Best Bachelor's Degrees in Gerontology

Oct 20, 2021

Gerontology Degrees

Gerontology degrees are designed to teach students about the biological, psychological, and sociological aspects of aging in order to care for the elderly members of society. This field takes a holistic approach to understand the aging process in a way that respects the unique mental and physical needs of the older adult. Graduates can pursue jobs in direct care that focus on mental health, nutrition, or geriatric physical therapy or careers in nursing home administration and management, research, or law and policy.

The Best Online Bachelor Degree Programs in Gerontology

Study.com has conducted extensive research on gerontology bachelor's degree programs to find the schools that offer students the best value, online experience, and career preparation. We used data from the department of education and also considered the range of course offerings and distinctive features like academic support services, student organizations and honor societies. If you're hoping to earn a degree in this fast-growing field, the programs described below offer great online options.

1. Bethune-Cookman University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$14814 84% 33% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits

2. California State University-Sacramento

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7368 82% 55% 85% Yes Yes AP Credits

3. CUNY York College

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7358 73% 35% 87% Yes Yes AP Credits

4. University of Northern Iowa

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8938 79% 67% 83% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

5. Bowling Green State University-Main Campus

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$11316 72% 61% 95% Yes Yes AP Credits

6. University of Nebraska at Omaha

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7980 83% 50% 85% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

7. Western Oregon University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$9768 85% 41% 95% No Yes AP / ACE Credits

8. Minnesota State University Moorhead

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8954 65% 53% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits

9. California University of Pennsylvania

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$11108 97% 50% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits

10. Miami University-Oxford

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$15193 80% 81% 82% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

11. Missouri State University-Springfield

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7588 88% 56% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits

12. Winston-Salem State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$5941 68% 51% 97% No Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

13. San Diego State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7510 34% 73% 60% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

14. Youngstown State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8949 67% 41% 98% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

15. SUNY Oneonta

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8740 56% 76% 85% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

16. University of South Florida-Main Campus

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$6410 48% 75% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit Study.com's ranking methodology page.

Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

What Kinds of Gerontology Degrees Are There?

Within gerontology, students can pursue a certificate or a degree. Degrees are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Degrees in gerontology can either focus on gerontology as a whole or be associated with business administration, psychology, social work, or nursing. The time length to complete each of these programs varies with certificates taking the least amount of time and doctorate's lasting the longest. Certificates tend to give a brief overview of the subject while master's and doctoral degrees involve substantial research, reading, and specialization.

Associate Degrees in Gerontology

Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Gerontology degrees can usually be completed in two years and generally require a minimum of 60 credit hours to graduate. These degrees aim to give students an overview of the field and prepare them to enter the workplace faster than a bachelor's would. Core classes common among gerontology AA and AAS programs include an introduction to gerontology, the psychology of aging, dementia studies, and issues around death and dying. An internship or practicum may be required depending on the college.

Bachelor's Degrees in Gerontology

Students studying a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) in Gerontology must complete around 120 credit hours including general education classes and elective, major courses, and depending on the university, an internship or capstone project. Although most students will complete these degrees in four years, it may take longer if taken part-time or could be completed faster if classes are completed during winter and summer terms. Graduates should be prepared to enter a variety of careers following a BA or BS either working directly with the elderly and their families or in a management or administrative role.

Master's Degrees in Gerontology

Students wishing to pursue a more in-depth study of gerontology and improve career prospects can undertake a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) in Gerontology. An MA or MS can typically be completed in 1.5 to 2 years if taken full-time and both introduce students to research methods and a more specialized approach to aging studies. Although it varies by university, concentration tracks might be available to allow students to delve further into an area of interest. Generally, students complete a thesis or comprehensive exam at the end of their studies. Practicum hours may be offered depending on the individual university.

Doctoral Degrees in Gerontology

A Ph.D. in Gerontology is the highest-level qualification in the field. It focuses on research and analysis that will go on to influence policy, education, and care of the elderly. Doctoral students in gerontology will generally complete courses such as research methods, data analysis, and policy analysis. They will also study in-depth topics applicable to the older adult. There may be opportunities to choose a specialization. All students must undertake a dissertation that involves choosing a research subject, conducting data collection and analysis, and writing a detailed study that will be defended at the conclusion of the degree. Doctoral degrees in this field can be completed in around 4 years.

Those interested in treating geriatric patients in a healthcare setting may wish to pursue a Doctor of Medicine (MD). To work specifically with older adults, students will undertake a 1-2-year geriatrics fellowship following medical school. Aspiring geriatricians must then become board certified. These specialized doctors work in hospitals, care homes, and skilled nursing facilities.

Certificates in Gerontology

For those not willing or able to commit to a full degree program or who just want to gain a foundation in gerontology, a certificate may be a good option. Certificates can be earned at the undergraduate level or graduate level and as such, the difficulty of coursework and course requirements will differ. Undergraduate level certificates tend to require around 30 credits and give students an overview of the field. Graduate-level certificates may offer similar courses but are more academically rigorous and with a focus on research methods and practical applications. Because of this, students will typically only take between 15-18 credits.

Gerontology Bachelor's Degree Concentrations

Because gerontology is such a broad field, students may have the opportunity to specialize in an area of interest. Concentrations allow more in-depth study of a certain topic and may prepare students for a specific career track. Some concentration areas within gerontology include:

  • Administration and policy
  • Pre-health (for prospective nursing/medical students)

Even if a program does not offer set specializations, students might be able to select electives specific to their interests. Internship or practicum hours offer another chance to pursue a placement in healthcare, policy, or management.

Curriculum for a Bachelor's Degree in Gerontology

Gerontology degrees aim to teach students about all aspects of aging and thus incorporate courses from a range of disciplines. Common classes included in a BA or BS in Gerontology degree may include:

  • Introduction to gerontology
  • Psychology of aging
  • Current issues in aging
  • Culture & aging

Students generally take core courses in addition to electives of their choosing. Individuals studying gerontology may have the option to choose a concentration depending on their university's offerings.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Bachelor's in Gerontology?

For most students attending university full-time, a BA or BS in Gerontology can be earned after completing 120 credit hours over four years. Students generally spend the first two years of their studies primarily completing general education requirements and electives before focusing on core major classes in years 3 and 4. Some universities require students to undertake an internship or practicum. Most students will complete a final capstone research project before graduation.

Prerequisites for a Gerontology Degree

For students hoping to apply for a BA or BA in Gerontology, there are several requirements to fulfill. Universities require at least a high school diploma or GED, and some have a minimum GPA to meet. Prospective students can generally complete an application online on the university's website. In addition to the above, some common item requested by universities include:

  • SAT or ACT scores
  • High school transcripts
  • Application fee
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • Personal statement

Students who have taken classes at a community college and wish to transfer to a four-year institution will need to submit transcripts to university admissions to have an equivalency analysis completed. This report will show which courses will transfer and the requirement they will meet.

Accreditation for Bachelor's in Gerontology Degrees

BA or BS in Gerontology degrees do not have special accreditation. However, it is important to consider whether your university of choice as a whole is accredited. Accreditation ensures academic excellence and without it, students cannot apply for financial aid or transfer credits to other accredited universities. Common regional accrediting bodies include the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, among others. Most university websites have a special section detailing their accreditation status.

Gerontology Licensure & Certification

A good stepping stone into the field, those who are interested in pursuing a BA or BS in Gerontology but are not sure if it is right for them can become a geriatric nursing assistant (GNA). GNAs provide direct daily living care to patients and residents in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing units in hospitals. While some states refer to them simply as certified nursing assistants (CNAs), the duties tend to be the same across the US.

Although training and licensing requirements vary from state-to-state, in general, GNAs must attend a state-approved training program and pass a licensing exam before starting their career. Training programs can either be 100% classroom-based or a hybrid course with theory taught online and clinical hours completed in-person. The Red Cross is one major provider of CNA training nationwide and offers both classroom and blended learning programs that can be completed within 4 to 8 weeks.

With additional education in both nursing and gerontology, GNAs may choose to progress up the career ladder to geriatric registered nurses. Education requirements for geriatric nurses vary by state so it is best to check with the nursing board in the location you wish to practice.

Social workers and geriatric doctors must also be licensed.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Gerontology?

A BA or BS in Gerontology opens the door to a career working with the elderly in several different capacities. Aside from direct care, there is also work in policy, advocacy, research, and planning. Some possible career opportunities within this field are:

  • Geriatric social worker
  • Geriatrician
  • Nursing home administrator
  • Nursing home activity coordinator
  • Home health aide
  • Geriatric nurse
  • Geriatric nutritionist
  • Senior center director

Roles in nursing, psychology, and medicine often require additional educational training in each respective field to meet licensing requirements.

How to Become a Geriatric Social Worker

Geriatric social workers focus on the care and rights of older adults. They work with individuals as well as their families and may make visits to nursing homes or hospitals to provide social and emotional support to clients. These social workers' main goal is to make sure the needs of their clients are met in all areas of their lives. They also work to prevent elder abuse.

To become a geriatric social worker, interested individuals must first obtain a Bachelor of Arts (BASW) or Bachelor of Science (BSW) in Social Work or a related field such as gerontology. Lower-level social work jobs may accept BASW or BSW educated candidates but to be a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) a Master of Social Work (MSW) is required along with a passing grade on a state licensing exam.

The BLS estimates that the annual median salary for social workers in 2019 was $50,470. This field is expected to grow 13% between 2019 and 2029 which BLS describes as much faster than average. Advanced educational attainment as well as additional experience can lead to salary increases and more opportunities.

How to Become a Geriatrician

Geriatricians are physicians who specialize in working with elderly patients. These MDs are experts in common ailments and diseases of older age. They also are in tune with the social and emotional needs of this demographic. Geriatricians work in a variety of settings including primary care, hospitals, skilled nursing units, nursing homes, and hospice.

Students who aspire to become geriatricians first need to earn a bachelor's degree. A health or pre-med bachelor's degree is not a requirement so a gerontology degree is a great option to gain theoretical knowledge that will help later in practice settings. Students generally need to have completed science classes such as biology and organic chemistry before applying to medical school. They will also need to do well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) entrance exam

After completing an Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)-approved medical education, prospective geriatricians must pass a licensing exam. Once initial licensing is complete, a residency period of about 3 years is necessary before undertaking 1-2 years of a geriatrics fellowship. Finally, doctors can become board certified in geriatric medicine by passing an exam.

The road to becoming a geriatrician is long and requires many hours of study and practice but the job is as financially rewarding as it is personally and professionally. According to PayScale.com, as of November 2020, geriatricians make a median salary of $190,419 a year.

Financial Aid & Scholarship Information for Bachelor's in Gerontology Degrees

Gerontology students who need help financing their students can avail of help in the form of federal financial aid, private student loans, scholarships, and grants. The U.S. government offers assistance to students studying at accredited universities through student loans repayable after graduation. To apply, interested individuals must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This can be done online and requires the entry of income and other financial information.

Scholarships and grants award money that does not need to be repaid. Grants are primarily for students demonstrating financial need while scholarships are open to all eligible students regardless of income. In the field of gerontology, numerous scholarships exist for students. These opportunities are provided by universities, governmental organizations, or private entities and non-profits. For example, the Colorado Gerontological Society offers a yearly $1,000 scholarship to students studying gerontology. Interested students must submit an essay detailing their desire and experience working with aging populations.

Professional Organizations in Gerontology

Professional organizations serve several purposes for those in the field of gerontology and while not mandatory can be useful for students and graduates alike. One of those organizations is the Gerontological Society of America (GSA). The GSA aims to further the study of and advocacy for the elderly through research and education.

Students of all degree levels are encouraged to join, and undergraduates are charged a reduced membership fee. Members benefit from a variety of networking opportunities both professionally and to engage in research. The GSA also provides access to six scholarly gerontology journals, holds an annual scientific meeting, and organizes a dissertation writing group to support doctoral students.

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