Gerontology Program Overview

The Gerontology Program offers a professional graduate degree. This applied gerontology degree program is designed for students preparing for a career in the field of aging or in a related health and human service field. Coursework is designed to:

  • Emphasize the broad, interdisciplinary nature of issues which relate to and influence older adults
  • Provide students with the academic expertise, professional experience and research capabilities necessary to pursue advanced study at the doctoral and professional level
  • Prepare students for professional practice and leadership positions in the public and private sectors where gerontological knowledge is required
  • Empower students with a vision of diversity, social justice, consumer-driven services and global issues to promote intergenerational understanding
  • Invest in students a working knowledge of theoretical foundations and prepare students with tools to use quantitative and qualitative methods in applied research for solving a variety of practical problems in the community and link the micro and macro aspects of aging

Provide students with a broad, interdisciplinary understanding of issues which relate to aging and influence older adults

  1. Provide students with the content information, experiential qualifications and research capabilities needed to pursue advanced studies in aging-related fields
  2. Prepare students for professional practice and leadership positions in the public and private sectors where gerontological knowledge is required
  3. Empower students with a vision of social justice, diversity, and consumer-driven services to promote intergenerational understanding in a global context
  4. Provide students with academic knowledge, skills, and experiences to conduct applied research to solve the problems in aging-related communities

The M.A. degree in Gerontology at SF State was established in 1986 and is the first, and thus the oldest, graduate program in Gerontology in the California State University and the University of California systems. The program is dedicated to the higher education of professionals using an interdisciplinary approach to serve the present and future needs of society in meeting the multiple challenges of an aging population; the conduct of applied research to increase the body of knowledge about issues and processes of aging; and the application of the discipline of gerontology in the community to advocate for improving the quality of care and quality of life for the aged.

The academic program has adhered to the standards and guidelines established by the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) for professional master’s level programs. In addition, the program faculty has advised student organizations such as student chapters of the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA), Gerontological Society of America (GSA), Sigma Phi Omega (Beta Xi) and Sixty Plus (lifelong learning for students age 60 and over). The program provides a gerontology library and shared meeting place for student activities.

The Gerontology program emphasizes an applied, skill-based approach to professional education. To do this, it draws upon the strengths of the university and community as well as the expertise of the faculty.

The program resides in a richly diverse, multicultural environment which provides a natural laboratory for understanding and developing competencies around the aging experiences of different ethnic groups.

Students obtain knowledge of the discipline and its theoretical foundations. Students are prepared with tools which allow them to use quantitative and qualitative methods in applied research for solving a variety of practical problems in the community.

Gerontology at SF State includes advocacy for the aged in the continuum of care and actively engages in activities through links with other professionals to provide a comprehensive model of consumer-driven health and human services. Students can participate in learning and service where skills of needs assessment, program development, implementation and evaluation directly contribute to the community’s well-being.

Gerontology is one of the fastest growing disciplines within the field of health and human services. California has recently experienced a doubling of the population over the age of 65; the number of individuals over the age of 85 is increasing at the greatest rate. By 2030, all baby boomers will be age 65+, 1 in every 5 residents (20%) will be retirement age, and the population will be more racially and ethnically diverse. An M.A. degree in Gerontology prepares the student for effective and opportune performance in a career of service to older Americans. It also lays a firm academic foundation in applied gerontology for students who choose to work toward a doctoral or professional degree. Students have the opportunity to choose a number of career paths in the field of aging within the public and private sectors.

Long-Term Care Administration (LTCA) is a career opportunity in a period of expansion and diversification. Professional requirements vary widely depending on state and federal regulations for the specific area of administration. Long-term care administrators manage and direct the daily operations of long-term care facilities. Employment opportunities for long-term care administrators are available and may be found in assisted living facilities, geriatric care centers, home health care agencies, hospice facilities, hospital systems, rehabilitation facilities, residential care facilities for the elderly, retirement communities, senior centers, skilled nursing facilities and special population programs (AIDS and mental health).

Geriatric Care Managers (GCMs) play a critical role in assessing, planning and coordinating care for older adults and their families. GCMs are hired by a variety of community-based agencies, private care management organizations and many GCMs are starting their own businesses. A GCM practice particularly lends itself to the entrepreneur who wishes to begin a small business to serve the community need. GCMs are certified and supported by the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers. This professional association provides an interactive web site that links family members with certified care managers and offers high quality continuing education.

Aging programs and services are provided by a wide range of public and private agencies including local, state and federal government, non-profit social service agencies, and private companies and corporations. These organizations seek professionals with skills and knowledge of gerontology who can develop, provide and evaluate services that will promote health and wellness of older adults and their families with diverse backgrounds. Health and wellness are also priorities for school children and adults and students may explore career opportunities for intergenerational practice.