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Program Description

Just the Facts

Gerontology. A program that focuses on the human aging process and aged human populations, using the knowledge and methodologies of the social sciences, psychology and the biological and health sciences.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

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Additional Information

Gerontology is a pretty broad field -- students study the sociology, psychology and lifestyles of senior citizens.

Don't confuse gerontology and geriatrics. Geriatrics studies the health-care issues of elderly people. Gerontology focuses on trends associated with aging and the elderly.

You can pursue majors, minors and master's degrees in gerontology. Certificates are also available.

"Our major is probably the most interdisciplinary major at the university," says Robert Maiden, director of the gerontology program at Alfred University in New York. He says his school also offers a minor in gerontology.

Required courses include introductory psychology and sociology, physiology of aging, and social and cognitive development. Courses in psychological methods, statistics and data analysis are also required.

Maiden says his students also will study adult development and aging, communication and counseling, cognition and aging, and social welfare institutions.

"One of the hallmark classes is the internship experience, in which the student gets hands-on experience working in a setting of his or her choice in the field of aging," Maiden says.

"We also offer independent studies in which the student gets the chance to involve himself or herself in one of the several ongoing professional programs of research we are conducting," he adds. "Or the student can design his or her own research project with the guidance of a faculty member."

The gerontology program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham offers an undergraduate minor and a graduate certificate. The certificate can usually be obtained in one year or less.

"Biology, sociology and psychology are the core or basic areas, along with content from many other areas of studies such as public policy, humanities and economics," says program director Patricia Baker.

"Students will acquire knowledge of the physical, mental and social changes in older people as they age; they will investigate social changes in society resulting from the aging population; and they will learn how to apply this knowledge to policies and programs."

If psychology and sociology are available in your high school, take them. Volunteer work with the elderly, such as at a nursing home, helps too, says Maiden.

The main costs are tuition and books.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Social Scientists, Other

Gerontological Society of America
A resource for education, research and practice in the field of gerontology

Gerontology Studies
Explore opportunities in this diverse occupation


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