Information Session: Why earn a master’s degree in gerontology?

Hi and welcome to our webinar on the earning a master’s degree in
gerontology. My name is Joel Hektner. I’m the graduate coordinator in human
development on the science and I’m here with Heather Fuller-Iglesias who is a faculty member in Human Development and Family Science. Who also teaches in our gerontology program. Also later on we will be joined by
Karen Murie our campus coordinator for this program.
First we thought we’d start by just describing what the gerontology program is structured like. You can earn a master’s degree in two years if you are going full time. This includes 36 credits. Including 10 three-credit courses and a six credit internship. The program is taught through a multi-
institutional consortium called the Great Plains Interactive Distance
Education Alliance or Great Plains IDEA. Which means it is fully online and each course is taught by the faculty member who may be at any one of several institutions across the Midwestern United States. Students apply and are admitted to
just one institution, in this case you would apply and be admitted to NDSU and then your degree would come from only NDSU even
though you’ve been taking courses from
several different institutions. So while Joel
mentioned that that full-time would be in about two years, you’d be taking 9
credits per semester, students can take anywhere from
three, six or nine credits a semester. We do have a recommended order in courses that really only is
that you start with our intro class which is
perspectives in gerontology and you end with our capstone class which is the
professional seminar. The rest of the courses you can take
any in any order in between there. And so
that’s your total of 36 credits for the
master’s, 21 for the certificate. And we expect that
most students will have applied interests and will want to take this degree to prepare for a professional
career in gerontology. In which case students would take the six credit internship instead of taking the thesis. But for students who are strongly interested in research and are strong students the thesis option or a master’s paper option is also
available. I just want to briefly go over what the core classes are. As I already mentioned you start with an intro class called perspectives in gerontology that will just go over all the basic issues for aging adults. Then we have a core course called
adult development in aging in this class you’ll focus on the biological, physical, cognitive,
socio-emotional aspects of aging. There is a class called aging policy, which will cover all
the policies that affect the aging population so. Ranging from things like Social Security,
Medicare, etcetera. Another core course is aging and the environment. This is a
class that focuses on interior design. So what are all
of the aspects to design that are necessary for an aging population. Another one is nutrition, health, and aging. So this course focuses
specifically on nutrition and health in late life. And then you take one
methodology class which is the applied research course where you focus on
research methods in gerontology as well as program evaluation. And then
as I mentioned we have a capstone course which is the professional seminar where you’ll kind of wrap everything up that
you’ve learned throughout your core courses and
elective courses. There are a variety of different elective courses, ranging from courses on the
biology of aging to sexuality in aging there’s there’s a
ton of them out there and you get to pick which electives you
you take. And these are graduate-level courses so that means that our expectations for student performance and the workload are higher than you were used to as an undergraduate and an indication of that is that nine credits is considered
full-time. So for each three-credit course you can expect several hours of reading and writing to do. (Quietly) Oh, there Karen just joined. Just to tell you a little bit about
the faculty that are in the gerontology program here
at NDSU, we have three core faculty members
here at NDSU. Melissa O’Connor focuses on
cognitive aspects of healthy aging. Margaret
Fitzgerald focuses on family financial planning as related to aging families. And then I’m the third core member and I focus
on social and cultural aspects of aging. Then there are also faculty
members that that you would have contact with at
these other universities that cover the whole gamut on anything
that you’d want to know about aging there’s there’s some
expertise there. The next topic that we want to cover
today is why go into gerontology, what’s the
importance of the gerontology field? So this master’s degree will prepare you
for an array of different careers working with older adults. Typically we have students that go into fields such as healthcare, some nursing, gone into medical school. But also social
work, counseling, working with families,
working with individuals. Programs like hospice, for instance. There’s a lot of opportunities
working in the government sector things like public policy, working in the difference
organizations within the government that specialize with older populations. A lot of people go on to work in
long-term care, so administration, recreation all the different aspects
of long-term care. As you see we have some classes that
focus and interior design in architecture so some students will go on into
those types of fields. Adult education, we also see a lot of
students going into business and industry.
With the baby boomers coming we expect a great growth in the kind of products
that can be targeted at older adults; hospitality
and travel. A lot of new opportunities to focus travel and leisure for older
adults. So we expect a lot more career
opportunities to emerge especially with the
baby boomers aging. So we live in an aging society the population of older adults is increasing very rapidly. It has been for the past few
decades but in the next few decades we expect
tremendous growth as the baby boomers enter late life. So this means we need more more workers we need more people working in the the
aging field running these organizations whether
governmental, nonprofit, businesses that that create services and products that that are targeted at older adults. And organizations are especially looking for
people with advanced degrees. So a lot of the jobs that you’ll
see out there in gerontology are looking for somebody with a master’s in gerontology. There is not a specific required major
that you need to enter into our gerontology master’s program; however, as as you seen already most of the
coursework is focused on the social sciences and
so students will be very successful if you’ve come out of a
social science such as psychology, sociology, um maybe a public health but also
students interested in medicine would would benefit or with the biological
background for instance. So there is not a
required undergrad major. Um. We’ll move onto admission information. So if you are interested in applying for the program we do review applications on a rolling basis. So you can answer into the program in any
term. And the deadline is just two months
before the term starts so there is actually still time now to apply to enroll for fall term. In order to apply, the
entire application process is completed online through the and NDSU graduate
school. You just go to And you’ll find a button there to apply online. What you need for your
application will be transcripts of all the work that you’ve done at prior universities and colleges and a personal statement where you
describe your interest in gerontology and prior experience. And then if you apply for the master’s
degree you’ll need 3 letters of recommendations from people who are
familiar with your academic work and initiative. If you’re applying for the certificate program you do not need the 3 letters of recommendation. For the criteria that we look for admissions
include that you’ll need to have a GPA of at least 3.0 from your prior work as an undergraduate. And that’s just to make sure that you’ll
be able to be successful in the program. And then we also look to
make sure that your interests and goals match what we can offer you in the program. And we also check your letters of recommendation. And now I’ll ask Karen Murie to talk about what happens after
you’ve been admitted and how you actually
register for courses. Karen. I’m Karen Murie, I work in Distance and
Continuing Education and I’m the NDSU Great Plains campus coordinator. When you apply for admission you should
let should contact me or I’m contacted by the department when the admission is completed. We have a Great Plains database where
all the registrations are exchanged and grades are exchanged. So when I get a new student I ask for some
personal information: address and such like that. And you have to sign a
student acknowledgement form that you can can actually send to me online or you
can fax it or mail it. And then each semester I send the students in the program an email that lists all the classes that
are going to be offered. And their taught at NDSU and the other
member universities. And you have to notify me what
classes you want to get registered for. It’s important that you do that as soon as
possible. You might want to check with your your
advisor because some of the classes do fill
quickly and then the registrations are first exchanged on the Great Plains
data-base because the caps are set by the teaching
universities. And then if there’s room I add you to the database and I register you manually at NDSU. All of your registrations and drops are
done manually because the classes for Great
Plains are locked so you have to notify me if you want add or drop. And um if you’re taking a class at NDSU you will receive an email from me
with instructions how to access the class. If you’re taking
a class from another member university you will be contacted by that
university by email and give you instructions to access. The courses are all set up by the
teaching university so they’re all a little bit different as to what to requirements are. You just
have to have good computer access and um Like I said sometimes the classes do fill
quickly so you do have to let me know as soon as possible and if you have any
questions you can email, ask me, I can usually find the answer if I
don’t know it. Anything I’m forgetting. That sounds good. Thanks. We have just a little bit of time for some questions. Um, so if any of you have questions you can type them in and we’ll try to answer them now. We did have some questions that were emailed to us ahead of time. So will go ahead and start
answering some of those. The first was, Which university will I receive my degree from? The answer to that is, if you apply and are admitted at NDSU your degree will be from NDSU even though several courses you will be taking in the program will be taught by professors from other universities in the consortium. Our next question by email was, What’s
the difference between earning a graduate certificate and earning a master’s degree
in gerontology? Well, a certificate is just a way of showing
that you have completed a coherent set of courses in a certain
field. So in this case the graduate certificate
in gerontology comprises a subset of courses that are in the master’s
program. So if you take the certificate program and then during the
course the program or at the completion of the program realize the you indeed want to go
further and take the master’s you certainly can. And that certificate program will
transfer right in your master’s program and allow you then to just take what’s
remaining to finish the masters program. Our next question was whether previous
graduate courses that you may have taken somewhere else might transfer in to
this program. And the answer is, you could transfer up to nine credits if they are relevant to the program and
you would just need to supply the syllabus for each of those courses those and the faculty here will make a
determination of whether those credits would fit for being able to be
transferred. The next question was, if you’re employed
full-time and have a family how many credits or
classes would do we recommend that you take in a semester. And this is a really good question
that each student needs to kind of figure out on their own based on their own obligations. But for
students who do have family obligations and who
also work full-time I recommend that they just take three credits. That is just take 1 course
for their first semester in the program just to see how that works with your schedule. And then after that if you judge that that’s easy to
handle you could take more than one course. But just as a first semester I would take
one course if you do work full time and have family obligations as well. Another question is, can I take some gerontology classes without being admitted to the program. And there is a possibility of being admitted into the graduate school as a non-degree student. In which case, you can take courses without being in the program but
only if those courses are not full by students
who are already in the program and if the instructor agrees to allow
non-degree students in the program. So it’s very limited on what you might
be able to take without being admitted to program. Can I add to that? Go ahead. It’s important that if you want to register as a non-degree student you have to
contact me because I have to check to see if there is room for you in the class and then you
have to be added to a waitlist. So you can’t actually be registered until probably a week or two before the semester begins. Because they have to wait to
allow other members students get enrolled. Right, thank you Karen. It’s kind of like flying standby.
Everybody else who is actually in the program gets the first crack at being in the courses. Our next question is, will the program
prepare me for a PhD program? And here if you do have interests in
doing research in gerontology or in having a career in higher
education on becoming a professor in teaching gerontology. Then we really suggest you take a
look at our PhD program in a dual major of gerontology and developmental science. And you go directly into that PhD
program without taking a master’s degree first. Ah, so that would be the first choice for
someone who has strong interests in a PhD program is to do that developmental science/gerontology dual major. If you’re already in the master’s program and are interested in being prepared for a PhD then we suggest you do the master’s thesis. Which you can do if you can find a faculty
member who’s willing to advise you on a thesis. We also question, is this
program accredited and if so by whom. There is no accreditation body for the field of gerontology that accredits gerontology academic programs. NDSU as a whole is an accredited
university by the Higher Learning Commission from central, the regional accreditation association. Do we have any other further questions? Looks like we don’t so we’ll say thank you for joining us and best
wishes as you think about your future in the
field of gerontology. Thank you.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Where can I find more information about this online degree program?

Go to the following website:

I already have a Bachelor of Science degree in Gerontology and currently work in the field as a Service Coordinator. Could my job count as internship credit if I’m admitted into the program?

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