Online Geriatrics Degrees: Program Overviews

Dec 04, 2019

Learn about online degree and certificate programs with geriatrics courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

Essential Information

Geriatrics is the study of health and social concerns of the elderly. Many colleges offer online graduate programs in geriatrics, or gerontology, at the certificate and master's degree levels. Most programs are designed for nurses and other healthcare providers who work with the elderly, but some programs are for students who come from a social work and counseling background. Licensed registered nurses who complete these degree or certificate programs may be eligible for certification as advanced practice nurses specializing in gerontology.

Certificate programs require less than a year to complete; online master's degree programs usually take about two years, but many students are part-time and generally take longer. While a few certificate programs in gerontology are offered totally online, many require clinical experience working with aging adults. All of the master's degree programs for nurses have extensive clinical requirements. In both types of programs, students study the physical and mental consequences of aging, look at aging in our society and examine ethical issues involving aging and end of life care. Hybrid and online-only programs are available for students to take in this field.

Certificate Programs in Geriatrics

Online geriatric certificate programs are designed for working healthcare professionals who seek additional training in the field of geriatrics. Most certificate programs require students to hold a bachelor's degree in a related healthcare field. Students who complete a graduate certificate program in geriatrics gain the skills to become advanced health-care providers for the elderly and to provide leadership in the advocacy for the aging American population.

Program Information and Requirements

Many schools offer graduate certificate programs in gerontology completely online, however some institutions require on-campus consultations as well as proctored exams. Some universities require the student to complete an internship at an accredited care center for seniors. The typical length of a graduate certificate program in geriatrics consists of 12-15 credit hours. Students must have access to a computer with a high-speed Internet connection.

Course Topics

While many schools have a set curriculum for a graduate certificate in geriatrics, some universities allow the student to tailor their courses based on their educational and career goals.

Foundations of the Aging Process

In this course, students study the typical characteristics of the aging process from a physiological standpoint. Of primary focus in this course is the ability of the student to distinguish between normal aging patterns and the potential acute health risks that jeopardize the health of the elderly.

Ethics in Geriatrics

Students in this online course study the potential moral and ethical conflicts that face geriatric healthcare. The parameters of the responsibilities of geriatric care workers are defined, both through the study of texts as well as the examination of case-studies. This course provides students with the knowledge needed to make ethically informed decisions while working as a geriatric healthcare provider.

Sociological Perspectives of Aging

This online course focuses on the role that society plays in the lives of the elderly. Students learn of the factors that influence the quality of life for aging patients, including government systems, healthcare facilities, family support and economic issues.

Geriatric Master's Degree

Online geriatric master's degrees are readily available online at the master's degree level. Students who pursue this degree program must hold a bachelor's degree prior to enrollment. Many students come from a nursing, social work or a counseling background, all of which are useful when pursuing a graduate-level geriatric degree.

Students are often existing registered nurses who wish to specialize in geriatric care. The programs provide students with the skills necessary to care for elderly patients. In this online program students learn about the history of geriatric medicine, leadership skills, about the aging process, financial management and general geriatric health research.

Program Information and Requirements

In most cases, this degree program can be completed entirely online. The program can be completed in less than three years; however many students who enroll in this type of degree program are employed part or full-time and may take longer to complete the program.

Online geriatrics master's degree programs require students to have access to a computer with Internet access. Some programs require the computer have a DVD drive, because some of the study materials are delivered via DVD. In addition, students must also have an email address and telephone.

Course Topics

Core courses are all geriatric-specific subjects and students are not required to complete any general education courses.

Geriatric Research

This course enhances the student's research and assessment skills in geriatric healthcare. Students review literature and learn how to write grant applications in order to increase the funds available for geriatric research.

Adult Aging

Students gain an understanding of the mental and physiological affect aging has on the body. This course often focuses not only on the elderly, but aging over an entire lifespan, helping students to gain a more thorough understanding of the process. Students study the effects that aging has on families and communities as a whole.

Career Information

Jobs in geriatric health include geriatric nurses and geriatric physician's assistants. Registered nurses can specialize in geriatrics and work exclusively with the elderly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, (, the number of registered nurses is expected to increase by 12% between the year 2018 and 2028.

Job prospects for geriatric care nurses are expected to be good due to an aging population. Students can also find employment as a physician's assistant, where basic skills acquired in the master's degree program can be used to assist general physicians when caring for the elderly. Most careers will require additional certification offered by a state or professional organization.

Continuing Education Information

Many students acquire a graduate certificate in geriatrics in order to complete a Master of Science in Geriatrics degree program. However, many working nurses and health-care professionals who want to advance their knowledge in the field of gerontology pursue this degree as well.

Healthcare professionals can earn graduate level certificates or graduate degrees in geriatrics fully online or in a hybrid format. Courses usually include geriatric research, the foundations of the aging process and adult aging.

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