Americans are living longer than at any other time in history. In the U.S. by 2035, there will be more adults over the age of 65 than children below the age of 18. This means that for the first time in history, older adults will outnumber children. There will be an increasing and ongoing need for professionals to help support older adults.

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.

The Graduate Certificate in Applied Gerontology (GCAG) provides students with the knowledge and skills needed to successfully pursue or advance careers within aging services organizations or conduct academic research in aging. The program focuses on the biological, psychological, social, policy, and ethical aspects of aging.

There are many employment options that support older adults including: medical, hospice, long-term care, rehabilitation, home and community-based services, behavior health, corrections, criminal justice, research and policy analysis, program development, advocacy, education, and training.

Why earn this certificate?

  • To increase knowledge, skills, and effectiveness in working with older adults
  • To develop an interdisciplinary perspective on aging
  • To enhance your professional marketability through graduate-level specialization in the field of aging

This graduate-level certificate is designed for two categories of students who are interested in a specialization in gerontology:

  1. Graduate-degree seeking students in any field.
  2. Degreed professionals who wish to advance and refocus their career.

Students wishing to earn the certificate must complete the required 18 graduate credit hours with an overall GPA of 3.00 or better. No student may complete all 18 credits within a single school or college. A minimum of half the credits (9) may be double counted toward one’s degree program. Some programs allow more than 9 credits to be counted.

Curriculum Overview

Please note that there is a time limit of three years from initial enrollment for completion of the certificate program.

Required Core Courses (all are required)

Course # Course TitleCreditsFrequency
NURS 760Processes of Aging3Fall (online)
SOC WRK 851Social Issues and Policy Analysis: Aging3Spring (online)

Choice Core Courses (choose 6 credits)

Course # Course TitleCreditsFrequency
AD LDSP 547The Educational Dimensions of Practice with Older Adults3Varies
NURS 670Nursing Care of Adults and Older Adults I
*Open to Nursing students only
OCCTHPY 744Advanced Occupational Therapy for Aging Adults
*Open to Occupational Therapy students only
PSYCH 680Psychology of Aging3Fall, Spring, Summer (all online)
SOC WRK 680Death and Dying3Fall, Spring, Summer
SOC WRK 685Social Gerontology3Fall
SOC WRK 855Practice Skills and Concepts for Aging and Health3Fall (online)

Elective Courses (choose 6 credits)

Course # Course TitleCreditsFrequency
AD LDSP 667Program Planning in Adult Education3Fall (online)
AD LDSP 757Principles and Foundations of Adult Education3Fall, Spring (both online)
ARCH 791Master's Level Directed Research3Fall, Spring, Summer
ARCH 792Master's Level Independent Studies and Research3Fall, Spring, Summer
ARCH 794Pre-Thesis or Master's Project Research3Fall, Spring
ARCH 850Advanced Design Studio: Vulnerability6Fall
ARCH 891Master's Project6Fall, Spring
COMMUN 672Communication and Social Order3Varies
COMSDIS 713Degenerative Cognitive Communication Disorders in Older Adults2 *Please contact Certificate Coordinator Jen Kahn-Pettigrew before enrollingSpring
ED PSY 747Human Development: Study of the Adult 3Spring
ENGLISH 749Advanced Internship in Writing and Community Engagement6Fall
NURS 671Nursing Care of Adults and Older Adults II
*Open to Nursing students only
NURS 702Advanced Practice Nursing Adult-Gerontology Chronic Illness
*Open to Nursing students only
NURS 779Special Topics Seminar: Pain and Symptom Management3Summer (online)
OCCTHPY 625Design and Disability3Fall (in person and online)
OCCTHPY 760Assistive and Rehabilitation Technology
*Open for Occupational Therapy Students only
3Spring (online)
OCCTHPY 770 Assessment in Assistive Technology and Accessible Design3Summer
PSYCH 782The Aging Brain3Spring (online)
SOC WRK 564Social Services for the Aging3Fall
SOC WRK 811Direct Social Work Practice II: Aging3Spring

What makes this unique?

The GCAG encourages students to link practice and research to improve the quality of life of older adults. Our nationally recognized faculty are dedicated to mentoring students in their chosen paths through the field; be it into academic research and publishing in the field of aging, or innovating practice methods in the care of older adults in the community.

“The certificate gave me a great understanding of the role and effects of caregiving, knowledge of policy related to older adults, illnesses, and developmental issues of older adults including cognitive changes. It also gave a well-rounded understanding of assessing older adults in their homes and clinical settings.” – Certificate Alum

How to Apply

  • Contact Jen Kahn-Pettigrew, Coordinator for Education and Programming ( or 414-229-6888), to set up an advising appointment.
  • Review the UWM Graduate School certificate information located under “Certificate Toolbox“.
  • Apply to UWM’s Graduate School as a certificate student.
  • Complete the Certificate in Applied Gerontology declaration form.

Career Opportunities

This certification program provides you with the knowledge and skills to effectively meet the needs of the aging population in a wide range of careers. There are opportunities in nursing, teaching, service, administration, and research that focus on the needs and interests of older adults. These opportunities also exist within government programs and agencies; public and private institutions that provide health, education, and social services; research centers; special interest groups; colleges and universities; and corporate human resources divisions. Click here for more information on Careers in Aging.