College of Health and Human Services
Dean: Donald P. Zingale

Gerontology Program
HSS 242
Fax: 415-338-3556
Director: Brian de Vries

Graduate Coordinator: Darlene Yee


Professorsóde Vries, Pelham, Yee


Minor in Gerontology: Healthy Aging
M.A. in Gerontology

Program Scope

Purpose: The Gerontology Program is administratively housed in the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), and enjoys close collaborative relationships with other units throughout the college/university and with the communities it serves. The Master of Arts in Gerontology is an interdisciplinary, professional program in applied gerontology designed for students preparing for a career in the field of aging, or a related human service field, who wish to improve their knowledge and skills. Course work leading to the M.A. is designed to:

History and Philosophy: The Master of Arts in Gerontology at SFSU 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 gerontology 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 life for the aged.

The academic program adheres to the criteria and guidelines established by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) for professional master's level programs. In addition, the program sponsors an active graduate student organization (GO or Gerontology Organization), a student chapter of the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA), a student chapter of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA), and a student chapter (Beta Xi) of Sigma Phi Omega, the national gerontological honor society. The program houses a gerontology library and provides a shared meeting place for student activities.

Interdisciplinary, Skill-Based Professional Education: The gerontology program orientation emphasizes an interdisciplinary, 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.

SFSU has a tradition of pioneering excellence in providing education opportunities for older adults, and today the Urban Elders Program (UEP) serves older adult students age 60 and over. The campus-based UEP provides an opportunity for students to learn and appreciate the contributions that aging persons make to each other, their families, and society.

Gerontology at SFSU includes advocacy for the aged in the community and actively engages in activities which promote healthy aging, independence, and links with other professionals to provide a community-based model of consumer-driven health and human service. Students can participate in learning and service where skills of program development and research grant writing, care management, community organizing, needs assessments, and program implementation and evaluation directly contribute to the community's well-being.

In addition to the above strengths, the gerontology program offers an academic emphasis in long-term care administration which prepares students to manage facilities for older adults along the continuum of care (home-based, community-based, and institutionally-based). Following two graduate seminars of course work focusing upon regulatory policy and facility management, students are placed in a 480-hour Administrator-in-Training internship in preparation for a state licensure examination. During their course of study, students have the opportunity to work and learn in multidisciplinary teams. Students develop skills in budgeting, staffing, and resident care as they become working professionals with an appreciation of communication, ethics, and mediation.

Academic Auxiliaries

The Institute on Gerontology is a freestanding academic auxiliary unit associated with the program which houses development, research, and training projects and is a recipient of grants and gifts to the Gerontology Program. The institute enjoys joint ventures with regional providers; and students are encouraged to take full advantage of the clinical, direct service and research opportunities offered by these projects. The Health, Mobility, and Safety Lab is a second academic auxiliary unit associated with the program which provides on-going clinical research in the areas of driver assessment, driver education, driver simulation, fall prevention, home safety, and pedestrian safety for older adults. Program faculty are active in internally and externally funded research and program development grants and contracts; student assistants are routinely employed to contribute to on-going projects.

Career Outlook

Gerontology is one of the fastest growing disciplines within the field of Health and Human Services. Current demographic projections indicate that California will experience a doubling of the population over the age of 65 by the year 2020; furthermore, of all age groups, the group over age 85, the oldest old, is increasing at the greatest rate. Not only will there be greater numbers of older persons by 2020, they will be increasingly single, female, and ethnically diverse. A Master of Arts in Gerontology prepares the student for effective 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 degree. Students have the opportunity to choose a number of career paths in the field of aging within the public and private sectors.

For example, long-term care administration is 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 hospital systems, retirement communities, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, rehabilitation facilities, sub-acute care facilities, home health care programs, geriatric centers, senior day care centers, special population programs (AIDS and mental health), and hospice facilities.


The Minor in Gerontology: Healthy Aging has a gerontology core and a multidisciplinary selection of electives. It is designed to provide a program of study in introductory gerontology and introductory human services and field work. The Minor in Gerontology can be well integrated into most undergraduate majors and provides a focus for students who wish to pursue an educational path toward community service and helping professions. It offers the only undergraduate gerontology course work at the university, and other departments use minor courses to satisfy their program requirements. The internship course in the minor routinely places students in supervised field work settings in the Greater Bay Area. It is the centerpiece of a GE Segment III cluster. It serves to satisfy three of the prerequisite courses for the Master of Arts in Gerontology.

Program Units
Units selected from the following: 4-6
  GRN 500 Gerontology: An Interdisciplinary Perspective  
  GRN 510 Death and Dying in Contemporary Society
  NURS 112 Healthy Aging (1)
Units selected from the following: 6
  HH 380 Holistic Health: Western Perspectives  
  HH 381 Holistic Health: Eastern Perspectives
  HH 382 Holistic Health and Human Nature
Required fieldwork courses: 4-6
GRN 638 Gerontology Fieldwork Seminar  
GRN 639 Gerontology Fieldwork (1-3)
Elective course selected in consultation with a gerontology adviser 3
Total 21


Graduate Advisers: de Vries, Pelham, Yee

The Master of Arts in Gerontology consists of thirty units which includes required core courses (GRN prefix) and multidisciplinary electives (some of which can be taken in gerontology, and some of which can be taken in other departments). The required field work activity practicum consists of placement in the community. The required thesis/field study option is offered for three units. This usually translates into a two-year academic program. The Master of Arts in Gerontology emphasizes applied research in gerontology. While elements of good study design and research methodology are common to both basic and applied research, students are also specifically prepared to identify practical issues from which researchable questions may be derived. Numerous agencies collaborate with the graduate program in offering internships in direct service, management and administration, research, program development and evaluation, and clinical settings.

Admission to Program

Students will be expected to meet the following criteria:

Written English Proficiency Requirement

Level One: meet the writing requirements in GRN 705. Level Two: indicate the ability to write in a scholarly manner in the discipline by satisfactorily completing either GRN 895 or GRN 898.

Advancement to Candidacy

On-line course descriptions are available.

Program Units
GRN 705 Gerontology: Aging in a Multidimensional Context 3
GRN 710 Aging Processes and Theory 3
GRN 715 Aging and Social Intervention 3
GRN 760 Research Methods in Gerontology 3
GRN 838 Gerontology Internship Seminar 3
GRN 839 Gerontology Internship 3
Culminating Experience
One of the following: 3
  GRN 895 Field Study  
  GRN 898 Master's Thesis
Students develop, in consultation with their Gerontology Program advisers, a focused selection of electives meeting their particular needs.
Minimum total 30
Suggested Electives
GRN 510 Death and Dying in Contemporary Society  
GRN 525 Literature on Aging: A Humanistic Gerontology
GRN 720 Profession of Gerontology
GRN 725 Ethnogerontology
GRN 730 Social Work and the Aged
GRN 735 Ethical Issues and the Aged
GRN 740 Long-Term Care Administration I (Required for LTCA)
GRN 745 Long-Term Care Administration II (Required for LTCA)
GRN 750 Home Care Management
GRN 775 Issues in Gerontology (selected topics)
GRN 897 Gerontology Research
GRN 899 Special Study

Project or Thesis

After initiating a field study (GRN 895) or master's thesis (GRN 898), graduate students must enroll each semester in GRN 897, Gerontology Research, until the project or thesis is completed. See course description for details. The department requires that students maintain continuous enrollment until graduation.

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Last modified July 05, 2012 by