Gerontology Program

Sonoma State University

Susan Hillier, Program Coordinator


Becoming a Gerontologist at Sonoma State University

Sonoma State University has several options for people interested in a profession in aging and for people who want to refresh their backgrounds in the field of adult development and aging.


  • The Certificate Program in Gerontology is a post-baccalaureate specialty in the field of aging. The program consists of 28 academic units and provides an excellent interdisciplinary background in aging, including the study of physical, mental, and social changes in older people as they age. Some students complete the Certificate as they work toward their bachelorís degrees; others, whose college degrees might be several years old, come back to college to obtain the Certificate.
  • Some students choose a gerontology minor to accompany one of the traditional discipline majors or professions (e.g., anthropology, biology, political science, psychology, sociology, nursing, social work, health-related professions). 
  • A masters degree emphasis in Gerontology is available through ITDS (Interdisciplinary Studies Programs). This option allows the student to develop a graduate curriculum to fit her/his existing professional training by incorporating graduate courses from a selection of related disciplines on campus. Contact Gardner Rust, Coordinator, ITDS Program.
  • For some, continuing education through Extended Education is their best option. Regular university classes are available for people interested in one or two particular classes on a space-available basis by enrolling through Extended Education.

Careers in Gerontology

Populations are aging worldwide. This means that people live longer, and the number of older persons is increasing. In the U.S., of those born in 1900 nearly half died before they were 50 years old. People born today can expect to live beyond their 75th year. In 1900 about one in 25 Americans was over 65; today one in eight is over 65. The age group growing fastest in our society and in many other countries is the ìvery oldî ñpeople aged 85 and over. This growth will continue well into the 21st century, when one in five Americans will be over 65, and there will be 15 to 18 million persons over the age of 85.

These growth trends will result in a demand for professionals with knowledge and expertise in aging. Expanded career opportunities in gerontology are forecast in many disciplines and professions, each area requiring a work force with education and training in gerontology. Some people will work directly with elders in

  • developing programs such as health promotion, senior theater groups, intergenerational activities for elders in senior centers, community agencies, or retirement communities;
  • providing direct care to frail, ill, or impaired older persons in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, or through adult day care or home care programs;
  • counseling older people and their families about issues of caregiving, employment, death and dying, or mental health; and
  • advising older clients about estate planning and investments, financing long-term care or housing options.

Other professionals are less directly involved with older persons, but work on their behalf, educate others, or investigate issues in the field of aging. Examples of their activities include

  • conducting research on the aging processes and diseases associated with aging such as Alzheimer's disease or osteoporosis;
  • analyzing issues related to elders such as retirement opportunities, income maintenance, the health care system, and housing alternatives;
  • planning, administering, and evaluating community-based services and service delivery systems for older persons;
  • teaching classes and courses to community members, college and university students, health care professionals, and older adults;
  • advocating with or on behalf of elders before legislative bodies or in institutional settings;
  • designing products to meet the special interests and needs of older persons; and
  • advising business, industry, and labor regarding older workers and consumers.

Coursework in the Gerontology Program

The Gerontology Program provides students with multidisciplinary perspectives to examine the aging process. The Program combines a thorough grounding in the basic filelds in Gerontology with practical applications through internship experience. participation in the Program encourages students to gain an understanding and appreciation of the aging process, to consider volunteer or professional work in the field of aging, and to provide a forum for exploring and examining concepts and research in Gerontology.

Those who already work in the field will find that coursework in the Program stimulates their interests in new ways as well as providing them with a strong foundation in the theories, ideas and research findings in Gerontology. The Program has opportunities for combining the insights and experiences students gain in work settings with their academic work. Students should plan their internship placements with the program coordinator.

Students who are currently completing a bachelor's degree and students who have already completed a bachelor's degree may participate in the Program. Both a Certificate in Gerontology and a minor in Gerontology are available options.


Certificate Program and Minor in Gerontology

Required courses - 24 units as follows:

Biology 318, Biology of Aging (3)
Gerontology 300 Basic Gerontology (3)
Gerontology 319, Aging and Society (4)
Gerontology 499, Internship in Gerontology (4)
Gerontology 421, Psychology of Aging (4) or
Gerontology 500, Social and Psychological Issues of Aging (4)


Electives - 6 units from the following:

American Multi-Cultural Studies 435, Ethnicity and The Lifecycle (3)
Biology 224, Human Physiology (3)
Biology 380, Human Nutrition (4)
Gerontology 304, Sibling Relations (4)
Gerontology 312, Lecture Series (2 - may be repeated)
Gerontology 317, Emotions and Adult Life
Gerontology 332, Death and American Culture (4)
Gerontology 408, Transitions in Adult Development (4)
Gerontology 422, Living and Dying (3-4)
Gerontology 452, Health Care and Illness (4)
Gerontology 487, Group Work with Older Adults/ Service Learning (4)
Kinesiology 360, Physiology of Exercise (4)
Kinesiology 410, Lifespan Motor Development (3)
Nursing 504A, Health Care Delivery and Financing (2)
Nursing 504B, Health Care Delivery and Financing (2)
Psychology 404, Psychology of Women (4)
Psychology 428, Introduction to Counseling (4)

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Sonoma State University Gerontology Program
Susan Hillier, Program Coordinator


1801 East Cotati Avenue
Rohnert Park, California 94928
Telephone Voice 707.664.2452
FAX 707.664.3113