NDSU Distance & Continuing Education (DCE)

Bringing Education to You

Online Degrees

M.S. in Human Development and Family Science: Gerontology


Video archive of our gerontology program information session.

Program Description

Sample plan of study

Frequently asked questions

Graduate faculty information

Admission requirements

Tuition and Fees

Contact information



Program Description

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.


Gerontology Brochure.pdf


We also offer a 15 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.


Back to top



Sample Plan of Study

Required Core Courses:


Elective Courses: (6 - 9 CREDITS)

Total Credits : 36


Back to top



Frequently Asked Questions

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 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) from NDSU’s Graduate School. 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 Higher Learning Commission 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 Melissa Selders Ortez from NDSU’s Graduate School. Melissa Selders Ortez 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 Melissa of those classes as soon as possible since class sizes are limited.


Back to top



Graduate Faculty

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.


Back to top



Contact Information

NDSU Department of Human Development and Family Science
Phone: 701-231-7099
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Web: http://www.ndsu.edu/hdfs/

NDSU Graduate School
Phone: 701-231-5945
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Web: www.ndsu.edu/gradschool/


Back to top