PhD in Gerontology: Degree Program Information

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Gerontology is a terminal degree where candidates complete diverse programs of study, pass examinations and defend their dissertations. Learn more about the program, coursework and job outlook.

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Essential Information

The Doctor of Philosophy in Gerontology is a research-intensive program designed for those who wish to become educators, researchers, or leaders in the government and health services administration. The program may take 4-5 years to complete and typically requires both traditional courses and a dissertation. Students may also be asked to publish original articles, attend national conferences, or participate in colloquia. Some schools allow students to choose an area of specialization, such as epidemiology, behavioral studies, or policy for the aging.

Applicants to a gerontology Ph.D. program are required to at least have a bachelor's degree, though some schools may prefer applicants who hold a master's degree. GRE scores are also required. Admission into these programs is very competitive; some programs may only admit 4-5 students each year.

Doctor of Philosophy in Gerontology

Ph.D students in gerontology are trained to be researchers, scientists, and teachers who can solve scholarly and practical issues pertaining to the elderly. Programs in this field are interdisciplinary and have curricula spanning courses in biology and biochemistry, psychology, sociology, and medicine. During the first three years of the Ph.D. program, students complete coursework and may contribute original research to conferences in the field. Students are required to select specific areas of focus which will in turn inform their dissertation topics. Dissertations are written and then defended during the fourth and/or fifth years of the program.

Topics in gerontology cover the discipline's wide-ranging scientific, sociological, physiological, and psychological bases. Students may take supplementary courses in statistics, mathematics, and political science to support core coursework in the following:

  • Biology of aging
  • Developmental sociology
  • Epidemiology of aging
  • Gerontological research designs and methods
  • Social policy and aging
  • Theoretical conceptions of aging

Career Outlook and Salary Information

With a Ph.D. in Gerontology, graduates are most nearly qualified to be sociologists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists gerontology as one of the many specialized areas within sociology, and states that all sociologists will see a 1% decline in employment between 2014 and 2024 ( In specific regard to gerontology, the BLS expects the rise in the U.S. elderly population to fuel high growth in career opportunities related to the field.

The mean annual wage for all sociologists was $82,100 in May 2015, according to the BLS. Major employers of sociologists include professional schools and universities, scientific research firms and governments. The multifaceted, interdisciplinary training that gerontologists and other sociologists receive also allows them to pursue positions at firms specializing in policy analysis, consulting and marketing.

Students interested in sociology and issues surrounding the elderly can pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in Gerontology to work as gerontologists and sociologists.

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