Study Gerontology: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a gerontology degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Study Gerontology: Degrees at a Glance

Gerontology is the study of adult development and changes as adults age. Students in gerontology degree programs learn about the social, physical and emotions impacts of these developments. These degree programs prepare students to directly care for seniors and aging adults in occupations such as human service assistants, home health aides, orderlies and recreational therapists.

The U.S. Department of Bureau Statistics (BLS) predicted that job growth in occupations concerning the care of the elderly will grow significantly from 2010-2020. A major reason for this is the aging baby-boom population; as a result, our country will have more seniors than ever. Because elderly people have more health problems and need help, more personnel with gerontology training will be needed.

Associate's degree Bachelor's degree
Who is this degree for? Individuals who wish to work with the aging or those who wish to advance in their career pathsStudents who intend to advance in their careers or begin a career in geriatrics
Common career paths (with approx. median salary)* - Social and human service assistants ($29,000)*
- Home health aides ($21,000)*
- Nursing aides, orderlies and attendants ($24,000)*
- Physical therapist assistants and aides ($38,000)*
A bachelor's degree can also be used to advance in the careers mentioned in the associate's degree column.
- Medical and health services managers ($86,000)*
- Recreational therapists ($41,000)*
Time to completion2 years, full time4 years, full time
Common graduation requirements - 60 credit hours
- Internship
- Grade of C or better in all courses
- Residency requirement
- Internship
- Area of specialization
Prerequisites - Competency in math and English
- High school diploma or GED
- High school diploma, GED or associate's degree
Online availability Online programs are not availableOnline programs are not available

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

Associate's Degree in Gerontology

The associate's degree program in gerontology can prepare you for a variety of careers working with the elderly. These degree programs are meant for individuals who wish to begin a career in the field of the aging or those who intend to go on to earn a bachelor's degree. The internships and mentorships offered through these programs help you earn the hands-on experience you need to begin your career.

As a result of the aging baby boomers, certain geriatric jobs were expected to increase immensely, with occupations as home health and personal care aides growing up to 70% from 2010-2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some jobs, however, such as human service assistants, do not require an associate's degree. Rather, training is provided on the job.

Pros and Cons


  • Internships, mentorships and career coaching can help prepare you for the job of your choice
  • The job market for some jobs in this field was expected to grow much faster than average from 2010-2020*
  • You may be able to earn additional certificates while working toward your associate's degree


  • Some entry-level positions do not require an associate's degree
  • A bachelor's degree may be required for significant advancement in your field
  • Additional certification may be necessary

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

Courses and Requirements

Associate's degree programs generally require you to take general education courses such as English, math, history and speech. Additionally, you can expect to take courses in first aid and the ethics in issues of the aging. Typical gerontology courses include:

  • Sociology of aging
  • Physical processes of aging
  • Mental health for the aging
  • Counseling and communication

Online Degree Options

Due to the hands-on nature of the job, it can be extremely difficult to find accredited online programs in gerontology. Working with the elderly is generally part of the course requirements in a campus-based program.

Stand out with this Degree

Many associate's degree programs also offer computer electives in Microsoft Office, InDesign, Dreamweaver and other software programs. Many career fields are becoming increasingly technological, so any computer training may help you stand out. Also, some colleges and universities offer certificates you can earn along the way, in topics such as advanced behavior and cognitive care, horticultural therapy, end of life care and activity director.

Bachelor's Degree in Gerontology

Graduates from a baccalaureate program in gerontology go on to work with seniors or work for them, promoting equality and spearheading community outreach and advocacy programs. Many degree programs allow you to specialize and focus your coursework in areas such as psychology, public administration, social work or recreation to better prime you for a career upon graduation. Long-Term Care (LTC) specialization is also popular, and may prepare you for the certification exam.

Graduates of these programs are prepared to work as medical and health services managers and recreational therapists and also to go on to graduate school if they so choose. Mental and health services managers coordinate health services for the aging, while recreational therapists work use physical or art therapy to improve their everyday lives. Additionally, a bachelor's degree can aid in advancement in the fields of social and human services.

Pros and Cons


  • Geriatrics is a fast-growing field, and many jobs will be available for gerontology graduates
  • Specializations allow you to cater your education towards your career of choice
  • Internships can help you get your foot in the door


  • Additional certification and licensure may be required for employment
  • You may be competing with graduate degree holders for jobs or advancement
  • A bachelor's degree can help you advance from an entry-level career in geriatrics

Courses and Requirements

Most colleges and universities require a liberal arts base, followed by extensive coursework in gerontology. You are then asked to specialize and cater your coursework towards that area of specialization. General gerontology courses may include:

  • The science of adult development
  • Administrative problems in aging
  • Health issues in aging
  • Working with the elderly

Online Degree Options

Like the associate's degree in gerontology, a bachelor's degree in gerontology is not typically available online. Again, this is a hands-on program and field of study. Students are required to learn through experience and internships.

Stand out with this Degree

Certifications are available which allow you to prove competency to your future employers. These certifications include the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or the Certified Medication Assistant (CMA). Additionally, it is important for anyone who works with the elderly to have compassion and patience.

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