Earning a Master's in Gerontology Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in Gerontology Online?

By 2035, the U.S. population over the age of 65 is predicted to outnumber those under 18. This unprecedented demographic shift will lead to many promising career prospects for those who are committed to the physical, psychological, and social well-being of the elderly. An online gerontology master's degree prepares graduates for rewarding careers in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, and social work agencies.

Over the next decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 18% increase in the employment of social and community service managers and an overall 16% expansion of positions in social and human services.

A master's in gerontology online program is perfect for students who prefer to work independently and at their own pace. Distance learning formats offer convenient schedules and flexibility for working professionals and students who may find it difficult to complete a campus-based degree.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Gerontology Graduates

Master's in Gerontology Salary

Students completing a gerontology master's program online or on campus can expect a favorable employment outlook. The demand for healthcare and social services for an aging population has created a shortage in healthcare service providers, social workers, and other specialized professionals. While healthcare industries and health-related services represent the major employers of gerontologists at all levels, specific opportunities and salary ranges depend on the type of industry, size of employer, geographical location, and years of experience.

Hospitals of all kinds offer the highest salaries for gerontological specialists, followed by government agencies. Experienced gerontologists who possess ten or more years of experience can expect to earn annual salaries above $50,000.

Salaries for Social Workers by Industry

Industry Annual Mean Wage
Hospitals; State, Local, and Private $58,490
Local Government, Excluding Education and Hospitals $52,900
Ambulatory Healthcare Services $48,340
State Government, Excluding Education and Hospitals $46,120
Individual and Family Services $40,800

Master's in Gerontology Careers

An online gerontology master's degree prepares graduates to address the full range of challenges faced by the diverse aging population in the U.S. Gerontologists manage and provide healthcare services and advocate on behalf of the elderly. They assist with financial and insurance questions and consult with them about caretakers and living arrangements. In addition to the specialized skills acquired through graduate training, gerontologists must also possess a genuine compassion for the elderly.

Policy Advocate

Annual Median Salary: $60,560

Policy advocates work in public and private agencies and represent the interests of their organizations or clients. They develop and communicate strategies that influence policy and practice on social and economic issues, and they lobby for initiatives relevant to the elderly community. Advocates must possess a knowledge of and commitment to the causes they represent.

Geriatric Care Manager

Annual Median Salary: $49,422

These highly specialized social workers develop a plan of care for elderly patients to fit their health needs and budget. Coordinating their activities with medical professionals, family members, and caregivers, they identify and locate resources and services, schedule medical appointments and transportation, and arrange for therapy, rehabilitation, or palliative and hospice care.

Geriatric Social Worker

Annual Median Salary: $45,993

Geriatric social workers generally hold a master's in social work with a gerontology specialization. They assist elderly clients in the management of their living arrangements and healthcare needs. They also determine whether clients can live independently, assist them in their transition to a nursing home, arrange transportation for medical appointments and shopping, and advise family members about healthcare and financial decisions.

Clinic Business Manager

Annual Median Salary: $60,034

These managers oversee the day-to-day operations of medical clinics. This can include managing departments and personnel, improving the quality of services, and increasing profitability. Additionally, they are responsible for administering budgets, financial reports, and vendor contracts, as well as ensuring compliance with policies, regulations, and professional standards. The ideal candidate for this position possesses a background in management with some experience in healthcare settings.

Public Policy Analyst

Annual Median Salary: $56,249

These professionals analyze public policy needs for the benefit of specific groups and recommended new policies or changes to existing programs. They prepare proposals, supporting documents, and presentations for various audiences soliciting their support. They possess strong research and communication skills, and they work with key individuals and organizations to achieve their policy objectives.

Source: PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Gerontology Program?

Although specific graduation requirements and curricula vary from school to school, students in all master's in gerontology online programs leave prepared for career and research opportunities in organizations that work directly with aging populations. Courses typically focus on medical issues and healthcare, lifespan development, social services, and public policy.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Gerontology

Physiology of Aging

Aging impacts all major systems within the human body, like the cardiovascular system and the central nervous system. The course addresses both normal, age-related physiological changes and dysfunctional changes, with special relevance for students planning to enter social services careers. Course content emphasizes developmental changes through the lifespan in relation to physiological conditions.

Psychology of Aging

Case managers, social workers, and administrators benefit from a foundation in the psychological processes that accompany aging. This course analyzes normal age-related psychological changes, common psychopathologies, dementia, and the psychodynamics of caregiving for older adults. Students address the policy implications of psychological changes in later life, with a special emphasis on the delivery of effective and efficient interventions.

Aging and Diversity

This multicultural approach to the study of the aging U.S. population examines demographic shifts, cohort variations, and health and life expectancy differentials. Lectures and readings present the current research on psychological attitudes and social perceptions about aging held by different racial and ethnic groups. The course provides cultural competency tools for gerontology professionals working in diverse social service and healthcare settings.

Long-Term Care Administration and Policy Analysis

Designed for students preparing to enter administrative positions in the public and private sectors, this course explores the ways the healthcare industry, entitlement programs, and social services serve the aging population. The course addresses the economic, social, and political forces that impact the delivery of institutional and community-based long-term care for older adults.

Research Methods in Gerontology

Students explore the applications of social scientific research methods to the study of aging. Course content includes quantitative and qualitative methods, measurement, data collection and analysis, and interpretation of findings. The course places special emphasis on methodologies commonly used by administrators, policy analysts, and program directors, including descriptive and experimental research, program evaluations, and needs assessment.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Gerontology Prepares For

  • Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology: The CSW-G credential certifies master's-level expertise for licensed clinical social workers specializing in gerontology. Requirements include a master's degree in social work from a graduate program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, 30 hours of post-degree continuing professional education, and documentation of at least two years of paid, supervised post-MSW clinical social work employment.
  • Certified Geriatric Care Manager: The CGCM certificate assesses a practitioner's knowledge of care planning and care management practices for health and human services professionals, specifically those who provide case/care management services to older adults dealing with health and/or disability issues. Administered by the International Commission on Health Care Certification, the certification requires candidates to complete at least a bachelor's degree in a healthcare-related field and 120 hours of postgraduate training in geriatric care management.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Joining a professional association in gerontology delivers tangible rewards and an array of career-enhancing resources for graduates entering the job market. Graduate students benefit from contacts with practitioners working in gerontology specialties who can provide them with mentoring and support.

Professional organizations -- like those listed below -- even offer discounted student memberships. Membership typically includes access to networking events and conferences, continuing education workshops, and job placement services. Student members can also find useful information on certification programs, scholarships, and internships.

  • Gerontological Society of America: As the oldest and largest professional association in gerontology, GSA serves over 5,500 members who represent all areas within the field of gerontology, including education, research, social services, and policy.

  • American Society on Aging: ASA enhances the knowledge and skills of practitioners in order to improve the quality of life of older adults and their families. The organization offers online continuing education, webinars, and an awards program.

  • ­American Geriatrics Society: AGS provides publications, tools, and programs to educate medical personnel, social workers, policymakers, and the general public on geriatrics as a profession and best practices for elders in the healthcare industry.

  • National Association for Professional Gerontologists: NAPG promotes discipline standards and quality practices for aging specialists. The organization sponsors several certification programs and professional development opportunities, provides consulting services, and hosts networking events and national and regional conferences.

  • International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics: IAGG boasts a membership of 45,000 in 73 member organizations from 65 different countries. This affiliate of the International Federation on Aging promotes excellence in gerontological research and education.

  • Association for Gerontology in Higher Education: AGHE promotes the advancement of gerontology and geriatric research, education, and practice. It provides a forum for research and teaching professionals to present and share their scholarship through its annual meeting and educational leadership conference.

  • AARP: Formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, AARP provides practical information and serves as a policy advocate for people over 50. It offers resources on healthcare, insurance, finances, travel, and lifestyle information for its 30 million members.

  • AgeWork: Sponsored by the Gerontological Society of America, AgeWork describes itself as the only focused career site in gerontology. The website offers career planning resources, a recruiter support center, and extensive job listings for gerontology specialists.

  • AgeLab: This research site, maintained by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, presents information on technological and practical innovations designed to improve the quality of life for older people and those who care for them.

  • Home and Community Based Services Clearinghouse: HCBS provides resources for program developers, policy makers, and practitioners who assist older adults and people with disabilities. It empowers and assist professionals to improve long-term care and support systems for these populations.

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