Online Master of Science Degree in Gerontology

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About the Gerontology Program

Gerontology is the multidisciplinary study of the aging processes and individuals as they grow from middle age through later life. This online degree in the field of gerontology equips you with a broad range of skills, essential for improving the lives of others. People who are interested in gerontology come from many disciplines, professions, and clinical areas. Generally, with a master's degree you can demand a higher wage than those holding a graduate certificate.

In this online gerontology program you 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
  • Improve career options

This online gerontology degree is offered through theInnovative Digital Education Alliance (IDEA). The program is a 30 credit hour online M.S. in HDFS: Gerontology option which prepares you for a variety of careers and leadership positions within the aging services sector and/or to pursue doctoral study.

We also offer a 12 credit online Gerontology Graduate Certificate. An online graduate certificate in gerontology is a valuable tool for career advancement and is designed for individuals who want to gain credentials at the graduate level. You may choose to use this online graduate certificate for continuing education credits or to supplement a master's degree in another field. Credits from the online Gerontology Graduate Certificate are designed to transfer into the fully online gerontology master's program. 

Master's in Gerontology Online Program Information Session

Watch the video below and learn about the online Master's in Gerontology from Joel Hektner and Heather Fuller. Joel is a professor and chair of the Human Development and Family Science department at NDSU, and Heather is an Associate Professor who's core area is adult development and aging. This video covers multiple topics from the classes students will enroll in, the instructors teaching the courses, career opportunities in the Gerontology field, admissions requirements and some questions from students. 

Program Structure and Curriculum

The online program consists of eight required 3-credit core courses, as well as 12 credits of electives and independent study/practicum. To view the complete curriculum and when courses are being offered, visit the IDEA's Gerontology Graduate Program Course Planner page.

Gerontology Online Master's Degree Plan of Study

Below is a sample plan of study. This will give you an idea of the type of courses you will take. Once you are admitted, be sure to visit with your advisor to create your actual plan of study. 

Course titles may vary from what is listed on the IDEA website. These are the course titles and numbers used for registration at NDSU.

Requried Core Courses
  • HDFS 721 Contemporary Perspectives on Adult Development and Aging  |  3 Credits
  • HDFS 723  Foundations in Integrative Aging Studies  |  3 Credits
Choose 3 credits
  • HNES 652 Physical Health, Wellness, Nutrition, and Active Aging 
  • HDFS 725 Socioemotional and Cognitive Well-being throughout Adulthood
  • HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar (Focused on the Aging Individual) 
Choose 3 credits
  • HDFS 726 Family Relationships and Aging
  • ADHM 705 Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Environments for Aging 
  • HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar (Focused on Aging in Context)
Choose 3 credits
  • HDFS 760 Aging Policy and Advocacy
  • HDFS 761 Implementation of Community Programs for Older Adults
  • HDFS 722 Applied Research Methods and Evaluation of Aging Programs
  • HDFS 790 Graduate Seminar (Focused on Translational Practice)

HDFS 794 Practicum/Internship   |  3 credits

Choose 12 elective credits from any of the above courses.   | 12 credits

Total Credits: 30


Careers and Outlook


We live in an aging society, one in which the older population is growing both in absolute numbers and in proportion to all other age groups. Businesses, government agencies, service organizations, educational institutions, and self-employed professionals from every economic sector are recognizing the need for specialized knowledge and skills to meet the needs of this changing demographic. The sheer size of the baby boomer population alone, lends a positive outlook to the future of gerontology-related fields. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 73 million individuals fall into the generational category.  As the baby boomer generation approaches retirement age, with many seeking to remain active and independent, there will be a strong need for individuals with knowledge of and skills in leading organizations that related to aging. Of the baby boomer population, 15.2 million, nearly 1 in 6 (16.5%), adults age 55 and older are childless, meaning they will need to find assistance from outside organizations and agencies as they age (U.S. Census Bureau). Yet the baby boomer generation is only the second-largest age group after their children, the millennials. We are only just beginning to see the tremendous need for aging-related services.

According to Zippia, "between 2018 and 2028, the career is expected to grow 8% and produce 10,600 job opportunities across the U.S."

What Can You Do with a Master's Degree in Gerontology?

Gerontology is an emerging area with job opportunities in areas related to health promotion, education, research, inter-generational activities, transportation, senior centers, and retirement communities. 

Two major tracks for working in the field of Gerontology are available:

  • Direct Service
  • Advocacy

Through this program you may work directly with older individuals (direct service) in a wide variety of programs and services in the community. Or you may work on behalf of older persons in areas such as advocacy and teaching about aging.

Direct Service
In this track, you work 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.

View a list of careers outside of academia >>

For more information on career opportunities and options in the field of gerontology, visit Careers in Aging.

Partnership with Great Plains IDEA

The Online Gerontology Master's degree is offered through a partnership with the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GP IDEA). GP IDEA is a consortium of 19 public universities from across the United States, offering online degree and certificate programs in human sciences and agriculture. Through GP IDEA, students are able to take courses from any of the partner universities that all count towards their degree at their home institution.

The courses in this program are taught by the same instructors which teach on campus at the participating universities. Curriculum is specially adapted for the online environment to ensure students receive the same quality education as they would experience on campus. Course schedules are determined by the teaching institution, but do not have set class times, allowing students to access course content when it is convenient for them. Students meet deadlines as outlined by the instructor, and interact with instructors and other students through e-mail, chats, discussion boards, and other interactive methods. Students must have access to a computer, e-mail, and the Internet.

Gerontology Faculty

A list of graduate faculty for this program as well as their current research interests is available on the NDSU catalog page. In addition to faculty information you can find more information about the program in the catalog as well.

Admission Requirements

To apply for this degree program, click the link below to start the application process. The application fee is $35.

The deadline to apply is one month before the beginning of the semester you choose to begin. Semester start dates can be found on NDSU One Stop's Dates and Dealines page.

The application process includes completing the following:

  • Online application and fees
  • Statement of purpose
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • Test scores

Tuition and Fees

The tuition and fee structure for this program is set by the GP IDEA consortium. Classes you take are charged at the same tuition rate regardless of which university is your home university. Books and supplies are not included in the tuition and fees. Please note that courses offered through GP IDEA are not eligible for NDSU tuition waivers.

Contact Information

NDSU Department of Human Development and Family Sciences  |  Gerontology Program
Phone: (701) 231-8269

NDSU GP IDEA Coordinator

NDSU Graduate School
Phone: (701) 231-5945

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the gerontology program?
A student can earn a gerontology master’s degree in two years (three full-time semesters and one part-time). Students can also take three, six, and ninve credits each 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 transfer.

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 need to contact 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 the NDSU Office of Teaching and Learning Distance and Continuing Education program 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 in 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 NDSU's GP IDEA campus coordinator. Students will need to work with their advisor to identify the classes they should register for and then register for those classes as soon as possible.

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