M.S. in Human Development and Family Science: Gerontology
Sample plan of study
Frequently asked questions
Graduate faculty information
Tuition and Fees
Gerontology is an emerging area with job opportunities in areas related to health promotion, education, research, inter-generational activities, senior centers, and retirement communities.
Students enrolled in the gerontology program will: gain knowledge of the physical, mental and social changes associated with aging; investigate societal changes due to an aging population; apply obtained knowledge to policies and programs; and improve career options.
Two major tracks for working in the field of Gerontology are available:
Direct Service: involves working directly with older persons in such areas as health promotion programs, inter-generational activities for older persons, senior centers, or retirement communities. Direct care to frail elderly, counseling older persons and their families, and assisting persons with financial and personal preparation for retirement are also areas of direct service that need trained professionals.
Education and Research: Gerontologists can also work in education and research. This can include evaluating community-based services; conducting research on the aging process and social and developmental aspects of aging; teaching students, professionals, and older adults and their families about aging; aging policy development; and program planning and administration.
We also offer a 21 credit online Gerontology Graduate Certificate. Graduate certificates are valuable tools for career advancement and are designed for individuals who want to gain credentials at the graduate-level prior to completing a full master's program. Credits from the graduate certificate are designed to transfer into a full graduate degree program.
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Sample Plan of Study
Required Core Courses:
- HDFS 682 Family Dynamics of Aging (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 722 Methods and Theories in Gerontology (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 723 Perspectives in Gerontology (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 729 Professional Seminar in Gerontology (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 760 Aging Policy (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 721 Adult Development and Aging (3 CREDITS)
- ADHM 665 Aging and the Environment (3 CREDITS)
- HNES 652 Nutrition, Health and Aging (3 CREDITS)
Elective Courses: (6 - 9 CREDITS)
- HDFS 681 Gender & Aging (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Biological Principles of Aging (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Seminar in Long Term Care (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Physical Activity & Aging (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Mental Health & Aging (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Ethics & Health Care in Aging (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Global Perspectives in Elder Care (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Gerontechnology (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Cognitive Health (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Spirituality & Aging (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Aging in Cultural Context (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Creativity & Aging (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Sociology & Aging (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Introduction to Aging Research (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Theories of Aging (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Sexuality & Aging (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Contemporary Concepts in Aging, Life Course & Design (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar: Family Systems - Gerontology (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 793 Graduate Seminar: Research Hours (3 CREDITS)
- HDFS 794 Practicum in Gerontology (up to 3 CREDITS)
During the final year of study, students choose from the following:
- HDFS 798 Master's Thesis (6 CREDITS)
- HDFS 797 Master's Paper (3 CREDITS)
Total Credits : 36
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Frequently Asked Questions
Video archive of our gerontology program information session.
How long is the gerontology program?
A student can earn a Gerontology Master’s degree in two years as a full-time student taking nine credits a semester. Students can take three, six or nine credits a semester.
Are students required to come to campus during the program?
No, the program is completely online.
Is a practicum or thesis required for this program?
Students enrolled in the master’s program have three options: six credits of practicum, three credits of practicum and three credits of master's paper or six credits of master's thesis. For students preparing for direct care or direct service work, the six credit practicum is recommended for experience. Students interested in education or research are recommended to take either the practicum and master’s paper option or the master’s thesis option.
Which university will I receive my degree from?
If you apply and are admitted to NDSU, you will receive a degree from NDSU even though some of your courses will be taught by professors from other institutions.
What is the difference between earning a graduate certificate and earning a master’s degree in gerontology?
A certificate is a way of showing that you have completed a coherent set of courses within a certain field. The Gerontology Graduate Certificate covers a subset of courses that are in the master’s program. If you are interested in the certificate program and decide to continue on to the master’s program the courses you take for the certificate program will apply.
Can I transfer previous graduate coursework into this program?
You can transfer up to nine credits into the Gerontology Master’s program if they are relevant to the program. The syllabus of those courses will need to be provided to the Department of Human Development and Family Science graduate program in order to determine if the coursework is relevant.
I am employed full time and have a family, how many credits would you recommend I take each semester?
For students with family and employment obligations we recommend taking three credits (one course) the first semester. Then students are able to see how it works with their schedule and can determine how many courses they are able to take each semester.
Can I take some gerontology classes without being admitted to the program?
You can be admitted to the graduate school as a non-degree student and take gerontology classes without being in the program. Class sizes are very limited and students who are in the program are able to register first. The instructor needs to agree to allow non-degree students into their class. If you want to register as a non-degree student you have to contact Karen Murie from NDSU’s Distance and Continuing Education department. Non-degree students cannot be registered until a couple weeks before the semester in order to allow students in the program to register.
Will this program prepare me for a Ph.D. program?
If students are interested in a Ph.D. program we recommend our dual major Ph.D. program in Developmental Science and Gerontology. Students can go directly into the Ph.D. program without getting their master’s degree first. If students are already in the master’s program but interested in the Ph.D. program we suggest they do a thesis instead of a practicum.
Is the program accredited?
There is no accreditation in the gerontology field. Online degrees and classes offered through NDSU Distance and Continuing Education are accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and are approved through the academic departments and colleges at NDSU.
Why go into the gerontology field?
The gerontology master’s program will prepare you for an array of different careers working with older adults including: health care, nursing, social work, counseling, hospice, working in government sectors, long-term care in administration and recreation, adult education, business, hospitality and travel. There will be a tremendous growth in career opportunities within the field in the next few decades. Organizations are especially looking for individuals with advanced degrees.
Is there a required degree to be admitted into the program?
There is not a required undergraduate degree to be admitted. Most of the coursework is focused on social sciences, so some experience as an undergraduate with social science courses would be helpful.
What is the application process for the gerontology program?
To be admitted to the program applicants must meet the Graduate School admission and application requirements that can be found on the Graduate Bulletin.
What do I do after I am admitted to the program?
Students admitted by NDSU into the program will be contacted via email by Karen Murie from NDSU’s Distance and Continuing Education department. Karen Murie will register students in the Great Plains database and for classes. Students will need work with their advisor to identify the classes they should register for and then notify Karen Murie of those classes as soon as possible since class sizes are limited.
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For information about graduate faculty for this program as well as their current research interests, visit the M.S. in Human Development and Family Science: Gerontology bulletin page.
Apply for admission
View Getting Started Guide
For current admission requirements, visit the M.S. in Human Development and Family Science: Gerontology bulletin page.
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NDSU Department of Human Development and Family Science
NDSU Distance & Continuing Education
Phone: 1-800-726-1724 or 701-231-7015
NDSU Graduate School
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