Gerontology, the study of the aging process from a social perspective, is increasing in relevance in recent years. In our aging society, the senior population is growing, both in absolute numbers and in proportion to all other age groups. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the country’s best online master’s programs in gerontology. Keep reading to find the right school for you!
How Do I Apply?
The application process for each of the schools listed below is very straightforward. However, requirements vary slightly, depending on the school. Once you’ve read through this list and identified which schools are most appealing to you, visit their websites to see if you meet the criteria required of applicants. Requirements common to all schools on this list include holding a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university and a minimum 2.5 - 3.0 GPA. The timely submission of your application, transcript, and non-refundable application fee are also required. The most competitive schools tend to require several letters of recommendation from professional references. If you meet these requirements, you are in a strong position to apply to any of the institutions listed below.
How Much Can I Earn?
Gerontology-related careers can yield great returns. According to Indeed.com, the average salary for gerontologists in the United States is $63,000. However, it is important to note that this number varies significantly, depending on the specific position held; for example, two jobs often held by those with an MS in Gerontology, Life Enrichment Manager and Nurse Practitioner, earn an average of $34,120 and $108,262 per year, respectively.
A wide array of career paths are possible for people with a master’s degree in gerontology. While these vary depending on a number of factors, such as specific professional experience and interests, potential career paths include nursing, occupational therapy, health care management, administration, research, social work, and education.
Fully deserving of the No. 1 spot on our list is the University of Utah, with its interdisciplinary Master of Science in Gerontology degree. This program requires completion of a core curriculum of 21 credit hours, a 150-hour practicum, and six or nine elective courses, depending on whether one chooses to write a thesis or complete a master’s project. A master’s project encompasses four credit hours, while a thesis is worth six credit hours. This equals 34 hours for those completing a project and 33 hours for a thesis.
Admissions requirements for this program are stringent. At a minimum, applicants must submit a completed application, transcripts from all colleges and universities previously attended, hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, show a minimum 3.0 GPA, present a current resume, three professional references, and a professional goals statement.
Applications are reviewed by the Office of Graduate Admissions and the Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program; in other words, successful successful applicants must be accepted by both offices before enrolling in the program. The application deadline for fall semester enrollment is December 1. Roughly 12-15 students are accepted and begin work each fall.
Iowa State University’s master’s degree in family and consumer sciences with gerontology is designed for professionals either working directly with the eldery or who are involved in related education and research.
This 36-credit hour program includes 24 hours of required courses and 12 hours of electives. No final project or thesis is required. Classes connected to all sorts of industries and fields of study are offered, such as Economics, Public Policy and Aging, Environments and Aging, and Aging in the Family.
Many of the admission requirements are similar to those of other schools, including a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, GPA of 3.0 or higher, three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume. Applications are accepted year-round, though recommended admissions deadlines are Feb. 15 for summer and fall admission and Sept. 15 for spring admission.
Kansas State University’s master’s degree in gerontology enjoys a fine reputation for good reason. The program aims to provide students with the core competencies identified by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education and draws on the expertise of graduate faculty who have dedicated their professional lives to the field. Students completing this program earn a Master of Science in Human Development and Family Science, with a specialization in gerontology.
The structure of the program calls for completion of 36 credit hours - 24 core hours and 12 elective hours; no final project or thesis is required. Prospective students must hold a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA in their last 60 credit hours.
Applications are accepted year-round, and applicants are encouraged to apply two to three months prior to the start of their preferred semester. The application fee for US residents is $65, while it is $75 for international applicants.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha offers a Master of Arts in Social Gerontology specifically designed to meet the educational needs of students who are mainly interested in research and professionals who are already working in the field. UNO offers two degree options, both of which are available online or on campus.
Students who choose to pursue the thesis option will learn how to conduct research of their own and gain the knowledge and insight needed to interpret their findings critically. Those who opt for the non-thesis option (often current practitioners who need a deeper understanding of normal and abnormal age-related changes) will design, implement, and evaluate specific programming for the elderly with whom they currently work.
Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must also be accepted to UNO’s Graduate Studies department (the larger department within which the gerontology program is contained) and submit a writing sample.
McDaniel College, in Westminster, MD, offers a basic Master of Science in Gerontology degree. The program calls for the completion of 36 credit hours, which includes 15 hours of core courses, 12 hours of electives, one three-credit independent learning component, and a six-credit thesis or extended capstone project. All graduates must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and no more than one course at or below a grade of “C.” All courses are offered online.
The application process is straightforward. Prospective students must hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA from a regionally accredited college or university, pay a non-refundable application fee, submit a personal goals statement describing their academic and career goals, and provide three letters of recommendation.
University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology offers a Master of Science degree that positions graduates to pursue policy education and research while simultaneously studying the basic mechanics of longevity and population health. In addition to its standard coursework, the program encourages internships and provides opportunities for grant writing as a part of its capstone course.
If enrolled full-time, most students can complete the program in two years, while part-time students require an average of two to three years for completion. Some of the courses offered are: Life Span Developmental Psychology and Sociology, Integrating Gerontology: A Multidisciplinary Approach, Case Studies in Leadership and Change Management, and a required field practicum intended to help students learn how to translate classroom theories into real-world practices.
Priority and regular admissions deadlines are March 1 and Aug. 1, respectively. Admissions requirements are similar to those of other colleges in this list.
While USC is a well-known university for good reason, it is important to note that it is also the most expensive institution in this list, with an average net price of $32,892 per semester.
Michael Adams, a Graduate Assistant in the Gerontology Department at the University of Louisiana at Monroe comments, “...my work as a GA in Gerontology is not only rewarding, it has given me a newfound optimism for the aging process.” This is the kind of mindset that graduates of ULM’s Gerontology Department emerge from the program with.
To gain admission, students must meet the general requirements for ULM’s graduate school and one of three additional criteria laid out on ULM’s website, which factor in applicants’ undergraduate GPA, GRE scores, and previous professional experience in the field of gerontology.
Once enrolled, students complete 36 credit hours, consisting of a core curriculum and the selection of one of six areas of specialization. These include Program Administrator, Aging Studies, Long-Term Care Administration, Small Business Management, Mental Health, and Grief Care Management. These specializations allow students to tailor their studies to their interests.
With an average net price of $10,787 per semester, ULM is the most affordable college in this list and a wonderful option for people interested in the degree.
The courses in Webster University’s Master of Arts in Gerontology program draw from a variety of disciplines, such as management, the behavioral and social sciences, economics, political science, and the natural sciences. This multidisciplinary framework establishes a broad educational base to help students understand the impact of aging on individuals and cultures.
As with other programs in this list, Webster requires applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Other requirements are detailed once the application process begins. The 36 credit hours required in this program include eight core courses, which are supplemented by electives contained within the gerontology major and/or the curricula of other majors. In this way, Webster’s MA in Gerontology is unique, compared to the others detailed in this article, since students can earn an MA in Gerontology while simultaneously taking courses in other subjects of interest to them.
While the positives of Webster’s curriculum make it worthy of consideration, its average net price per semester is quite high, at $23,835, which may be an important consideration for potential applicants.
National University’s MA in Gerontology is focused on providing conceptual and clinical knowledge to professionals with established careers who want to increase their proficiency in the field. The program’s coursework can be tailored to those already providing direct services to the eldery, or students interested in conducting research.
Graduates with a master’s degree in gerontology from National University will be qualified to work with the following types of institutions:
- Community, human service, and religious organizations
- Health care and long-term care institutions
- Federal, state, and local government agencies
- Retirement communities
- Academic and research settings
- Private businesses and corporations
Master’s students must complete at least 54 quarter units of graduate work, including an integrative project spanning 9 quarter units; 31.5 of these units are earned through seven core courses, while the remaining 22.5 come from five elective courses.
The greatest benefit of studying at National University is its system of 4-week classes. Coursework is more intensive when delivered this way, compared to longer courses, but the format also allows students to focus on one subject at a time, one month at a time, and finish their degree relatively quickly.
The University of Indianapolis’ Master of Science in Gerontology is well worth potential students’ consideration. This program is multidisciplinary in nature and is intended to mesh well with a variety of professional backgrounds.
Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, submission of original transcripts from all colleges and universities previously attended, a professional resume, three letters of recommendation (from academic and/or professional sources), a $50 application fee and an essay of 1,000 - 1,500 words that explains the applicant’s interest in aging studies and how they plan to use the degree in the future.
The program can be completed in as few as 18 months. It consists of 36 credit hours, which are broken down as follows:
- Four core courses and one required skills course (15 credit hours)
- Three concentration area/specialty track courses (9 credit hours)
- One additional skills course of choice (3 credit hours)
- Two elective courses (6 credit hours)
- Capstone seminar (3 credit hours)
Classes run on a traditional semester schedule, beginning in August, January, and May.