What is Gerontology?
Gerontology is the study of the aging process. Unlike nursing and geriatrics, which primarily focus on medical aspects of growing older, gerontology also explores social and mental factors. Gerontology professionals investigate how aging impacts individuals and use this information to improve care, programs, and policies. While nurses may focus on gerontology, positions in the field exists outside the nursing profession. Gerontology roles may involve research, advocacy, counseling, and activity or program coordination.
Earning a gerontology degree online can lead to lucrative careers, especially considering the number of aging citizens. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 617.1 million people in the world were at least 65 years old in 2015. Experts project this number to increase to about 1.6 billion by 2050, approximately 16.7% of the projected population. Students in gerontology bachelor’s programs prepare to serve this growing population.
Students pursuing online gerontology degrees complete coursework in areas such as ethics, psychology, physiology, research, and legal concepts. Graduates often pursue careers researching medication, studying health conditions affecting older populations, and working as nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists.
What Is a Degree in Gerontology?
Gerontology students learn to understand the elderly and to shape programs, policies, and care methods that assist older populations. Graduates often pursue careers dealing with issues such as finances and living accommodations for the elderly.
Gerontology programs are available from the undergraduate to doctoral levels. Additionally, candidates can pursue degrees with a concentration in gerontology, such as the human services aging studies degree with a concentration in gerontology available at Metropolitan State University.
Students earning a bachelor’s degree in gerontology typically complete about 120 credits in topics such as aging, ethics, psychology, social work, public health, physiology, human services, and interviewing. Many bachelor’s programs require a practicum or capstone during which students complete a paper, a seminar, or fieldwork. Schools may also require students to fulfill a language requirement.
Online gerontology degrees are available from schools throughout the country. Distance learners can pursue their gerontology degree online at the undergraduate or graduate level.
What Can You Do with a Gerontology Degree Online?
- Nurse Aide: Nurse aides work in hospital settings or patients’ homes. They help with everyday tasks, such as dressing, and can administer medicine under a superior’s orders. Nurse aides often work with elderly patients, and they deliver care that makes patients feel comfortable and respected.
- Geriatric Social Worker: These social workers help elderly patients experience safe and full lives at home or adapt to life in a care facility. They may counsel patients or provide input to families who are making decisions for an elderly relative. Many organizations require these professionals to hold a bachelor’s in social work with an emphasis in gerontology.
- Geriatric Care Manager: These managers create assistance plans for elderly citizens in collaboration with external resources and organizations. Responsibilities often include acting as a liaison between the patient and family and managing treatment records.
- Assisted Living Administrator: These administrators perform tasks at assisted living facilities, including choosing patients to admit, regulating finances, and ensuring organizational plans align with governing policies. A background in gerontology grants these workers insight to the mental, social, and physical needs of elderly patients.
Common Employers for Professionals with a Bachelor’s in Gerontology
Hospitals: Gerontology workers in hospitals tend to work with elderly patients on a short-term basis. These professionals include nurse aides and geriatric or gerontological nurses who provide physical assistance to aging patients. Gerontology graduates may also become nurse practitioners, who diagnose and treat patients, often under physician supervision.
Long-Term Care Clinics: Professionals in long-term care clinics provide patients with ongoing help managing disabilities, injuries, illnesses, or age. Patients may receive long-term aide at professional establishments, such as nursing homes, or in their own homes. Related careers include positions as long-term care nursing directors and geriatric care managers.
Nursing Homes: Nursing homes provide constant care for elderly patients. Employment options in these establishments include home health aides, human service assistants, personal care aides, geriatric nurses, nurse aides, nursing assistants, and social workers. A bachelor’s degree in gerontology prepares students to respectfully care for patients in these facilities.
|Entry-Level (0-5 Years)||Mid-Career (5-10 Years)||Experienced (10-20 Years)||Late-Career (20+ Years)|
|Geriatric Social Worker||$40,000||$44,000||$45,000||$59,000|
|Geriatric Care Manager||$50,000||$54,000||$55,000||$51,000|
|Assisted Living Administrator||$48,000||$52,000||$60,000||$62,000|
Is an Online Bachelor’s in Gerontology the Right Choice for Me?
Concern for the aging population is a necessary trait for gerontology professionals. Workers should also possess patience, which is necessary to assist patients who become agitated or who require extensive care. These characteristics are important for gerontology professionals in various positions, including roles in nursing, aide, and research. Many gerontology jobs also require strong communication skills to respectfully interact with patients and staff members.
Gerontology workers help older citizens live independent, healthy lives. These professionals may assist in everyday activities or help patients explore treatment plans. Gerontology professionals should be committed to helping those who cannot care for themselves. For professionals with a degree in gerontology, salary varies by position and experience level.
Getting Your Degree Online
- Accessibility: Students earning their gerontology degree online can study from any location with an internet connection, including their place of employment, a library, a coffee house, or their home. This accessibility often reduces or eliminates costs associated with transportation.
- Flexibility: Many distance programs deliver courses asynchronously, which allows learners to watch lectures, complete assignments, and take examinations according to their schedule. This arrangement is ideal for busy students pursuing an online gerontology degree.
- School Options: Choosing distance learning increases the number of potential colleges and universities you can attend. If you plan on attending an on-campus program, then that limits your choices geographically. However, students earning a gerontology degree online can select the institution that offers the best program for their needs, regardless of location.
- Diversity: Gerontology workers often assist patients from various backgrounds. Distance learning can prepare students for this occupational aspect by fostering interaction with individuals from other locations and cultures. Additionally, online learners can develop professional relationships with students, professors, and organizations throughout the country and around the world.
- Technology: Schools deliver online courses using tools such as discussion forums, telecourses, PowerPoint presentations, email, and videoconferences. Graduates often apply associated technological knowledge during their careers. Schools may also supply online resources to distance learners, such as libraries and tutoring services.
Admissions Requirements for a Bachelor’s in Gerontology
Most gerontology online programs stipulate no admission requirements beyond acceptance to the school. General admission typically requires an application, an application fee, and a high school diploma or the equivalent. Applicants may also submit letters of recommendation and a personal statement discussing career goals, personal experiences, and reasons for applying.
Applicants to bachelor’s programs may also need to submit ACT or SAT scores. Colleges and universities often set minimum standardized test scores and may require a minimum high school GPA. Common requirements include at least a 20 ACT score or 1060 SAT score and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Institutions may also require applicants to complete college preparation requirements, including a certain number of years of English, math, science, and social studies classes.
What to Expect from an Online Gerontology Program
About the Program
Caring for the aging population requires an understanding of physical, social, and mental factors. Gerontology students complete coursework in social sciences, physical sciences, and psychology. They also explore services and policies that concern the elderly. Gerontology programs offer a multidisciplinary education that equips graduates with the tools, skills, and knowledge to help the elderly lead safe and healthy lives.
Gerontology bachelor’s programs typically require 120 credits, but completion time varies based on enrollment status. Full-time students typically complete their bachelor’s in gerontology in about four years, whereas part-time students generally require more time. Students who take more than 15 credits per semester may graduate in less than four years. Online programs often deviate from the traditional semester format, allowing distance learners opportunities to complete their program at an accelerated pace.
Typical Curriculum for an Online Bachelor’s in Gerontology
Since gerontology is a multidisciplinary field, mandated courses for gerontology online degrees often include topics from outside academic departments. For example, gerontology programs may include courses in social work or nursing. Other programs may deliver core requirements exclusively through gerontology departments. Common courses include legal matters for the elderly, management of elderly services or programs, and long-term care delivery. Students may also study the sociology and psychology of growing older, gender and culture, and housing for the elderly.
During their junior or senior year, students pursuing gerontology online degrees typically complete internships involving fieldwork and reflection. Interns may be required to maintain a journal and provide a written report following the experience. Internships provide hands-on experience through organizations that assist the elderly. Students generally devote at least 100 hours to internship requirements.
Coursework and field experiences train gerontology students to analyze social, legal, physiological, and psychological factors that impact the elderly. Graduates are prepared to apply these concepts to efficient care practices in the fastest-growing careers in gerontology.