How to Choose the Best Gerontology Degree

The article below details the advantages of earning a gerontology degree, including the types of degrees (bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral), available programs, why you should earn the degree, accreditation and career options available.

What Is a Gerontology Degree?

Gerontology is the study of aging and all of its physical, mental and sociological aspects. So, a degree in gerontology teaches you how the processes of aging work, how people change as they age, how society affects and is affected by people aging, and how policies can be implemented to help the aging. This type of degree is applicable to work in any type of facility that works with the elderly – from nursing homes to long term care facilities to senior work centers.

Gerontology is a very diverse field with all types of career opportunities available after you earn your degree. You could find yourself working in human services, retirement centers, nursing homes, health care agencies, long term care facilities, and various state and local government organizations.

Why Earn a Gerontology Degree?

The field of gerontology is generally growing because the US population is living longer than ever before. As of today, there are 46 million people over 65 and they represent 14.5% of the population. Statistics show that the population of 65+ people in the US will double between 2015-2055.  Also, from 2004-2014, the elderly population increased 18%.

People live longer and they are living healthier and more active lives, so there is more interest in learning how to deal with aging in such a way that people can be more productive and happy as they get older.

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The aging population is growing at an increasing rate. Now more than ever, it’s important that we learn about the social, psychological and physical aspects of serving this population and meeting its needs. Our Professional Development in Gerontology Certificate provides student with a foundation in the field of gerontology, helping a wide range of individuals as you’ll see in this video: from medical professionals to business owners to those taking care of aging parents.

With a degree in gerontology, you should be able to find good work in most fields that involve dealing with and taking care of the elderly. The most popular place to find work is in retirement facilities and nursing homes, as well as long term care facilities. Many people with gerontology degrees work for state and local government agencies.

Some gerontology specialists work as social workers, social scientists, nursing aides and managers of nursing homes or senior healthcare facilities.

A major reason for earning a gerontology degree is that you are not locked into one particular job or field. Any field that deals with the elderly population is a good possibility for work.

Most people who work in gerontology earn their bachelor’s and then their master’s degree in this growing and popular field.

Choosing Your Degree Path

Most professionals in the field end up earning their bachelor’s or master’s degree in gerontology or in a related field. Some of the most common degrees in this area of study include:

  • Bachelor’s of Arts in Gerontology and Aging Services: This bachelor’s degree is recognized as the entry level degree to get started in a career in the gerontological services. Possible roles after graduation may include program manager, program and policy analyst, housing and facilities manager and services developer.
  • Master of Arts in Gerontology: This master’s degree gives you the tools so that you can make a big difference in many aging service industries by serving elderly people in residential care centers, retirement care centers, and long term care facilities. Your master’s in gerontology also can be used in business, administration, medicine, law and social advocacy roles.
  • Master of Science in Gerontology Research: This is a research and policy issue-oriented master’s degree that provides students with tools to conduct applied research in aging-related subjects.
  • Ph.D. in Gerontology: This is generally a research focused degree that focuses on aging research, social science and policy. Many of these programs are dedicated to serving the low income elderly and to conduct research on how to better serve these seniors.

Online Gerontology Degree Options

A good choice for an online gerontology master’s degree is UMassOnline, which offers a two year, advanced degree so that you can find exciting work in the growing area of aging services. UMassOnline has been ranked as one of the top 10 best colleges in online education according to The Best Colleges.

This degree is designed for professionals who want to work in long term care, service supported housing, community based services, and generally in health care serving those who require long term, chronic care.

The two year program allows professionals the opportunity to improve and broaden their perspectives on the aging population and to hone their skills in policy development, aging policy administration, program management, and finance.

Required coursework includes the following;

  • Understanding Data – Research for Managers
  • Health Aging Perspectives
  • Social Perspectives on Aging for Long Term Care Service Providers
  • Aging Policy and Programming
  • Residential and Long Term Care Management
  • Environmental Gerontology
  • Marketing Aging Services
  • Service Delivery Issues in Aging
  • Organizing and Financing of Aging Services
  • Human Resources and Personnel Management

Professionals who graduate from this program are prepared for a rewarding career in these types of areas:

  • Elder housing
  • Assisted living
  • Senior centers
  • Nursing homes
  • Adult day care
  • Firms that market to seniors
  • State and federal agencies

UMassOnline has been accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Accreditation

As you are considering a degree in gerontology, you always should ensure that your university has been accredited by one of these accreditation agencies recognized by the US Department of Education:

  • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE) Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

By ensuring that your university is accredited, you will know that your degree will be respected and recognized by potential employers.

Also, you will know that you will have an education that has provided you with the background, tools and information that you need to succeed in the field of gerontology.

Summary

With the US population poised to age greatly in the next 50 years, it makes sense to get a degree in gerontology so that you can provide essential services to this booming population of seniors. In that way, you will know that you will always be able to find good, stable work for years in the future.

Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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