5 Best PhDs in Gerontology

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Updated March 17, 2021

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As the baby boom generation ages, expertise in gerontology is as vital as ever. Now is the time to pursue one of the following 5 Best PhDs in Gerontology.

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Today, individuals are living—and thriving—longer than ever before. This is due to various factors, including biological, cultural, psychological, and sociological factors. These fields and more are integrated into the interdisciplinary study of gerontology, or aging across the life course. The lengthening lifespan is also down to the developing and advancing understanding of how to adequately meet the needs of aging populations. A doctoral degree in Gerontology builds this knowledge, allowing graduates to make significant research contributions to both the field and to aging society at large.

As with all doctoral degrees, the following programs are research-intensive and primarily structured around the completion of an original doctoral dissertation. Doctoral candidates may research areas such as cognition, disease prevention, finances, and retirement. According to the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, Gerontology alumni go on to pursue careers in areas including academia, government, science and social services, and urban planning.

Doctoral degree holders, in particular, are likely to move into research-based roles, such as scientific work in health care settings or social services consulting. Advanced degrees can lead to excellent career prospects, such as leadership roles in gerontology practice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers earned an average salary of $99,730 in 2018.

The demand for gerontology services is undergoing a predicted maturity rate of 20 percent, which is much swifter than the normal rate across all industries. As the large baby boom generation ages and remains active later in life, there is likely to be a significant increase in the demand for health care services. The size and diversity of today's elderly population provide ample opportunities for research that may enhance our ability to care for older populations for generations to come.

Best PhDs in Gerontology

Concordia University Chicago River Forest, IL
North Dakota State University Fargo, ND
University of Kentucky Lexington, KY
University of Maryland, Baltimore County Baltimore, MD
University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA


The staff of Grad School Hub has compiled the following 5 Best PhDs in Gerontology for the 2019-20 academic school year based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Data contributed from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, and the U.S. Department of Labor plays a significant role in how graduate degree programs are ranked because institutional transparency is essential for deciding which career path is right for you. Based on this data, GSH organizes information into five weighted categories, which are:

  • Alumni Feedback: 20%
  • Continued Enrollment: 20%
  • Degree Selectivity: 10%
  • Graduate Expenses: 25%
  • Projected Annual Salary: 25%

A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible through our Ranking Methodology page.

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Here are the 5 Best PhDs in Gerontology!

  • Concordia University Chicago

    River Forest, IL



    Concordia University Chicago offers a Ph.D. in Leadership with a specialization in Gerontology. The degree program is designed to be completed entirely online. The program is multidisciplinary in nature, exploring theoretical questions related to aging while also training individuals for age-related leadership roles. The 30-credit curriculum integrates a broad scientific perspective in its exploration of theory and research methods in aging. Course offerings include Diversity in Aging Societies; Leadership, Applied Ethics, Aging & Global Change; and The Psychological Aspects of Aging. Students can take one or two classes per term and complete the program in three to four years, including one full year for the doctoral dissertation.

    Concordia University began in 1864 as a Lutheran teacher-training seminary in Addison, Illinois. Today, it is a private, comprehensive liberal arts university in River Forest, Illinois. It is a member of the Concordia University System, which is comprised of higher education institutions throughout the nation associated with the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Concordia Chicago consists of five colleges, in Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Graduate Studies, and Innovation and Professional Programs. Many students are enrolled in an online capacity. U.S. News & World Report ranks Concordia University Chicago at No. 72 in Regional Universities Midwest and No. 44 in Best Value Schools.

  • North Dakota State University

    Fargo, ND



    North Dakota State University offers a Ph.D. in Gerontology through its College of Human Development and Education. It is a dual-major program, meaning students can combine their studies in Gerontology with another major area of study. The program offers primary major options in Adult Education, Developmental Science, and Exercise Science and Nutrition, with Gerontology as the secondary major. Required Gerontology courses include Aging Policy, Environment and Aging, and Perspectives in Gerontology. All students must also complete a doctoral dissertation on a topic related to aging.

    NDSU is the flagship land-grant institution of North Dakota. The public research university maintains its agricultural roots through its agrarian research centers throughout North Dakota. Located in Fargo, the university is a member of the North Dakota University System. NDSU plays a significant role in the Red River Valley Research Corridor, conducting primary research in areas including agriculture, nanotechnology, and polymers. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University at No. 215 in National Universities and No. 121 in Top Public Schools.

  • University of Kentucky

    Lexington, KY



    The University of Kentucky offers a Ph.D. in Gerontology through its College of Public Health. The degree program addresses the aging process from a physiological, psychological, and sociological perspective. The curriculum aims to build an understanding of the history and philosophy of gerontology, as well as building skills in theory and research methods in the field. Course offerings include Aging and Environment, Aging in Today's World, Biology of Aging, and Geriatric Pharmacy. Faculty research areas include elder ethics, intervention strategies, mental health management, and rural aging. Students can expect to spend several months on their doctoral dissertation, as well as presenting their ideas in oral and written formats. Students will also gain expertise in teaching skills, an ability to present effectively at professional conferences, and experience writing grants and proposals.

    The University of Kentucky was founded in 1865 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky. It is the state's flagship university and one of its two land-grant institutions. Located in Lexington, the public research university is also the largest in Kentucky. The campus houses 15 libraries, including the large federal William T. Young Library, which houses materials related to the humanities, life sciences, and social sciences. U.S. News & World Report ranks Kentucky at No. 75 in Top Public Schools. The university's College of Public Health ranks at No. 37 in the nation for its graduate programs.

  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County

    Baltimore, MD



    The University of Maryland, Baltimore County offers a doctoral program in Gerontology. The interdisciplinary degree program is an intercampus collaboration between UMBC and the University of Maryland School of Medicine on the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus. Students may concentrate on Epidemiology of Aging; Policy for the Elderly; or Social, Cultural, and Behavioral Sciences. The curriculum brings a wide range of perspectives into its study of the aging experience, including biological, economic, environmental, historical, political, and social contexts. The 21-credit core curriculum includes courses in Biology of Aging, Psychology of Aging, and Sociocultural Gerontology. Students must also attend mandatory aging forum sessions throughout the first two years of the program. The curriculum also includes a comprehensive exam, to be taken at the end of the second year for full-time students. The curriculum culminates in 12 to 18 credits of doctoral dissertation.

    UMBC was established in 1966 to accommodate the region's growing university enrollment. A member of the University of Maryland System, the university was the first public institution of higher education in the state to welcome students of all ages. A space-grant institution, UMBC is considered to be one of the nation's fastest-growing research universities. It is one of the nation's top recipients of NASA research funding, and it operates a research park that specializes in clean technology, cybersecurity, and life sciences. U.S. News & World Report ranks UMBC at No. 63 in National Universities and No. 22 in Top Public Schools. The university also ranks at No. 32 in graduate-level Public Health studies.

  • University of Southern California

    Los Angeles, CA



    The University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology introduced the world's first gerontology Ph.D. program in 1989. The university's long history of research and advanced study in the field is one reason why Grad School Hub ranks its Ph.D. in Gerontology program the best in the nation. The degree program blends advanced research training, leadership skills, and scientific knowledge in the study of aging and lifespan development. Students work closely with faculty mentors to shape specialized research expertise in the field. In addition to 60 credits of coursework and the doctoral dissertation, students can expect to work on research publications, participate in colloquia, present at national meetings, gain teaching experience, and build a strong academic and professional network.

    Founded in 1880, USC is the oldest private research university in the state of California. It is also the largest private employer in the city of Los Angeles. A sea- and space-grant institution, it is a member of the Association of American Universities. USC innovations include antivirus software, DNA computing, and the Domain Name System. Founded in 1975, the university's Davis School of Gerontology was the first professional gerontology school in the United States. U.S. News & World Report ranks USC at No. 37 in Best Value Schools, No. 28 in Most Innovative Schools, and No. 22 in National Universities. The university also ranks at No. 37 in graduate-level Public Health programs.

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