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This article provides an overview of the PhD in gerontology degree program, some of subject matters and courses that the degree covers, and why you may want to consider completing this degree as part of your professional development. It also presents a PhD in gerontology program that is delivered online, which you may be interested in.
What Is a PhD in Gerontology?
A PhD in gerontology is a program that is based strongly on research. It is designed for those who want to become leaders in health services administration or government, or those who want to become researchers or academics. It usually takes between four and five years to complete the degree, taking traditional courses and completing a dissertation. Students must often also attend national conferences, publish original articles, participate in colloquia, and more. Some schools offer the PhD in gerontology with a specialization area, such as policy for the aging, behavioral studies, or epidemiology.
All schools can set their own admission requirements for the PhD. However, holding a bachelor’s degree is generally the minimum, with most schools preferring a graduate degree. GRE scores and letters of recommendation are usually also required. Most schools only accept up to five students per year to this degree program, making admission highly competitive.
Graduates become teachers, scientists or researchers, dealing with practical and scholarly issues that relate to the elderly. The degree is generally interdisciplinary in nature, focusing on medicine, sociology, psychology, biochemistry, and biology, to name but a few. The first part of the degree will focus on taking courses and attending conferences, and the second part will be dedicated to the dissertation.
Each school has set its own PhD curriculum, focusing on psychological, physiological, sociological, and scientific elements. Usually, political science, mathematics, and statistics are also included. It is common to see core courses in areas such as:
- Developmental Sociology
- Biology of Aging
- Gerontological Research Design and Methods
- Epidemiology of Aging
- Theoretical Conceptions of Aging
- Social Policy and Aging
Why Earn a PhD in Gerontology?
A PhD in gerontology is an interdisciplinary degree, which means graduates can find employment in a wide range of different areas. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), gerontology is a subdiscipline of sociology. They have reported that sociologists had a median salary of $79,750 per year as of May 2016. They have also reported that there will be a 1% decline in demand for sociologists from 2014 to 2024. However, this is at the master’s degree level. Those who complete a doctorate degree are more likely to be in higher demand and to earn more as well. The top 10% of earners, according to the BLS, earn $146,860 or more per year.
The BLS has also stated that in 2014, there were around 2,600 jobs for sociologists. Most work in research and development in the social sciences and humanities, state and local government (excluding hospitals and education), and educational services (private, local, and state). They usually work in offices, or in the field if they conduct research.
Online Option for PhD in Gerontology
Concordia University Chicago
If you are interested in a PhD in gerontology, you may want to consider the PhD and EdD program in leadership with a gerontology specialization at Concordia University Chicago. This degree is multidisciplinary in nature and has been designed to respond to current age-related issues, while also providing in-depth, intensive training for those who want to take on truly unique positions of leadership in issues that relate to aging. The focus is strongly on both the theoretical perspective and on research methods, and students learn about scientific and social issues, rather than a single disciplinary approach.
Graduates are respected for their skills and knowledge in the social sciences, and for their advanced ability to conduct research relating to the aging society. It is both a PhD and an EdD that focuses on both gerontology and on leadership. Hence, graduates become advocates and stewards of leadership for the aging population. Many find employment in nonacademic settings, while others become academics and continue to research and train.
Because of the aging population, there is a pressing need for those who truly understand the various aspects of aging. Hence, students are provided with specialized training to prepare them for positions of leadership in academic settings, health care, and government.
The curriculum for those who wish to specialize in gerontology is very intensive and includes:
- The sociocultural aspects of aging, looking at the integration of the elderly into society and how they affect society as a whole
- The psychological aspects of aging, focusing on the whole adult lifespan with an emphasis on developmental psychology. This looks at socio-emotional functioning, personality, and cognition.
- Issues in aging policy, which looks at the policy issues that affect the elderly in this country, determining their appropriateness, effects, and implantation.
- Gerontological theory, which looks at the main theoretical concepts of aging and their commonalities
- The physiology of aging, which has a biological emphasis on a cellular, molecular, and organism level
- Demography and epidemiology of aging, which looks at global issues of health, illness, aging, mortality, and fertility, with a focus on variations based on social class, ethnicity, race, and gender
- Foundations of teaching and learning in gerontology, which prepares students to communicate their knowledge about aging in the classroom, and also among policy makers.
- Diversity in aging societies, which looks at gender structures, race, ethnicity, gender, and how this influences policy and impacts personal lives
- Professional seminar in gerontology, where students are encouraged to integrate and apply the knowledge they have so far obtained
Those who are interested in gerontology have many different employment opportunities available to them and it is likely that this growth in demand will continue for some time. According to a report by Innerbody.com, those with a PhD in gerontology can work in:
- Community, human service and religious organizations
- Healthcare and long-term care institutions
- Federal, state, and local government agencies, including the aging network (the system of service delivery to older persons established by a federal law entitled the Older American Act)
- Retirement communities
- Academic and other educational and research settings
- Professional organizations
- Business and industry
Meanwhile, they have reported that earnings can vary a lot depending on where someone works. They have stated that, on average, salaries range from <a href=”http://www.innerbody.com/careers-in-health/gerontology-careers.html”>$42,000 to $80,000</a> per year.
Clearly, earning a PhD in gerontology is a fantastic way to advance your career in a variety of areas. The aging population affects every level of society around the world, and there is a strong demand for those who have the advanced skills and knowledge to understand this, teach this, and drive policy. You will be ready to take on a position of leadership, becoming an advocate for the aging population, which is something to take a great deal of pride in.
- Sociologists. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/sociologists.htm
- EDD/PHD, Leadership: Gerontology Specialization. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://gradschool.cuchicago.edu/academics/doctoral/edd-phd-gerontology-leadership/
- Gerontology Careers. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.innerbody.com/careers-in-health/gerontology-careers.html