Graduate Gerontology Programs & Gerontology Degrees

Interested in gerontology graduate programs that could potentially help you achieve your career goals? Medical scientists working in the field of gerontology, or the study of aging, often earn a medical degree or PhD.[i] If you’re planning to pursue a role that could help scientists and doctors better understand aging, as well as improve quality of life for elderly people, graduate school may be the perfect next step for you!

Graduate Gerontology Programs InformationWhat is a gerontologist?[ii]

Gerontologists are medical scientists who study how people change as they age. In simple terms, you can think of gerontology as the study of old people, and the biological factors involved in aging. Gerontologists may conduct studies and clinical trials, analyze medical samples and data, develop medical programs for aging populations, and much more. Perhaps most importantly, gerontologists explore ways to make life better for people as they age. By understanding how the mind and body change as we advance in years, gerontologists may identify solutions for some of the challenges and health problems associated with growing older.

Gerontologists and other types of medical scientists may work in the following environments:

  • Research and development practices – 34% of medical scientists
  • Colleges, universities, and other academic institutions – 27%
  • Hospitals – 15%
  • Pharmaceutical companies – 6%
  • Medical and diagnostic labs – 4%

How can I potentially become a gerontologist?

If you are interested in pursuing a gerontology career path, you may wish to consider gerontology graduate programs. Most medical scientists, gerontologists included, decide to pursue a graduate degree such as a PhD. i In fact, about 29% of medical scientists choose to earn a doctoral degree.[iv] Before entering a PhD program, they usually earn an undergraduate degree in a field like biology or chemistry and take courses in math, physical sciences, and life sciences. i Considering a master’s degree in gerontology, instead? Though doctoral degrees are more prevalent, about 20% of medical scientists may earn a master’s degree.[iv]

Of course, earning a degree in gerontology might be just one piece of the puzzle. Many medical scientists – about 49% – opt to pursue postdoctoral studies after earning a doctoral degree. iv Postdoctoral work is basically an opportunity for prospective gerontologists to gain more independent laboratory experience, continue with specialized research, and further hone skills and techniques, like gene-splicing. i While there may not be a single path to jump-starting a career as a gerontologist, you’ll definitely need extensive preparation, knowledge, and experience in order to pursue a career in this field! iv

Types of gerontology graduate programs

PhD in Gerontology

If you’re hoping to focus on research on the study of aging, this option may be worth considering. A PhD program may allow you to participate in laboratory work and conduct original research in the field of gerontology – perfect for prospective medical scientists! i

M.D.

Some medical scientists may opt to earn a medical degree, such as an M.D. (Medical Doctor). This degree typically focuses on clinical skills, not just research. i

Dual Degree

Earning a dual degree may permit you to pursue a PhD in gerontology alongside a medical degree, such as an M.D. This option could potentially let you combine research skills with the clinical skills you need to pursue the role of a physician. i

Masters in Gerontology

Some medical or research scientists may choose to pursue a masters in gerontology. You may be able to choose from an M.A. (Master of Arts) in Gerontology, an M.S. (Master of Science) in Gerontology, and other potential program options.

Graduate Certificate in Gerontology

Candidates already working in a related career area may opt to pursue a graduate certificate in gerontology in order to enhance their knowledge of this specific field.

What are gerontology graduate programs like?[i]

Wondering what it might be like to go to graduate school for the study of old age? Gerontology graduate programs typically emphasize two main components: original research and laboratory work. You may develop experiments and pursue research in topics related to aging and the study of old people, in addition to learning about research methods, data interpretation, and designing projects or experiments. You may even find yourself supervising undergraduate research! As with most graduate degree programs, your gerontology PhD program will likely involve developing and defending a thesis before a committee of faculty members.

Your educational experience may be a little different if you opt to pursue a medical degree, such as an M.D. (Medical Doctor), or a dual degree. During the first couple years of a medical degree, you may take courses like anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, medical ethics, and much more. You’ll typically also learn how to take medical histories, examine patients, and make diagnoses. Finally, you’ll probably need to complete a residency program; these usually take place in a hospital and last from three to seven years.[v]

Campus vs. online gerontology graduate programs

Choosing your gerontology program format may depend on your lifestyle and goals! Are you a busy parent or working professional? You may want to consider online gerontology degrees that could potentially accommodate busy schedules. Hoping to get involved at school, have an active social life, and avail yourself of university resources in person? In this case, a more traditional campus-based gerontology program may offer the experience you are looking for.

Accreditation for gerontology graduate programs[vi]

Accreditation helps to ensure that educational programs meet rigorous quality standards. Many national and regional accrediting bodies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. It’s a good idea to make sure your prospective gerontology graduate program is accredited by one of these approved organizations. You can check the Department’s database of accredited programs to be sure!

Licenses for gerontologists[i]

In general, medical scientists such as gerontologists do not need licenses or certifications, as they mainly conduct research. However, some medical scientists may need a license to practice as a physician if they perform tasks like administering drugs, providing medical care to patients, etc.

Get started today towards a gerontology degree!

If you’re passionate about conducting research to improve quality of life for elderly people, perhaps a gerontology graduate program is perfect for you! On Gradschools.com, you can browse a variety of gerontology degree options available in levels and formats that may suit your goals. Check out what these exciting programs may have in store for you!


Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/medical-scientists.htm#tab-4| [ii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/medical-scientists.htm#tab-2 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/medical-scientists.htm#tab-3 | [iv] onetonline.org/link/summary/19-1042.00 | [v] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physicians-and-surgeons.htm#tab-4 | [vi] www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/index.html?exp=2

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