Distance Learning University Degree in Gerontology: Program Overview

Essential Information

The study of senior citizens is a critical and growing field, especially as people live longer lives and are more productive at advanced ages. Online degree programs can help aspiring gerontologists understand social and cultural factors that affect senior citizens. These programs are typically found at four-year universities or colleges, including a number of public institutions.

Online bachelor's degrees in gerontology are not widely available, although some schools may offer undergraduate majors in related fields, such as in health sciences or human services, with a concentration in gerontology. Students may find more distance learning options among programs leading to undergraduate certificates, master's degrees and graduate certificates. Certificates commonly take about a year to earn, while master's degrees require around two years of full-time study.

Admissions Requirements

Some schools offering undergraduate certificates may only require prospective students to have a high school diploma, although others could require applicants to have a relevant undergraduate degree and/or certain general education credits. Applicants pursuing a graduate certificate or degree must have a bachelor's degree and, in some cases, colleges might request resumes or information regarding relevant experience.

Distance Learning

Students complete their coursework in an online classroom containing assignments, lectures, learning materials and communication tools. They may interact with their instructors and peers using message boards or class chat rooms. Some schools use video conferencing technology to conduct live Web classes at scheduled times.

Students can often complete their gerontology coursework online, but some programs require students to gain hands-on experience in working with older adults in their area. This may be in the form of community service, internships or visits to the elderly.

Undergraduate Certificate

Distance learning undergraduate certificates are useful in helping people understand and communicate with the elderly. Schools may allow students to complete certificate coursework as part of their bachelor's degree program. These programs provide foundational knowledge in aging and the many factors impacting the process. Topics covered in undergraduate online certificate programs in gerontology might include:

  • Biology of aging
  • Psychology of the elderly
  • Gerontology case studies
  • Issues and trends in gerontology

Master's Degree

Online gerontology master's degree programs typically consist of 28-36 credits; depending on the school, a program may culminate in a capstone research project. Courses in a master's degree program in gerontology might include:

  • Aging and families
  • Aging and public policy
  • Marketing to the elderly
  • Gerontology research methods

Graduate Certificate

Online gerontology certificate programs at the graduate level contain similar content to master's degree programs, but with fewer electives. Distance learning students might explore the following gerontology topics in a graduate certificate program:

  • Gerontology perspectives
  • Gender roles in aging
  • Technology and the elderly
  • Nutrition and aging

Distance learning gerontology degree programs are rare, but they are available, particularly at the certificate, master's and graduate certificate levels. Students learn via an online classroom, however some schools may require internships as a part of the curriculum.

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