VCU Bulletins

Gerontology, Master of Science (M.S.)

E. Ayn Welleford, Ph.D.
Associate professor and chair
(804) 828-1565


Admission requirements summary

Gerontology, Master of Science (M.S.): all tracks

of entry:

All semesters



The gerontology curriculum is a multidisciplinary program established in 1976 which offers the Master of Science degree. The program benefits from professional collaboration with departments throughout the university

The 30-hour degree program includes 15 hours of courses in gerontological core, five hours in gerontological research, six hours in gerontology practice elective courses and four hours in a field placement.

For students interested in seeking to work collaboratively to augment their studies, a variety of multidisciplinary electives beyond their required curriculum are also available.

Student learning outcomes

1. Using the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education Core Content as the foundation of study, students will learn to apply the biological (e.g., wear and tear, programmed senescence, caloric restriction), psychological (e.g., Erikson’s developmental theory, gerotranscendence, selective optimization with compensation) and sociological theories (e.g., continuity, lifecourse, modernization) of aging to gerontology practice.   

2. As students develop a clearer understanding of effective eldercare through the biopsychosocial approach, lifespan perspective and numerous theories within the field (as implicit in AGHE’s core competencies) the necessity of geriatric interdisciplinary care becomes more apparent. Students will gain understanding and respect for the interdisciplinary team process in effective gerontological practice and essential role of various disciplines on the care team.

 3. Students will demonstrate a thorough understanding of the multiple paths, methods and techniques of optimal aging in order to assist older persons, their families, program providers and policymakers toward the goal of optimal aging. A comprehensive understanding of gerontology core concepts is essential to this goal.

4. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the aging network and will be able to make contributions to community-identified needs through the successful delivery of services in the aging network. Community engagement will take the form of field work, research, grant writing, service learning opportunities, education and training.

Degree requirements

Students must complete a 30-credit-hour curriculum based on the core curriculum to include either a generalist or optional specialty track.


Outline of the core courses for a master’s degree in gerontology
All students must successfully complete the following 30 hours of courses. Course descriptions can be found in the online courses database.

Required courses

GRTY 601 Biological and Physiological Aging
GRTY 602 Psychology of Aging
GRTY 603 Social Gerontology
GRTY 604 Problems Issues and Trends in Gerontology
GRTY 605 Social Science Research Methods Applied to Gerontology
GRTY 606 Aging and Human Values
GRTY 607 Field Study in Gerontology
GRTY 608 Grant Writing
Gerontology practice electives
Total minimum requirement

Please consult your adviser for guidance with scheduling. It is required that students seek advising to determine how they will complete the five practice elective credits.


M.S. degree seekers have the option to select the generalist track or one of the following concentrations. Specialty area content is obtained through elective courses and student field work/practicum (GRTY 607).

Optional concentration areas include:

This area of concentration is designed for students interested in teaching or training careers in gerontology. Students electing this track will be prepared to provide instruction to university or community college students, the lay public, professional service providers and older people.

Health care organization and planning
Upon completion of this track, offered in conjunction with the Department of Health Administration, students will have a foundation of knowledge in health care organization, health planning, health policy and a macro perspective on the financing of health care. In addition, students will have developed skills in policy analysis and the use of economic tools. Finally, students will broaden their understanding of the political, legal and ethical issues involved in health care organization and planning.

This area of concentration, developed jointly with the Department of Psychology, is designed for students interested in working with those older adults and their families who are experiencing psychological difficulty. Students electing this track will be prepared to provide assistance directly to the elderly and their families as well as to consult and train professionals and paraprofessionals to provide more effective mental health services. Training is provided through a combination of specialized didactic instruction and structured field experience in providing direct services, consultation and education.

Public administration
Students who elect to pursue courses in the public administration track, developed jointly with the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, will, after completion of course work, be able to plan, organize, report and budget for public programs in aging. Grant writing and program evaluation skills will be developed as well. Students choosing the public administration track also may wish to complete the Certificate in Public Management or the Certificate in Nonprofit Management.

This track is designed for students who would ultimately like to pursue doctoral studies in the social or behavioral sciences or the Ph.D. in Health Related Sciences (offered by the School of Allied Health Professions). Students who elect the research track must complete a thesis or a paper of publishable quality. Students will obtain a strong background in experimental psychology research design and methodology and a broad background in life-span developmental theory.

Social services
This track concentrates on developing specialized knowledge and skills in the provision of services to the elderly, basic understanding and skills in at least one method of social work practice, commitment and ability to participate in the development of strategies and policies relevant to amelioration of social problems of the elderly, and the ability to integrate and use in practice knowledge of individual behavior and social structure with particular reference to the needs of the elderly.



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Last update: 11/11/2013

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