It is estimated that one in five Americans will be over 65 in 2050. This significant growth in the aging population means that there is a heightened need for individuals that specialize in understanding the aging process with the skills to create a better life experience for seniors. Gerontology and aging studies are two career paths that can help fill this current and expanding demand. There are many schools for this, here I’ll cover the best colleges for Gerontology studies and similar aging studies.
A gerontologist is a type of healthcare provider or researcher that works specifically with aging clients. Gerontology is the study of the mental, cultural, biological, and social implications associated with aging. This differs from geriatrics, a medical specialty that centers on seniors’ health needs and care options. Gerontologists often have diverse educational backgrounds ranging from Biology and Nursing to Housing Design and Political Science. My experience mirrors the above. I worked for many years in aging services with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s in Public Policy and Management.
Aging studies focuses on how physical aging is influenced by the culture surrounding an individual and may include gender, cultural, consumer, and film studies.
What education level do you need to work in gerontology?
Knowing what aspect of senior care you’d like to work with will help you decide which degree or educational level you need to obtain. With that information, you can narrow down your school application process to universities that offer that course of study.
Most entry-level positions require a bachelor’s degree in Gerontology or Aging Studies, but not always. A Bachelor of Arts in Aging Studies is often sufficient education to work at many community organizations, senior living facilities, home health care companies, and government agencies that focus on elder needs.
Some universities offer these options as minors so that a student may graduate with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, for example, and a minor in gerontology. Someone with this educational background would be qualified to help design more accessible housing for the elderly. Other majors include psychology, sociology, counseling, and nursing.
Social workers, occupational therapists, and counselors that wish to work with seniors must have a master’s degree because it is a licensing requirement in every state.
Those that want to focus on the research and education aspect of gerontology will need at least a Ph.D. For example, gerontology research careers might specialize in the study of particular diseases common among older individuals or why certain seniors age faster than others.
What to Look For in a School
Universities should be accredited by either the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), or both. In addition, accreditation for the university’s gerontology program should be endorsed by the Association of Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE). AGHE recognition is voluntary, but it is a sign of course excellence.
11 Best Colleges for Gerontology – Bachelor’s Degree
In addition to 21 credits towards the degree, students must perform a semester of field education and participate in an approved study abroad experience. The aim of the cross-cultural experience is for students to become familiar with global health issues, international social services, and health challenges experienced by local populations that differ from the students’ own backgrounds.
The Gerontology Department offers a Bachelor’s in Arts in Aging Studies, a Bachelor’s in Science in Aging Studies, and a minor in Aging Studies through the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute. In addition, the university partners with Longview senior living community to provide intergenerational learning opportunities for students and residents.
This university offers a Bachelor of Science in Gerontology, a minor in Gerontology, and an individualized CSUS Gerontology Special Master’s Degree. The school and Gerontology Department focus on supporting historically underrepresented communities and work to avoid biases based on race, age, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, or religion in their inclusive learning programs.
University of South Florida – College of Behavioral and Community Sciences School of Aging Studies Undergraduate Program
The School of Aging Studies has two Bachelor of Science programs available. One is in Long-Term Care Administration, and the second is in Aging Sciences. In addition, the university offers a minor in Gerontology. Several graduate certificate programs are also provided, designed for students who want to learn more about the field of aging studies but do not want to major in it.
University of Northern Iowa – College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Undergraduate Gerontology Program
The university offers two Bachelor of Arts degree programs, one focusing on the social science of aging and the other on long-term care administration. The school also provides a way for students to obtain a minor in Gerontology. The Northeast Iowa Agency on Aging works with the university to provide practical experience on what it’s like to live with dementia at the Dementia Simulation House off-campus.
The Leonard Davis School of Gerontology offers two Bachelor of Science degree programs. One is in Human Development and Aging, and the other is in Lifespan Health. Additionally, students can receive two minors in gerontology, one specializing in Individuals, Societies, and Aging and the second focusing on Science, Health, and Aging.
Kansas State University Center on Aging, College of Health and Human Sciences Secondary Undergraduate Major in Gerontology
KSU offers a secondary major in Gerontology to complement various career options. The university also provides a secondary major in Gerontology with an emphasis in Long-Term Care Administration and a minor in Gerontology.
Miami University College of Arts and Science Department of Sociology and Gerontology Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology
The Department of Sociology and Gerontology at Miami University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology and a minor at its Oxford campus. In addition, students have an opportunity to work with seniors at the Scripps Gerontology Center associated with the school.
Minnesota State University – Mankato College of Humanities and Social Sciences Aging Studies Program
The Aging Studies Undergraduate Program offers a minor in Aging Studies, a separate Minor in Aging Studies for Nursing Students, and a Long-Term Care Administration Certificate. In addition, an internship arranged through the Department of Sociology and Corrections is required for students wishing to minor in Aging Studies.
UNO offers a Bachelor of Science in Gerontology which can be completed online with an Administration concentration. The school also allows for double majors and double degrees in Gerontology. Other options include a minor in Gerontology and a Certificate in Gerontology for those who have already received their Bachelor’s degree.
Bowling Green State University College of Health and Human Services Undergraduate Gerontology Program
The Gerontology Program at Bowling Green State University has two undergraduate degrees available; a Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology and a degree specialty in Long-Term Care (LTC) Administration. Both require 1,000-hour practicums in an approved skilled nursing facility. A minor in Gerontology is also available.
11 Best Colleges Gerontology – Advanced Degree
University of South Florida – College of Behavioral and Community Sciences School of Aging Studies Graduate Program
The School of Aging Studies has two Master’s programs available; a Master of Arts in Gerontology degree and a Master of Science in Applied Aging Sciences. It also offers a Ph.D. in Aging Studies course of study.
San Francisco State offers a Master of Arts in Gerontology, and two university scholars accelerated programs that permit students to earn both a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work or Sociology and an M.A. in Gerontology in five years.
USC Leonard Davis currently offers 11 Master’s degree programs in Gerontology. You can receive a Master of Arts in Gerontology (MAG), Aging Services Management (MAASM), Long-Term Care Administration (MALTCA), Medical Gerontology (MAMG), Senior Living Hospitality (MASLH) and Foodservice Management and Dietetics (MAFMD). You can also complete a Master of Science degree in Nutrition, Healthspan and Longevity (MSNHL), Lifespan, Nutrition and Dietetics (MSLND), Nutritional Science (MSNS), Applied Technology and Aging (MSATA), or Gerontology (MSG). For those with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree already, the Graduate Certificate in Gerontology is available. The school also offers two doctoral programs and a doctorate program; Gerontology, Biology of Aging, and a Doctorate of Longevity Arts and Sciences.
Kansas State University Center on Aging, College of Health and Human Sciences Online Graduate Program in Gerontology
Kansas State University’s Master of Science in Gerontology is online with rolling admission, so there’s no need to relocate or wait a year to start. The school also offers a Certificate in Gerontology for those that have already completed a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.
Tulane’s School of Medicine offers an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Aging Studies allows students to design and develop products or processes that would improve the quality of life for seniors working in conjunction with the Tulane Center for Aging.
The School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida offers a Master of Arts in Gerontology and a Master of Science in Applied Aging Sciences. It also has an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Aging Studies program and graduate certificate programs. These gerontology graduate certificate programs include a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology, the Advanced Graduate Certificate in Gerontology, and the Advanced Graduate Certificate in Geriatric Social Work/Clinical Gerontology.
The University of Indianapolis Master of Science in Aging Studies can be completed in 18 months, although you have up to five years to finish. The school also offers a Graduate Certificate in Aging Studies program for those that have already obtained a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.
Wichita State University offers an online Master of Arts in Aging Studies. Students can specialize in one of three career tracks; Senior Living Management, Public Health, or Senior Community Services. Students following the Senior Living Management course are eligible to complete the Administrator-in-Training Program (AIT). At the same time, those specializing in Public Health will also earn a Graduate Certificate in Public Health (GCPH).
Minnesota State University – Mankato College of Humanities and Social Sciences Aging Studies Program
Minnesota State’s Master of Science in Aging Studies can be done online or on campus. The university also offers two graduate certificates; the Aging Studies Graduate Certificate, which is entirely online, and the Graduate Certificate in Long-Term Care Administration, which requires a 1,000-hour practicum.
EIU offers a Master of Science in Aging Studies as an interdisciplinary program. It can be completed online or as a hybrid course in about 18 months. This flexibility makes it easier for graduate students who are already employed to complete their Master’s.
BGSU has a Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Gerontology (MSIG) program with additional long-term care (LTC) specialization. The Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Fellows Program can provide financial assistance for this graduate degree to Peace Corps volunteers wishing to specialize in gerontology.
Other Ways to Become Certified in Gerontology and Aging Studies
If you’ve already received your diploma but are looking for a career change, you can get additional certification in gerontology from specific organizations other than universities.
Suppose you’d like a certification qualifying you as a long-term care facility administrator. In that case, the National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Board (NAB) offers a Nursing Home Administrator certification (NHA). You can get an Advanced Social Worker in Gerontology (ASW-G) accreditation from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) if you are a licensed social worker.
If you are a registered nurse, the American Nurses Credential Center has a Gerontological Nursing Certification (GERO-BC). In addition, licensed occupational therapists can get a Board Certification in Gerontology (BCG) from the American Occupational Therapy Association.