Program Description | School of Behavioral Health | Loma Linda University

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Program Director: Kimberly R. Freeman, PhD, MSW

The aim of the master of science degree in gerontology is to prepare students to think critically, analytically, and creatively about the challenges of the aging population and older citizens in the contemporary world. The program is designed to meet the diverse needs of professionals in gerontology and will accomplish a number of objectives:

  • To prepare students for positions in teaching, research, and aging administration at the local, state, and federal public levels as well as in the private sector.
  • To prepare students for careers in health and human services for older adults.
  • To provide students with a thorough knowledge of social science theory and the application of theory and research to current problems in gerontology.
  • To prepare students to conduct social research on aging and the effect of policies and programs on the lives of older adults.
  • To provide students with a thorough knowledge of current issues in gerontology and the importance of the relationship of gerontology to other disciplines and professions--such as social work, psychology, medicine, dentistry, nursing, and public health.

Program Description

All students must complete a two-year program consisting of 48 quarter units of coursework. Students opting for the policy, planning, and administration concentration will study the economic dimensions of social policy, organizational theory, public administration, program planning, and policy analysis as they relate to geriatric population and services. The clinical services concentration provides students with both global and domestic perspectives on violence, mental health, and drug- and alcohol-abuse issues. Both concentrations emphasize a thoughtful reflection about public philosophy and ethical issues in gerontology that will provide students with a deeper understanding of the logic influencing policy, administration, and practice issues affecting the field.

Admissions Requirements

This program follows the admission requirements of the School of Behavioral Health, including:

  • Applicants must demonstrate satisfactory performance on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). For admission with regular status, satisfactory performance is defined as a minimum combined verbal and quantitative score of 1000, and an analytical writing score of 4.0. Students submitting lower scores may be considered for provisional status, OR the applicant must demonstrate satisfactory performance on a Critical Essay Examination (CEE) administered by the Department of Social Work and Social Ecology under the guidance of the School of Behavioral Health. For admission with regular status, satisfactory performance for the CEE is defined as a minimum pass rate of 75 percent. 
  • Applicants must demonstrate satisfactory adherence with the minimum academic and professional compatibility criteria established by the program, which includes:
    • A cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or above (on a 4.0 scale) (Special consideration may be given to applicants with grade-point averages as low as 2.75 if the last part of their college work shows significant improvement).
    • Evidence of professional compatibility, personal qualifications, and motivation to complete a graduate program by obtaining a passing score on the admissions interview with the program's admissions committee. Evaluation criteria for the interview includes:
      • verbal communication skills,
      • critical-thinking ability,
      • values congruent with the profession of gerontology,
      • appreciation of human diversity,
      • evidence of reflective learning, and
      • comportment.
  1. Submission of a completed application, including a personal statement, application fee, all college and/or university transcripts, and three letters of
    recommendation (one from an academic source and one from a work supervisor preferred).


The 48-unit curriculum of the master of science degree in gerontology provides the mix of academic, experiential, and research activities essential for MS degree students. Students must maintain a grade-point average of 3.0 (or a letter grade of B on a 4.0 scale) and meet the knowledge, skill, and professional performance competencies outlined by the program. Students must also maintain a B- (2.7) or better in all required (core) courses and a minimum of a C (2.0) in all selective courses. Courses with grades falling below the standards set for required and selective courses must be repeated. Students are financially responsible for the cost of repeating courses when grades do not meet these minimum standards.

General Overview

The two-year, 48-unit program begins with core coursework required for all students. Courses during the first year of study are divided into four professional areas: social science theory; practice; religion, philosophy, and ethics; and social research methods. At the end of the first year the student selects a concentration area (policy, planning, and administration or clinical services) requiring 14 units of concentration-specific coursework. Regardless of the concentration students choose, they are given the option of either a thesis or a professional practicum experience. Students who choose the thesis option complete 6 related units of research and 4 units of selectives. Students choosing the internship option complete 9 units of professional practicum (requiring 540 hours of integrated practicum and seminar) and 9 units of selectives.

Program of Study Core Courses

Social Science Theory (8 units)

GERO 617Bio-psycho-social-spiritual Theories of Aging(4)
SPOL 615Economic Theory and Social Policy(4)

Practice (6 units)

GERO 515Diversity and Aging(3)
SOWK 682Legal and Ethical Aspects in Health and Mental Health(3)

Religion, Philosophy and Ethics (4 units)

RELE 524Christian Bioethics or(4)
RELR 568Care of the Dying and Bereaved(4)

Social Research Methods (6 units)

SOWK 547Research Methods I(3)
SOWK 549Research Methods II(3)


Policy, Planning and Administration Concentration (14 units)

(required of all students) (6 units)

SOWK 673Program Planning and Evaluation(3)
SPOL 623Older Adults Policies and Services(3)
Concentration Selectives (select 8 units)
SOWK 672Theories of Organizations and Systems(3)
SOWK 676AHuman Resources Planning and Development(3)
SOWK 676BHuman Resources Planning and Development Seminar(3)
PUAD 678Public Administration Management(3)
Clinical Services Concentration (14 units)

(required of all students) (6 units)

SOWK 654ATherapeutic Interventions with Older Adults(3)
SOWK 654BTherapeutic Interventions with Older Adults(3)
Concentration Selectives (select 8 units)
SOWK 648Dual Diagnosis(2)
SOWK 659Interventions with the Chronically Mentally Ill(2)
HPRO 548Community and Domestic Violence(2)
MFAM 638Family Therapy and Chemical Abuse(2)
NUTR 536Nutrition and Aging(2)
PSYC 685Drug Addiction and Therapy(2)
PSYC 686Child, Partner, and Elder Abuse(2)
HPRO 584Aging and Health(3)
SOWK 684Advanced Policy Project(2)

Thesis Option (6 units)

SOWK 697Applied Research(2, 2)
SOWK 698Thesis(2)


Internship Option

GERO 757A, B, CProfessional Practicum and Seminar(3, 3, 3)
SOWK 578Field Orientation(1)

(Professional practicum and seminar units not calculated into degree units. Students pay program fees for professional practicum units instead of tuition.)

General Selectives* Thesis option (select 4 units) Internship option (select 9 units)

GERO 599Directed Study/Special Project(1-4)
PSYC 501Advanced Statistics(4)
SOWK 681Health and Mental Health Policies and Services(2)
SOWK 683Advanced Policy Practice(3)
SOWK 684Advanced Policy Projects(2)
HPRO 584Aging and Health(3)
STAT 448Analytical Applications of SAS(3)
STAT 449Analytical Applications of SPSS(3)

*Other courses may be approved for elective credits in consultation with the faculty adviser.

Total Units: 48

Practicum and Seminar Hours: 480 + 60

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