Top 20 College Courses for Senior Care

top senior care colleges

In universities and colleges across the country, courses and degree programs in gerontology, the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging, are on the rise. By 2030, the Administration of Aging predicts there will be more than 72 million senior citizens in the United States–up from 39 million in 2009. Demand for senior care professionals is already strong, and as the baby boomers grow older, the need for qualified caregivers, policymakers, researchers, and providers of elder care services will only grow.

Opportunities for new and returning students to study gerontology are abounding. Interdisciplinary in nature, courses range from nutrition to psychology, administration, and policy. Those seeking a lucrative career in the rapidly growing aging industry would benefit from checking out the various degrees offered in gerontology.  Family caregivers can also benefit from education in aging services, considering the amount of knowledge needed to care for someone physically as they age. Listed in no particular order, here are some of the best college classes and degree programs related to gerontology.

1. Associates in Gerontology – Portland Community College

This program offers a wide range of educational opportunities in the field. At PCC you can earn an Associate’s degree in Gerontology, and certificates in advocacy, activity directing, dementia care, and therapeutic horticulture. Many courses are offered online, in addition to powerful interactive labs regarding topics such as death for the dying and their families, memory leaving ceremonies, and caregiver training for dementia. 

2. Fieldwork in Gerontology — Ithaca College

The aging studies program at Ithaca College’s Gerontology Institute enjoys both a national and international reputation of excellence. Partnering with a nearby adult residential facility, the program provides students with a unique learning experience. Courses ranging from “Fieldwork in Gerontology” to “The Long-Term Care System” give students a well-rounded look at the hot topics in the field of gerontology and senior care today. At Ithaca, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in Gerontology. 

3. Gerontology 101 — San Diego State University

The San Diego State University School of Social Work offers an array of courses for the gerontology major, but all students must begin with Gerontology 101. Overall, the school’s goal is to provide comprehensive coursework to educate students on the impact of society’s changing demographics on every aspect of their social and work lives. To earn a Bachelor’s in Gerontology through SDSU, you’ll need to complete 48 gerontology-related credits in addition to the other B.A. or B.S. requirements.

4. Physical and Psychosocial Aspects of Disability — University of North Texas

The Rehabilitation Studies program within the College of Public Affairs and Community Service at the University of North Texas prepares students for a range of possible careers related to seniors and senior health. For the 17th straight year, the University of North Texas was named  one of America’s Best 100 College Buys by Institutional Research & Evaluation, Inc., designating the school as an affordable place to earn a top-notch education. Earn an undergraduate degree in Applied Gerontology to begin your educational career in this fascinating field.

5. Fundamentals of Epidemiology — University of Georgia

The University of Georgia Institute of Gerontology is the school’s hub for coordinating and conducting education, research, and outreach services associated with the study of aging and older adults. Long life is a direct result of public health, says the department, and Fundamentals of Epidemiology is the cornerstone class of public health studies. This course explores the factors that contribute to disease and best practices for preventative care. Topics like these prepare you for when illness strikes and help you consider how to keep yourself and your loved ones healthier longer with nutrition, medicine, and healthy living.

6. Masters in Science of Aging — University of Southern California

A requirement for any gerontology major at the University of Southern California, Physiology of Aging is essential for students wanting to study, manage, and learn how to heal the body across the lifespan. The USC Leonard Davis School is the oldest and largest school of gerontology in the world, offering the most comprehensive selection of gerontology degree programs, from undergraduate to specialized Master and Ph.D. programs. With a 92% graduation rate, this school is highly acclaimed for its quality in coursework as well as educational leadership to propel USC students in their chosen fields.

7. Human Growth and Development Degree – Colorado State University

Earn your certificate or degree in gerontology at Colorado State University through its Human Development and Family Studies program. Here you will learn about the changes people undergo through all the stages of life and how their families, communities, and societies are affected. This program is offered both on-campus and online for a low cost per credit regardless of where you live. You can earn a higher degree in the HDFS program while minoring in gerontology and focus your studies on the later stages in life. This program has many options for focusing your degree outside of aging, such as military social work to help veterans, and sociology.

8. Gerontology Graduate Certificate – Concordia University Chicago

With only 8 weeks and 15 credit hours needed to achieve Concordia University of Chicago’s Graduate Certificate in Gerontology, you can easily schedule online classes around your daily life and reach your educational goals, whether it’s to help advance your career or simply make you a better caregiver. This certificate focuses on public policy, program management, and fieldwork.

9. Masters, Graduate, and Ph. D Gerontology Programs — Virginia Commonwealth University

The Virginia Commonwealth University‘s psychogeriatrics track within its Department of Gerontology is unique in the field of geriatrics. Psychology of Aging teaches research methods related to optimal aging, psychological adjustment in late life, development of personality, cognitive function, and emotional aspects of the aging process. This hybrid program is designed to be flexible for the modern student who has many responsibilities to juggle on top of their coursework. This program is intensive but many students have been able to earn their degrees here in under three years thanks to the school’s dedication to community and mentorship.

10. Pre-Doctorate Gerontology Training — Wayne State University

The Bachelor of Social Work degree program at Michigan’s Wayne State University within the school’s Institute of Gerontology has been ranked number one by the Gourman Report since 1995. It prepares students for careers in gerontology with a strong curriculum and fieldwork that focuses on four key principles- mentorship, specific disciplinary education, strong methodological practices, and a focus on aging and health. This intensive program requires twice-monthly seminary attendance, a yearly paper, and mandatory community service at the institution’s sponsored events.

11. Minor in Gerontology — Georgia State University

Within the Gerontology Institute at the Georgia State University are a host of classes for undergraduates as well as Master’s and certificate programs. Over the past 30 years, more than 500 students have graduated from Georgia State University’s Gerontology Institute. Students can embark on an educational path towards either a B.S. in Gerontology, or a related certificate, either online or on campus.

12. Family Practice, Community-based Geriatrics — University of Kansas

The University of Kansas Graduate Program in Gerontology emphasizes social and behavioral gerontology. Interdisciplinary in nature, faculty include members of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Schools of Architecture and Urban Design, Allied Health, Education, Engineering, Fine Arts, Law, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Social Welfare. Community-based geriatric courses are affiliated with KU’s Landon Center of Aging. This program is designed for those seeking a Ph.D. in Gerontology and only offers an MA that applies towards a higher degree, not a terminal degree. 

13. Adult Development in Aging — University of Nevada – Las Vegas

The University of Nevada – Las Vegas is about as diverse as any school, ranked by the 2013 U.S. News and World Report as the eighth most diverse campus in the nation. The coursework for a minor in gerontology ranges from counseling to nutrition to Adult Development in Aging, which explores the physical and psychophysiological developmental patterns in adulthood and normal aging, and is designed to prepare students for a career in aging services.

14. Caregiving Resources and Elder Care Tips – Udemy

Unlike a traditional college, Udemy provides access to thousands of lectures on topics such as relieving caregiver stress, dementia, effective communication, and caregiver support. Try the platform for a month and take advantage of the easy web-based access to caregiver training taught by professionals in the industry. 

15. Certificate in Eldercare – Purdue University

An industry leader in online education, Purdue University offers an accredited Gerontology Certificate online with a focus on eldercare, designed for aging services professionals as well as family caregivers. With eight sessions a year and a low cost of $371 per credit for the 43 credits required, this program offers more value and flexibility than others on our list. This certificate program runs for 10 weeks and can be applied towards an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree.

16. Family Caregiving and Dementias — Barton College

Barton College in Wilson, NC, offers a Bachelor of Science in Gerontology that affords students both in-classroom learning and hands-on fieldwork. In addition to coursework, students are scheduled for 300-hour internships. In the gerontology program, students play a significant role in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk and in the Caregiver Education Conference conducted by the Alzheimer’s North Carolina Inc., the Upper Coastal Plain Area Agency on Aging, and Barton College.

17. Gender and Aging — Miami University

The Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Oxford, OH, emphasizes research and multidisciplinary education in gerontology. The gerontology program features a unique combination of sociology, social justice, and gerontology courses, designed to teach students how to help improve the quality of life for seniors through social policy.

18. Financing Longevity: Topics in Insurance — University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Offered at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a gerontology degree with concentration in Aging and Business requires that students learn about the financial issues of growing old, a topical issue in today’s world. Students explore personal, governmental and private-sector roles in financing longevity in the United States. 

19. Nutrition and the Elderly — Cedar Crest College

Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA, offers a gerontology certificate program that partners up with a variety of other majors, including nursing, psychology, pastoral care, social work, nutrition or business. Nutrition and the Elderly is one of six required courses for the certification, offering students the chance to gain valuable insight into the ways that nutrition interacts with aging outcomes such as diabetes, obesity, and dementia. This college has flexible degree options including dual-major, as well as women’s leadership opportunities. The campus courses are typically less than twenty students in size, and this school is dedicated to offering personal attention and mentorship to ensure every student’s success after graduation. 

20. Certificate in Gerontology — University of Nebraska, Omaha

Calling it an “education for the 21st century,” the Department of Gerontology at the University of Nebraska Omaha offers a wide range of online options for students looking to specialize in the field. The college offers a variety of courses related to gerontology and it is perfect for the casual online student as well as someone seeking to specialize with a graduate degree in gerontology. This college also offers a unique dual degree program in gerontology and law.

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