Skip to main content

Degree Options

The Gerontology Program offers four degree options for professional service work with and for senior adults and their families:

The Gerontology Program does not maintain a separate student manual. This website IS the student manual. In addition to details on this site, paper advising guides for these programs are available in Clark Hall, Suite 574, by Office A. This is Dr. Meuser's office, and he's always ready to answer your questions, too. Contact him at

Courses are offered mainly at night to accomodate the schedules of working students. Graduate level classes start at 4:00 PM or later in most instances. Undergraduate courses are offered in daytime and evening slots. Some instructors will schedule Saturday sessions (e.g., for a class assignment at a retirement community) with weeknights off to compensate. Some flexibility in work schedules is helpful for practicum placements which usually require 8 AM - 5 PM weekday commitments.

Most courses are offered live in the classroom, but also facilitated by various on-line tools and resources. Our list of online courses is growing, such that we can now offer a fully online Minor. Talk to Dr. Meuser for details.

The 36-credit hour MSG can be completed in as few as four consecutive semesters, and the 18-credit hour Graduate Certificate can be completed in as few as two semesters. A full course load at the graduate level is 9 credit hours. Students may take as few as one 3-credit course in each of the Fall and Winter-Spring semesters and remain enrolled in good standing. Those with student loans usually need to take at least 6 credits each term.

The 15-credit hour Minor in Gerontology is our most flexible degree and students tailor a plan of study to meet personal interests. Our Undergraduate Certificate is more focused than the Minor and designed to prepare students for entry level positions in aging services. Current undergraduate students in good standing may enroll in one of these programs at any time by contacting the Program Director, Dr. Tom Meuser, for an interview.

The brief descriptions below are for overview purposes only, and each program of study may be tailored for individual student needs and interests. The Program Director, Tom Meuser, PhD, advises prospective and current students about their degree options and specific courses. Contact him by e-mail ( or phone (314-516-5421) to set up an advising appointment.

Master of Science in Gerontology - MSG (36 Credit Hours)

A solid alternative to the Master of Social Work (MSW). The Master of Science degree in Gerontology (MSG) is a multi-disciplinary program of study designed to prepare students for management or direct service positions working with older adults and their families in various service, government and/or research settings. The program of study includes courses from a variety of departments including anthropology, nursing, psychology, sociology, social work, public policy administration, and optometry. Courses are offered primarily in the evening to accommodate part-­time, as well as full-­time students.

The MSG is an applied degree which emphasizes the development of foundational knowledge and professional skills (competencies) for working with and for older adults and their families in various settings. All students complete a 15-credit core curriculum which exposes them to issues of policy, health, sociocultural, clinical and psychosocial aspects of gerontology.

Students may choose one of two tracks which define their remaining course options:

TRACK 1 (Service & Care). This is the default track for those entering the program. Students who want to work directly with older adults in various programmatic and/or service settings benefit from the broad, practice-emphasis of this track. Students complete two 200-hour practicum placements linked with their career and learning goals. Track 1 students must complete 6 credits in statistics, research methods, and/or program evaluation courses. Nine elective credits are also part of the plan of study for this track.

TRACK 2 (Program Administration). This is an optional track for students pursuing an administrative career path in aging. For example, this would be an appropriate track for someone interested in becoming a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator. We partner with the Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management & Leadership Program (CNML) to make this track possible. Students may interview for acceptance into Track 2 during their first and no later than their second semester in the MSG Program. If approved to proceed, the Track 2 student must devote all of his or her electives to taking courses in the CNML Program. Both 200-hour practicum placements usually emphasize program administration, although some exposure to direct service is possible.

CLICK HERE to view the MSG Planning & Course Rotation Guide.

Graduate Certificate in Gerontology - GCG (18 Credit Hours)

The Graduate Certificate in Gerontology is designed for students who wish to receive post-baccalaureate training in gerontology. The certificate can be taken by itself or in conjunction with a graduate degree in another field, such as social work, nursing, counseling, psychology, etc.

The certificate represents a specialization in the aging process and in working with and for older adults. An MSW student, for example, who pursues the GCE concurrently (or enrolls later having worked in the field) can rightfully call him or herself a "Gerontological Social Worker" upon graduation. The GCG works well with many other advanced degrees  at UMSL, including those in the fields of Psychology, Nursing, Sociology, Optometry, and Neuroscience.

The GCG utilizes the same core curriculum described under the MSG Degree above. Students also complete one 200-hour practicum at a community agency, government office, research facility, or other like organization.

MSW students at UMSL may declare to become part of the GCG Program at any time. Admission is automatic. This declaration must be in writing (email to Dr. Meuser - An in-person interview is usually required.

Undergraduate Certificate in Gerontological Studies (18 Credit Hours)

Opportunities and challenges of human aging intersect with most academic and professional disciplines. Seniors receive a range of health, social, economic and other support services (e.g. through government programs, medical centers, senior centers, long-term care facilities, not-for-profit agencies) in order to age successfully at home or elsewhere.

The proportion of older adults in the US population will grow substantially in coming decades. The 18 credit hour Undergraduate Certificate in Gerontological Studies (UCGS) is designed to prepare students for entry level, service-oriented positions in this growing marketplace.

The UCGS adds a tangible credential for future work with and for older adults, and it can be pursued with any major area of study with proper planning. The curriculum involves a combination of required courses and choices for specific learning needs and career interests. All students must take a 3-credit introductory course – Aging in America: Concepts & Controversies (GERON 2170) – and a 3-credit service learning course – Social & Community Services for an Aging Population (GERON 2300). The remaining 12 credits are chosen from a select list of courses at the 3000-4000 levels.  Contact the Director of the Gerontology Program to learn more and for an advising appointment.

Minor in Gerontology (15 credits)

Opportunities and challenges of human aging intersect with most academic and professional disciplines. Whether you seek a career in health care, social services, policy, business, criminology, etc., aging will impact your efforts. The 15 credit hour Minor in Gerontology is designed with breadth and flexibility in mind.

This Minor adds a tangible credential for future work with and for older adults, and it can be pursued with any major area of study with proper planning. Contact the Director of the Gerontology Program to learn more and for an advising appointment.

Students have many courses to choose from to create a personalized plan of study. All students must take a 3-credit introductory course – Aging in America: Concepts & Controversies (GERON 2170). At least 6 of the remaining 12 credits must be from courses at the 4000 level. A number of our 4000 level courses can also serve a “capstone” function to meet other major or program requirements. Sufficient online courses are now available for a fully online Minor!

Program-wide Learning Objectives

Students will gain:

  1. A detailed appreciation for the aging process with respect to successful aging, health status, physical functioning, cognition and capacity, psychosocial involvement, diversity, cultural influences and competence, and public policy.
  2. An ability to integrate theoretical perspectives on aging with the practical needs and concerns of individuals in various living environments.
  3. An ability to interpret and appropriately utilize research findings to inform daily practice, especially with respect to screening, assessment, intervention, and referral activities.
  4. Professional competence in the areas of ethical practice, participation in multidisciplinary teams, communication with clients and families, and approaches to assessment and intervention.


"I had an excellent opportunity with work one-on-one, I feel, very closely with a lot of my professors.  I had a great opportunity to be a graduate research assistant to Dr. Margo Hurwicz, which fit nicely……It was a beautiful blend or marriage of hands-on, like actually getting to do primary and secondary research with Alzheimer’s Disease."  Rachel Lugge, MSG (2007 Graduate)



"What I found in being a graduate student at UMSL was that I had the freedom to dream as big as I wanted to dream.  My main point that I really stress about my education at UMSL is that I felt that I mattered and I felt that someone was going to be to help guide me down that path, to point me in that direction."  Torrey Johnson, MSG (2010 Graduate)