over, therefore many careers in the field of gerontology will need skilled professionals. ISU is a major influencer of the state’s economic development, providing new opportunities for businesses and careers.
University of Utah
College Choice Score: 87.68
Average Net Price: $11,322
The University of Utah is the state’s largest and oldest university, offering more than 100 undergraduate and 92 graduate degrees. In 1850, a Board of Regents from Brigham Young University felt that a new university was needed to meet the demands of the growing population. Initially formed as the University of Desert, changing to its current name after the state was established. Today the university is among the top 50 in the nation for total research expenditures, having spent over $518 million in 2015.
The University of Utah’s MS in Gerontology online degree is offered through the College of Nursing to provide students with an interdisciplinary approach to the field of aging.
- 33-34-credit hours; Full-time: 1 year; Part-Time: 2 years
- Sample Courses: Health and Optimal Aging, Successful Cognitive and Emotional Aging, Race, Ethnicity and Aging
- 12-15 students accepted each fall semester
Gerontologists can work in a variety of institutions, such as long-term care facilities, hospitals, or research universities. Graduates will be eligible for a variety of jobs in both the public and private sector.
College Choice Score: 86.38
Average Net Price: $19,650
Brenau University is a private school whose main campus is located in Gainesville, Georgia. By 2025, Brenau hopes to be internationally recognized as a leader in innovative higher education through its blend of liberal arts and professional preparatory education. In order to reach a wider population, Brenau operates other campuses across the state and in Florida, as well as an extensive online university. In 2015, the university was ranked among the best regional universities by the U.S. News & World Report.
Brenau’s MS in Applied Gerontology is an online program that allows adults to quickly gain the necessary skills needed to serve the rapidly growing aging population.
- 30-credit hours; can be completed in as little as 1 year
- Sample Courses: Cultural and Social Issues of Aging, Foundations of Gerontology, Death, Dying, and Loss
- Chapter of the National Gerontology Academic Honor and Professional Society of Sigma Phi Omega
Because this is a fully online program, students have access to the coursework 24/7. In addition, this program is a rolling admission so students can start at a time that works best for them.
University of Louisiana at Monroe
College Choice Score: 85.11
Average Net Price: $9,145
The University of Louisiana at Monroe is located on a beautiful 238-acre campus in the eastern part of the city. The greater metropolitan area is a bustling city that allows students many opportunities to engage with the local community and businesses. ULM currently has a student population of over 9,000 both at the undergraduate and graduate level, with more than 65,000 alumni. Its graduate programs are especially research-focused and career-driven to provide students with the knowledge they need to move up professionally.
ULM’s MA in Gerontology offers six specializations to help students focus their education around their career goals:
- Long-term Care Administration
- Program Administration
- Small Business Management
- Grief Care Management
- Mental Health
- Aging Studies
A thesis is required to graduate from this program, however those who have already been employed in an institution that involves senior care may be able to waive this requirement.
Thomas Jefferson University
College Choice Score: 84.00
Average Net Price: $45,396
Thomas Jefferson University has its roots as a medical school that was established at the beginning of the 19th century. As the years went on and the population of the school and the surrounding area began to grow, more schools were added. Today, Jefferson is the largest health sciences university in Philadelphia, partnering with the nearby Jefferson University Hospitals to provide excellent care to the community.
Jefferson’s MS in Nursing, Adult-Gerontology: Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program is a specialized degree for registered nurses who already have experience in the clinical field.
- Program Length: 15 months to 5 years; online and on-campus
- 3 Terms (Spring, Summer, and Fall)
- Sample Courses: Management of Common Health Problems in Primary Care, Pathophysiology of Human Disease
Graduates will be eligible to sit for the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s certification upon completion of this program.
Virginia Commonwealth University
College Choice Score: 83.94
Average Net Price: $20,544
Virginia Commonwealth University was founded in 1838 as a medical college. Since its opening, VCU has had a number of firsts, such as offering the first organ transplants in the state. VCU is known as a premier urban, public research university, always pursuing new innovative ways to solve the world’s problems. In fact, VCU is ranked as a top 100 research university according to the National Science Foundation. They are also the third best research university in the entire state.
VCU’s MS in Gerontology degree is focused on understanding aging through research, hands-on experiences, and professional development. All courses are taught by experienced gerontologists.
- 30-hour credit program
- Graduates are eligible to seek licensure as an assisted living administrator
- Specializations: Assisted Living Administration, Education, Health Care Organization and Planning, Psychogeriatrics, Public Administration, Research, Social Services
Out of the 30-credit hours, students will take about eight general courses and five elective courses. Electives should be chosen based on which specialization the student wishes to study.
Youngstown State University
College Choice Score: 83.71
Average Net Price: $11,271
Youngstown State University is an urban research institution that sits on a beautiful 145-acre campus between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. With just over 12,700 students, YSU is a comprehensive university with a small school atmosphere, maintaining small class sizes and personalized teaching from professors. YSU currently has seven colleges, with its College of Graduate Studies offering its Gerontology degree. All graduate programs at YSU have a strong focus on professional development and career mobility.
YSU’s MA in Gerontology program focuses on epidemiology and health issues for students who plan on working with older adults in their career.
- 42-credit hours; Full-Time Completion Time: four semesters; Part-Time Completion Time: six semesters
- Thesis and Non-Thesis track
- Sample Courses: Long-Term Care, Service Delivery Aging Policy, Selected Topics Health Promotion
Students are able to participate in a field practicum in which they will complete 200-hours in an aging-related workplace. This is a great way to build one’s resume and gain relevant working experience.
University of Massachusetts Boston
College Choice Score: 81.64
Average Net Price: $11,966
Located on a scenic waterfront campus, the University of Massachusetts Boston is a diverse campus that is dedicated to providing students with a global education in a busy city. Established in 1964 by the state legislature, UMass Boston began as a small state college at a time when there was only one other public institution of higher education in the state. Today the university has over 16,000 students but maintains a small college presence on-campus. According to the U.S. News & World Report, UMass Boston was ranked as a top tier university in the nation for the second year in a row in 2017.
UMass Boston’s MS in Gerontology Research Policy combines research techniques and social science theories to understand how aging policies are formed.
- 36-credit hours; full or part-time allowed
- Sample Courses: Race and Culture, Statistical Methods in the Analysis of Social Problems, Families of Later Life
- Research capstone project
According to Indeed, the number of jobs in this field has increased a total of 75 percent since 2005. Graduates of UMass Boston’s program will be able to acquire jobs as research associates or analysts in gerontology.
University of Southern Indiana
College Choice Score: 71.28
Average Net Price: $11,649
The University of Southern Indiana began in 1965 in order to provide public higher education to the state’s growing population. Its vision of “shaping the future through learning and innovation” is seen through its 70 undergraduate majors, 10 master’s programs, and one doctoral program. USI’s Master’s in Gerontology program is offered as a nursing program, which is held on-campus as well as online.
USI’s MS in Nursing, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner: Primary program is a specialty degree designed for registered nurses.
- 42-credit hours; 665 clinical hours
- Eligible to sit for national certification upon graduation
- Sample Courses: Advanced Health Assessment, Nursing Leadership in Healthcare Systems, Population Based Care and Health Policy
USI’s nursing programs are ranked as the #21 best online graduate nursing programs in the nation by the U.S. News & World Report.