Gerontology offers challenging and rewarding careers in an area growing rapidly which needs people with a broad range of skills, that will improve people's lives.

  • Master's degree. The Masters of Family and Consumer Sciences with Gerontology specialization is 36 credits and completely online. It is designed to prepare professionals who are either working directly with the aging population or are involved in education and research related to older adults. 
  • Graduate certificate. The graduate certificate with Gerontology specialization is a 15 credit subset of the master’s degree program. 

Why study gerontology?

Ongoing demographic need

We live in an aging society, one in which the older population is growing both in absolute numbers and in proportion to all other age groups. Businesses, government agencies, service organizations, educational institutions, and self-employed professionals from every economic sector are recognizing the need for specialized knowledge and skills to meet the needs of this changing demography.

Diverse career specializations

People who are interested in this diverse field come from many disciplines, professions, and clinical areas, such as:

Social work
Nursing Counseling
Public policy
Long-term care administration
Adult education
Rehabilitation therapy

About the program

University partnerships

Iowa State is a member of Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GP-IDEA), a consortium of universities that have come together to offer fully online degree programs. Gerontology through Iowa State University and the partnership of Great Plains IDEA means you interact with leading faculty nationwide.

GP IDEA Gerontology Handbook

Download the Gerontology flyer.


Master's program - 36 credits total

Required courses: 24 credits (8 courses)

  • Geron 530: Perspectives in Gerontology
  • Geron 534: Adult Development
  • Geron 540: Nutrition and Physical Activity in  Aging
  • Geron 545: Economics, Public Policy and Aging
  • Geron 563: Environments and Aging
  • Geron 577: Aging in the Family
  • Geron 584: Program Evaluation and Research Methods
  • Geron 594: Professional Seminar in Gerontology

Elective courses: 12 credits

Elective courses are offered in areas such as biological aspects of aging, gender and aging, spirituality, creativity, cognitive aging, sexuality, mental health and aging, long-term care, gerontechnology, and contemporary concepts in design.

Practicum experience. Up to three credits of practicum experience may be included as part of elective credits.

Gerontology Great Plains IDEA Course Planner


Graduate certificate program - 15 credits total

Required courses: 6 credits (2 courses)

  • Geron 530: Perspectives in Gerontology
  • Geron 534: Adult Development

Elective courses: 9 credits

These credits are taken from core courses listed above or from other electives.

Gerontology Great Plains IDEA Course Planner

You may consider following one of the two following graduate certificate tracks. Consult with your major professor for a different set of courses that will fit your needs.

Design Track Long-Term Care Track
Perspectives Perspectives
Adult Development Adult Development
Environments & Aging Long-term Care
Long-term Care Policy and Aging
Conceptual Design Aging in the Family
Policy and Aging Cognitive Health


In addition to the 24-credit core, you will select 12 credits of electives to fulfill the 36-credit requirement for the master's program. The GP-IDEA campus coordinator will notify students of special topic gerontology courses offered throughout the year. These courses cover topics such as:

Global aging
Grandparent-grandchild relations
Adult learners
Study tour
Leadership in aging organizations
Intergenerational issues and programs
Arts and humanities
Advanced theories on aging
Current topics
Community services and aging
Rural aging Statistics


Regularly offered courses that may serve as electives are:

GERON 520: Women and Aging
GERON 521: Biological Principles of Aging
GERON 522: Long-Term Care
GERON 523: Mental Health and Aging
GERON 524: Cognitive Health
C Dev 523: Grantwriting
FFP 540: Estate Planning for Families, 3 credits
FFP 545: Retirement Planning & Employee Benefits, 3 credits


Additional courses may cover topics such as:

  • Spirituality
  • Creativity
  • Sexuality
  • Gerontechnology
  • Contemporary concepts in environments and design

Other possibilities: In addition, other GP-IDEA courses relevant to aging exist on topics including financial well-being and grant writing. Additional Iowa State courses (online and on-campus) may be pertinent to your studies. Please check with the campus coordinator and your major professor.

Non-degree credits

You may take up to nine graduate credit hours as a non-degree-seeking student before being formally admitted to the program. If you are interested in taking courses as a non-degree student, please start with the Admissions Office and contact