Geriatric Health Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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Master's and PhD degrees in geriatric health can lead to careers in health administration, clinical practice and academia. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Geriatric Health: Degrees at a Glance

As a student in a geriatric health graduate degree program, you study the theories and practical applications of healthcare management for elderly populations. A variety of graduate programs exist in this field, including health administration and practitioner master's degrees and gerontology-focused doctoral (PhD) programs. Graduates of PhD programs typically pursue careers in policy, research or academia, while master's degree holders typically work as program directors for healthcare organizations or community programs. Graduates of practitioner master's degree programs typically work in clinical settings as advanced registered nurses (RNs) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

Although salaries and occupational data vary based on experience and position, the overall demand for social and community service managers was expected to grow by 27% from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment of registered nurses and medical service managers was expected to grow by 26% and 22%, respectively, during the same period.

Health Administration Master's Practitioner Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? - Students with bachelor's degrees in social or natural science, healthcare or liberal arts who want to specialize in geriatrics
- Individuals who want to manage elderly care facilities
- Clinical practitioners who want to work in community and hospital-based primary-care clinics, home healthcare or nursing homes
- Nurses who want to specialize in geriatrics
- Master's degree holders with a background in psychology
- People who want to teach at the postsecondary level
- Individuals who want to work in healthcare policy or research
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary) - Social and community service manager ($63,000 - may vary with experience)*
- Medical and health service administrator ($96,000 - may vary with experience)*
- Registered nurse ($69,000 - may vary with experience)*- Health specialty professor ($99,000 - may vary with experience)*
Time to Completion Approximately 2-3 years Approximately two years Varies (typically less than seven years)
Common Graduation Requirements - Coursework
- Administrative field experience
- Coursework
- Complete clinical practicum requirements
- Research, write and present dissertation
- Pass qualifying exams
- Complete course requirements
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree in health or business administration
- Students without a relevant bachelor's degree may need to complete prerequisite courses in financial accounting
- GRE or GMAT test results
- Letters of recommendation
- Valid RN license
- Bachelor's degree from an accredited nursing program (some schools may accept applicants with associate's degrees)
- Completion of research/statistics courses
- Evidence of immunizations
- Background check
- Official transcripts from all bachelor's and master's degree programs
- Sample of professional writing
- GRE scores
- RN or APRN licensure, if applicable
- Interview, if applicable
Online Availability Yes Yes Yes

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 mean figures).


Master's Degrees in Health Administration

Potential students should note that degree programs may be available under similar but slightly different names, including Master of Health Administration or Master of Science with a specialization in geriatric management. Other related programs may include Master of Health Science in Gerontology. A typical master's candidate learns to administer and manage health services for aging populations. Students in these programs typically study the physical, mental and social characteristics of aging populations and the delivery of health services that serve them. According to the BLS, demand for nursing care facility administrators will likely increase as baby boomers age, but earnings of medical and health services managers may vary by the type and size of the facility and by level of responsibility.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A master's degree is considered essential for most executive and managerial healthcare positions.
  • Individuals with master's degrees in geriatric health are qualified to work as social and community service managers, a field that was expected to grow by 27% from 2010-2020.*
  • Most master's degree programs require a practicum, or field experience component, which provides students with relevant on-the-job training and networking opportunities.

Cons

  • Although licensure is not required in other areas of medical and health services management, individuals who want to work as nursing care facility administrators must pass a licensing exam and complete their state's training requirements.
  • Healthcare facilities may require employees to work unconventional hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.
  • Some aspects of the work (such as fundraising or balancing budgets) may be stressful, particularly during economic downturns.

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

As a student in a health administration master's degree program, you study a variety of courses in geriatric care. Typical courses include long-term care administration, aging and health policy, healthcare leadership, social policy and aging, legal issues in healthcare and healthcare economics. In addition to coursework, you typically need to satisfy a capstone or field application project. In a capstone or field experience, students may work independently or with their classmates on a research project. Capstone projects may also incorporate an internship experience where students work at a geriatric healthcare facility.

Online Degree Options

Online courses in healthcare administration are available. The Commission on Accreditation Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) decided that students are unable to obtain all the required skills and experiences from online programs. As a result, some programs may offer a hybrid degree, which allows students to complete some classes online while other offline components, such as on-campus lectures or field experiences, are also required.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Because geriatric health is such a specialized field, you may want to take some additional courses that may help broadening your employment options. Consider taking elective courses in topics such as health information technology, grant writing or health marketing, which may spark your interest in a related field and open additional doors during your employment search.


Practitioner Master's Degrees

Practitioner master's degree programs prepare graduates to clinically care for aging populations in a variety of healthcare facilities. Degree programs may be formatted as a Master of Science in Nursing with a focus in geriatrics, or MSN-GNP. As a student in a practitioner master's program, you will likely need to complete hundreds of supervised clinical experience hours at a geriatric care facility. Upon graduating, students are eligible to sit for a national certification exam and obtain a nurse practitioner license in their state. Potential students should note that practitioner degree programs require certain prerequisites, including a prior bachelor's degree in nursing.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • According to the BLS, job opportunities for registered nurses were expected to be above average from 2010-2020*, particularly in some areas of the country where employers have difficulty attracting and retaining qualified applicants.
  • Employment options are especially strong for applicants with master's degrees.
  • In order to attract and retain skilled workers, many employers offer good benefits packages, including child care, educational benefits and bonuses.

Cons

  • In addition to obtaining your degree, you will likely need to pass a national certification, obtain state licensure and pass a criminal background check before you are eligible for employment in a clinical position.
  • Registered nurses must follow strict regulations to protect themselves and their patients against diseases and other dangers, such as contact with chemical agents during equipment sterilization.
  • Many health and social service programs rely on government funding; at times, occupational growth can be threatened by budget cuts in state and local governments.

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

Students in a typical geriatric nurse practitioner master's degree program complete coursework in various topics, including patient safety and quality improvement, advanced physiology, health policy, finance and leadership in healthcare systems and clinical management of older adults. In addition to academic coursework, students need to complete hundreds of clinical service hours under the supervision of an advanced nurse or physician. Certification and licensing exams are generally not part of a master's program, although many programs are designed to prepare students for these professional milestones.

Online Degree Options

Geriatric nurse practitioner courses are available via distance learning. Students who are interested in online classes should note that some programs may require some offline components as well, including occasional on-campus visits and participation in a clinical practicum at a healthcare facility. Online programs generally have the same admissions and graduation requirements as traditional, on-campus programs.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

According to the BLS, job opportunities for registered nurses were expected to be better than the average for all occupations from 2010-2020, particularly in positions that serve the aging population. Geriatric nurse practitioners can take advantage of these opportunities by honing skills that are desirable in their field, including organization and communication. For example, students may consider taking additional courses in another language, such as Spanish or American Sign Language, to stand out from other applicants and expand the communities in which they can work.


Geriatric Health PhD Degrees

Geriatric health PhD programs emphasize research and scholarly contributions to public and private health services, organizations and business models. PhD programs prepare students to become future researchers, professors and public policy experts. To graduate from a PhD program, students need to complete academic credits, pass qualifying examinations in their field and complete dissertation requirements. Although the amount of time to complete a PhD varies, students matriculating students must complete their studies within seven years.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It is common for doctoral programs to offer competitive research or teaching assistantships to qualified students (however these opportunities may be selective and competitive).
  • Due to the small class sizes in PhD programs, you will have close interaction with faculty members, some of whom may serve as mentors.
  • A PhD is often required for careers in academia and research.

Cons

  • Acceptance into a PhD program can be competitive because only a handful of applicants are accepted each year.
  • With changing healthcare policies, professionals must be able to adapt to new laws, regulations and technology.
  • Students who delay or depart the workforce to obtain a PhD may have a harder time reentering the job market upon graduation.

Common Courses and Requirements

A geriatric health-focused PhD program combines foundations of nursing theory with research and analysis of current issues in healthcare. Generally, PhD programs are highly specialized and allow students to incorporate their own career goals and theories into their academic research. As a PhD candidate, you can expect courses in research ethics, principles of qualitative inquiry, statistics, data collection methods and leadership in healthcare policy. In addition to your coursework requirements, you will need to research, write and defend an original thesis.

Online Degree Options

Online geriatric health PhD programs are available. The coursework and requirements of online programs are generally very similar to those at traditional academic institutions. Potential PhD candidates should note that distance learning programs may require some on-campus visits and attendance at professional conferences. Students should also consider that they may need access to an approved site where they can conduct research.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Because an essential component of a PhD programs is research, students are encouraged to create their own original theories and research proposals. Students who want to pursue careers in academic research or policy can leverage their school's scholarly journals to publish their original works. Students who are interested in securing practical work experience may want to consider volunteering at a local hospital or with a local nonprofit or community organization. Volunteering options are generally very flexible (which is helpful for busy students) and can help hone useful on-the-job skills.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - DNP Adult Nurse Practitioner
      • Master of Science in Nursing - Adult - Gerontology Practitioner
      • Accelerated BSN to MSN
      • MS in Nursing
      • Master of Science - DNP Family Nurse Practitioner
      • M.S. in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Nursing - Nursing Administration
      • MS - Nursing - Nursing Education
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
      • MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems
      • M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education
      • MBA: Health Systems Management
      • MS in Health Care Administration
      • MS in Nursing: Nursing Education
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Healthcare Administration
      • MSM in Healthcare
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Nursing With a Concentration in Family
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Health Care Management
      • Masters in Health Care Administration
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Acute Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Long Term Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Service Organization

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master of Science - DNP Adult Nurse Practitioner
  • Master of Science in Nursing - Adult - Gerontology Practitioner
  • Accelerated BSN to MSN

Which subject are you interested in?

Colorado Technical University

  • MS - Nursing - Nursing Administration
  • MS - Nursing - Nursing Education
  • MS - Healthcare Management

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Grand Canyon University

  • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
  • MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems
  • M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Southern New Hampshire University

  • MS in Healthcare Administration
  • MSM in Healthcare

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Northcentral University

  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin

Are you a US citizen?

Herzing University

  • Master of Science - Nursing With a Concentration in Family
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management

What is your highest level of education?