Undergraduate Certificate in Healthy Aging

Did you know that Americans are living longer than at any other time in history?  In 1900, life expectancy at birth was just 47 years of age, and today it’s nearly 80!  By 2030 the number of people over the age of 65 is projected to grow from 35 million to 72 million, representing nearly 20% of the total U.S. population.

Consequently, there is a genuine need for a workforce trained to address the challenges and opportunities related to this demographic shift. In fact, it is estimated that by 2030, 3.5 million additional health care professionals and direct-care workers will be needed to meet the demand.

Aging is a dynamic field of study where demographic and generational shifts are impacting all disciplines, and demanding innovations in how we care for older adults – from Nursing to the Arts, to Architecture and the Health Sciences.

The Undergraduate Certificate in Healthy Aging is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to successfully pursue careers within organizations that serve older adults. Like a departmental minor, certificate programs offer a specific academic focus but differ by being interdisciplinary, allowing students to combine related courses in different disciplines to explore a common theme.

The primary goals of the certificate are:

  • To acquire basic foundational knowledge in the processes of aging, issues regarding aging and the opportunities and challenges of older adulthood.
  • To understand the interdisciplinary and integrative nature of aging studies.
  • To have practical experiences working with older adults.

Why choose this certificate?

  • The Undergraduate Certificate in Healthy Aging is an interdisciplinary program offered by UWM’s Center for Aging & Translational Research (CATR).
  • CATR was established to unify researchers and educators in an effort to support and grow a workforce with an expertise in gerontology, to foster interdisciplinary research, as well as partnering with the community to link scientific discoveries with applications in the field of aging.
  • CATR is jointly housed in the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare and the College of Health Sciences, which are widely known for their excellent teaching and student learning environments, innovative research programs, community engagement and support of various professions related to the care of aging adults.
  • Courses are taught by highly skilled and expert instructors with practical experience working with older adults. Our nationally recognized faculty are dedicated to mentoring students in their chosen paths, be it academic research and publishing in the field of aging, or innovating practice methods in the care of older adults in the community.
  • Online course offerings provide students with flexible scheduling options.

Who should pursue the Certificate in Healthy Aging?

  • Currently a UWM undergraduate student? Most people, regardless of profession, will work with older adults during their careers. The certificate is designed to enhance a student’s professional marketability by developing their knowledge of and skills to effectively meet the needs of the aging population in a wide range of fields.
  • Currently working with older adults? The certificate can advance the careers of those working with older adults by broadening their knowledge and practical skill-set.
  • Interested in a second career in aging services? The certificate can help you refocus your career and provide the skills and knowledge you need to move into the field of aging.

What can I do with a Certificate in Healthy Aging?

Demand will remain high for the health care professions with specialization in gerontology but there will also be a need for new markets serving older adults with a specialized focus on:

  • Patient Advocacy and Health Coaching (Social Work and Nursing): Health professionals who encourage positive health behaviors.
  • Elder Financial Planning (Business and Law): Finance professionals who serve aging clients in late-in-life topics such as estate planning and elder law.
  • Motivational Wellness (Health Administration and OT/PT): Elective health professionals such as personal trainers and nutritionists.
  • Aging in Place (Architecture and Design): Builders and designers who focus on senior home remodeling and assistive technologies.

While wellness, finance, design, and advocacy will show the greatest demand, the aging population will no doubt also require professional specialization for those working in the following careers:

  • Marketing and advertising
  • Hospitality (event management, travel, and accommodation)
  • Human resources
  • Psychology and counseling
  • Computer science and mobile development
  • Transportation and public safety
  • Urban planning
  • Criminal justice


  • The Undergraduate Certificate in Healthy Aging is open to all students interested in working with older adults, regardless of whether or not they are pursuing a bachelor’s degree at UWM, (i.e. – “non-degree seeking” students).
  • Students must apply for admission to both the university and the certificate program.
  • For more information about the admissions process or certificate requirements, contact Lori Becker at beckerla@uwm.edu.


Six courses (18 credits) are required to successfully complete the Certificate in Healthy Aging. A minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5 must be maintained for all the required coursework.

Required Course

Course #Course TitleCreditsFrequency
SOC WRK 300Aged to Perfection: An Introduction to Aging (OWCB, GERSS)3Fall

Choice Core Courses (choose 6 credits)

Course #Course TitleCreditsFrequency
COMMUN 285Communicating with Older Adults3Fall (online)
HCA 203Human Life Cycle (GERSS)3Fall, Spring
NURS 203Human Growth & Development Across the Life Span (GERSS)4Fall, Spring
PSYCH 680Psychology of Aging3Fall
RELIGST 250Spirituality and Aging3Fall
SOC WRK 685Social Gerontology3Fall
SOCIOL 282Sociology of Aging3Spring

Electives (choose 6 credits)

Course #Course NameCreditsFrequency
AD LDSP 547Educational Dimension of Practice with Older Adults3Varies
ARCH 302Architecture and Human Behavior3Fall, Spring
COMMUN 313Human Communication and Technology3Fall, Spring, Summer
COMMUN 381Health Communication3Fall, Spring
COMMUN 665Introduction to Meditation3Fall, Spring
COM DIS 250Inter-professional Communication in the Health Sciences3Fall
HCA 307Epidemiology for the Health Sciences3Spring
HCA 537Intro to Healthcare Databases and Technologies3Fall
HCA 542Healthcare Databse Design and Management 3Fall
JAMS 280Health and Media3Spring (online)
KIN 290Health and Wellness As We Age3Fall
OCC THPY 590Topics in OT: Topics in Geriatrics3Spring
PHILO 244Ethical Issues in Health Care (GERH)3Fall
PSYCH 578Psychology of Race, Ethnicity, and Health3Spring
PSYCH 682The Aging Brain3Varies
SOC WRK 564Social Services for the Aging2Fall
SOC WRK 680Death and Dying3Fall, Spring, Summer
THEATRE 260Storytelling: Elder Tales (GERA)3Varies
THEATRE 260Storytelling: For Health (GERA)3Varies

Practicum (choose 3 credits)

Course #Course NameCreditsFrequency
HCA 480Competency-Based Internship in Long-Term Care Facilities3Varies
HCA 580Health Care Administration Internship (in older adult setting)4Varies
NURS 353Clinical Practicum I: Foundations3Fall, Spring
SOC WRK 310Social Work Methods (focused on aging)3Fall, Spring

Students are required to complete the Certificate Program within 5 years of the first course taken toward the certificate.

A student could complete the coursework in 2 consecutive semesters or 1 year. Many of the courses included in this certificate will also satisfy GERs. Certificate completion will be posted on a student’s official transcript, and an official paper certificate will be mailed to the student.