Earning a Master's in Gerontology Online

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The United States Census Bureau projects that senior citizens will make up one-fifth of the American population by 2030. Furthermore, the Bureau expects there to be more American seniors than minors by 2035. With this shift in society, the country needs more people who can help aging citizens with their physical and mental health. A master's degree in gerontology allows graduates to enter this growing, dynamic, and fulfilling field. The resource below discusses the benefits of earning a master's in gerontology online, how much candidates make, financial aid strategies, and resources for gerontology students.

Why Get a Master's in Gerontology?

Pursue Deeper Knowledge and Specialization

Students who care deeply about the treatment and well-being of senior citizens thrive in graduate gerontology programs. These multidisciplinary programs cover topics such as healthcare, psychology, social services, and public policy through the lens of aging people. Degree candidates learn how to best support seniors and analyze data to implement better programs for their clients. Master's in gerontology online programs include specializations that help students become experts in specific areas of gerontology.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Professionals who work with senior citizens or want to break into the field benefit from earning a master's in gerontology online. Graduates demonstrate the skills and knowledge necessary to fill management roles in senior-focused organizations. They work in several types of settings, including residential nursing facilities, nonprofit organizations, hospitals, and government agencies. As the population skews more toward older people, the career opportunities for gerontology graduates may continue to grow.

Online Learning Technology

Students who earn master's degrees in gerontology online enjoy flexibility and convenience that their on-campus counterparts do not. In many cases, they can watch lectures, complete assignments, take tests, and participate in discussions at times convenient for them. Furthermore, online learning allows students to continue working while they earn their degree, which boosts their resumes, expands their professional networks, and may even help them qualify for employer tuition reimbursement.

Prerequisites for Master's in Gerontology Programs

Each graduate school offering gerontology sets unique criteria for applicants. As such, prospective students should know the admission requirements for each school before applying. The following courses serve as common prerequisites for master's in gerontology programs, but some schools do not maintain these requirements.

    • Bachelor's Degree from an Accredited College Applicants must hold bachelor's degrees from colleges with institutional accreditation. Programs may require students to graduate from universities with regional accreditation, but others accept national credentials. Candidates can hold degrees in any major; however, concentrations in psychology, social work, or nursing prove particularly helpful.
    • Minimum 3.0 GPA Many graduate programs require learners to hold 3.0 undergraduate GPAs. Elite schools may maintain higher GPA minimums, such as a 3.25. In addition, institutions may grant provisional admission to candidates with GPAs below 3.0. With this status, students must maintain specific grades throughout their first terms to remain in the programs.
    • GRE Results Many graduate schools require applicants to submit GRE results, but few schools publish the minimum scores they accept. Instead, they use the scores as part of the candidate's overall profile for admission consideration. Universities may also waive GRE requirements for students with high GPAs or work history.
    • Professional or Educational References Applicants may need to submit 1-3 letters of reference as part of the application process. Depending on the school's requirements, these letters may need to come from former professors or work supervisors. The recommendations should highlight the applicant's ability to thrive in academic environments or professional workplaces.
    • Statement of Interest Admissions boards often ask applicants to submit a statement detailing their reasons for pursuing a master's in gerontology online. Statements of interest give applicants the chance to demonstrate their passion for helping senior citizens. Schools typically publish questions for candidates to answer in a short essay format and provide minimum word counts for these statements.

How Much Can I Make With a Master's in Gerontology?

According to PayScale, the average professional with a master's in gerontology earns $60,000 per year. However, salary potential varies depending on a person's job title, location, and years of experience. For example, a master's degree allows many gerontology professionals to qualify for senior management positions, like executive directors. These professionals earn an average of $78,617 per year plus bonuses. The section below highlights a few jobs that these graduates take on and their average salaries.

Potential Careers

Careers Stats Description

Licensed Nursing Home Administrator

Average Annual Salary: $87,729

These professionals oversee all aspects of skilled nursing facilities, which give round-the-clock care to elderly patients. They manage budgets, clinical care teams, human resources, and legal compliance. Candidates need the skills they develop in master's programs to make evidence-based decisions and improve healthcare quality in their facilities.

Nonprofit Program Director

Average Annual Salary: $54,726

These high-level executives oversee operations at nonprofit organizations, including those that provide services to seniors. They analyze program policies, implement new programs, ensure compliance, and manage staff. While some nonprofits hire candidates with bachelor's degrees, graduate education can help them gain the appropriate skills and understanding of gerontology.

Home Health Agency Administrator

Average Annual Salary: $78,380

Seniors citizens may choose to live in their homes rather than in nursing facilities. These patients often rely on in-home nursing agencies to care for their medical needs. Home health agency administrators oversee these organizations. They create company policies, ensure legal compliance, and monitor staffing levels to improve healthcare quality.

Paying for an Online Master's in Gerontology Program

Tuition rates depend on several variables, including the type of institution, how long it takes a learner to complete the program, and a student's residency status. For example, a degree candidate who earns a master's in gerontology online from a public school with an accelerated program in their resident state saves money over a student at a private university. No matter what institutions learners choose, they can qualify for grants and scholarships to offset the cost of higher education.

Scholarships

Nonprofit organizations, private companies, and universities provide scholarships for higher education students at all levels. Learners who pursue master's of gerontology degrees online may qualify for awards based on their education level, GPA, intended profession, demographics, and financial need. Below, we provide a few scholarships these learners may pursue.

What to Expect from a Master's in Gerontology Program

Candidates typically take 1-2 years to earn master's degrees in gerontology online. The timeline can change depending on the program's structure and how many credits a student can take per semester. For example, short semesters allow part-time learners to graduate quickly. Students complete core gerontology courses, specialization classes, and a capstone project, all of which they can take online. Learners may also complete internships, which give them in-person connections and broaden their professional networks.

Major Milestones

While all graduate programs maintain their own curricula, students must complete many of the same steps to earn a master's in gerontology online.

  1. Application

    Students must first send in applications to several schools that fit their needs and career goals. Learners should consider each university's admission requirements, curricula, and credentials.

  2. Core Courses

    All graduate gerontology students take these classes regardless of specializations. This section of the curriculum may include subjects like the physiology of aging, social policy, and research methods.

  3. Specialization Courses

    Some universities offer specializations in subjects such as psychology, nutrition, and social policy. Students in these programs complete elective courses that turn them into leaders on the topic.

  4. Capstone Course

    Most master's in gerontology online programs conclude with capstone courses. Degree candidates use the skills they developed in other courses to complete final projects they add to their professional portfolios.

  5. Internship

    Graduate programs often require students to complete internships; however, some programs include it as an option. Learners shadow gerontology professionals and gain hands-on experience in the field.

Coursework

While most gerontology programs include unique curricula, some courses remain common among these plans. Students may take the following courses in their programs:

Economic Issues for Older Adults

Senior citizens face several financial difficulties, including fixed incomes and rising healthcare costs. These courses help students understand the nature of these issues, theories on senior financial management, and how to help clients with these struggles.

Public Policy Impacts on Older Adults

The laws that federal, state, and local governments pass affect all citizens in different ways. These classes focus on the impact that specific types of legislation have on senior citizens and theories on public policies that can help this population.

Psychology of Aging

These courses look into theories of human development in the final years of life. Students learn how common problems in the aging community affect mental health, including loneliness, chronic health issues, loss of loved ones, cognitive declines, and terminal illness.

Physiology of Aging

Students in these courses explore several theories concerning how bodies change as people age. They discuss the effects on a cellular level along with the full person.

Program Evaluation and Research Methods in Gerontology

These courses cover research methodology in gerontology, including ethical research methods and analytics. Students gain the necessary skills to evaluate existing programs and improve them with evidence-based practices.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional associations provide excellent resources for gerontology professionals and students. Depending on the organization and membership level, members can gain access to tools like professional conferences, exclusive job boards, continuing education, mentorship programs, practice toolkits, professional liability insurance, and industry journals. These organizations also advocate on behalf of their members in legislative bodies for beneficial laws. Membership typically costs a few hundred dollars per year, but students often pay less.

  • The Gerontological Society of America: Members enjoy access to relevant job listings, fellowship opportunities, and an annual scientific meeting. Students who want to continue to doctoral studies benefit from dissertation support and chances to present at the conference.
  • National Association for Professional Gerontologists: The NAPG provides credentials that allow gerontology professionals to stand out as experts. First-time applicants must pass the exam. Professionals then renew every two years with 20 continuing education hours.
  • American Society on Aging: The ASA welcomes all professionals working with the aging population, including doctors, nurses, and program administrators. Members gain access to online courses, local networking events, and industry publications.
  • American Geriatrics Society: Gerontology students and professionals join this organization to gain access to resources such as a robust online community, weekly newsletters, industry publications, online continuing education, an annual conference, and fellowship opportunities.
  • National Council on Aging: This nonprofit organization brings together senior citizens, gerontology professionals, and policy advocates. Professionals access resources like informative webinars, practice templates, issue briefs, and conferences.