There are two types of graduate certificate programs in gerontology. The first type is a post-baccalaureate program often found within the social work departments of colleges, and it prepares students to work with aging populations in a variety of places, such as nursing homes and health care facilities. Courses examine gerontology theories and research through a multidisciplinary approach. Students learn about physiological, psychological and social changes that affect aging populations and are often required to complete an internship, practicum or research project. Prospective students are required to have a bachelor's degree and submit personal statements of interest. The time required to complete the program varies by institution, but students typically finish in two years.
The second type of gerontology graduate certificate is a post-master's program for those who already have a master's degree in nursing and a current RN license. This program prepares students to take the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners' Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner - Primary Care certification exam and requires students to complete several clinical training experiences.
The courses for the post-master's program can be taken online from some schools, but distance learning students will need to secure a location for their clinical experience. These programs may have different credit requirements, so the length of time to complete them could range from less than one to two years. Required coursework for students varies according to the topics they studied during previous education and their personal interests within gerontology.
Common courses discuss issues related to both the illness and wellness of elderly populations. Students delve into various health conditions that commonly afflict the elderly, such as arthritis, dementia, incontinence, osteoporosis and depression. They examine health promotion and disease prevention practices and learn how to implement such activities in elders' lives.
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Gerontology
Gerontology post-baccalaureate certificate programs are designed for students who have completed undergraduate studies in related disciplines like public health or social services and for professionals working in careers related to aging populations.
Students examine various issues that concern elderly individuals, such as health care, nutritional needs, social status, personality, perception, financial planning, housing options and long-term care options. Students learn to evaluate policies and programs, as well as to suggest program improvements. They are trained to treat disorders like Alzheimer's disease and dementia, provide counseling to elderly people and their families and help aging populations with legal issues.
Students usually take a combination of required courses and electives. Online programs are available, in addition to on-campus programs. Some class topics include geriatric pharmacy. Other courses that might be included:
- Aging and health
- Cultural variations in aging
- Economic issues of aging
- Programs and services for older adults
- End of life decisions
- Senior programs management
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Post-master's Certificate in Gerontology
Post-master's gerontology certificate programs incorporate studies in psychiatry, nutrition, therapy and medicine to provide students with a holistic approach to older adult care. Students work with geriatric patients in various settings, collaborate with health care professionals and participate in gerontological research.
Students have the option to take specialized classes in oncology, cardiology, diabetes management, palliative care or another discipline pertinent to gerontology. The clinical component gives students the opportunity to manage and assess a variety of geriatric patients' conditions. Scholars are trained to carry out screening exams, diagnostic tests and comprehensive assessments. They evaluate the results and create health care plans. Learners may prescribe medications, provide patient care education and offer counseling.
Subjects commonly available include primary care of older adults, advanced health assessment, advanced pathophysiology, and acute health problems. Additional courses could include:
- Social issues and elders' health
- Advanced pharmacology
- Mental health issues for the aging
- Biobehavioral foundations of illness
- Diversity in health and illness
- Professional issues in nursing
Popular Career Options
Due to the expanding size of the elderly population, demand for individuals with gerontology education is also increasing. Gerontology certificate programs supplement individuals' skills and make them valuable to employers. While gerontology can be applied to numerous careers, some popular places of work for graduates are:
- Nursing homes
- Assisted living centers
- Government agencies
- Health care facilities
- Social services organizations
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Graduates who have passed gerontological NP or CNS certification tests and met their state's licensing requirements can seek employment. They may work in primary care centers, retirement communities, outpatient clinics, urgent care clinics or long-term care facilities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that employment of registered nurses, which includes clinical nurse specialists, was expected to grow 16% between 2014 through 2024 (www.bls.gov). Nurse practitioners could expect a 35% job growth over the same period. The median annual salary for RNs was $67,490 in May 2015, according to the BLS. Nurse practitioners earned median salaries of $98,190.
Curricula in graduate certificate programs in gerontology include practicums and traditional lecture courses discussing medical, psychological and social factors that affect the elderly. Students might pursue these certificates to supplement their social service and public health training or prepare for advanced practice nursing roles.