Gerontology, PhD

student at conference

Curriculum     We examine the aging process at the individual, family, and community level. Our doctoral program is distinctive for its emphasis on the relationship between research, social science, and policy Gerontology, PhD Venn Diagram

Diversity     The program’s approach reflects the urban mission of UMass Boston and gives special attention to the needs of low income elderly, as well as to issues of racial and cultural diversity

Faculty     We have eight dedicated Gerontology PhD faculty members. The program is supported by additional faculty in public policy, nursing, and campus units with aging-related expertise

Program Culture    The department atmosphere is cohesive with accessible faculty, supportive relationships among current students, and productive connections to alumni.

Degree Requirements

  1. Course work totaling at least 69 credits
  2. Empirical research policy paper
  3. Qualifying paper exam
  4. Doctoral dissertation

1. Course work

Four foundation courses:
Social Aspects of Aging (Geron 621)
Economic Issues in Aging Populations (Geron 626)
Psychology of Aging (Geron 628)
Ethnic and Racial Diversity in Aging Societies (Geron 724)

Six research courses:
Research Methods and Experimental Design (Geron 601)
Statistical Methods in the Analysis of Social Problems I (Geron 603)
Statistical Methods in the Analysis of Social Problems II (Geron 604)
Current National Data Bases in Gerontological Policy Research (Geron 726)
Research Practicum in Gerontology (Geron727)
Research methods elective from approved list

Three policy courses:
Issues in Aging Policy (Geron 623)
Intermediate Aging Policy Analysis (Geron 760)
Advance Policy Analysis (Geron 761)

Three credits of professional development seminar:
Multidisciplinary Seminar in Aging (Geron 688)

At least six elective courses

Nine credits of dissertation research:
Dissertation Research (Geron 899)

Students are expected to maintain a B average in courses

2. Empirical Research Policy Paper

  • By the end of the fourth semester of study, Gerontology doctoral students are expected to complete an empirical research policy paper, comparable to an article that would be published in a professional academic journal
  • The research paper contains all the elements of a scholarly article:
    • statement of the problem
    • literature review
    • research design or analytic framework
    • presentation of findings
    • conclusions

3. Qualifying Paper Exam

  • Each student must complete a qualifying paper exam to be accepted into candidacy for the PhD
  • The qualifying paper provides students with the opportunity to do a critical review of a body of theory and literature related to their dissertation topic
  • The paper serves as evidence of the student's readiness to begin doctoral work and as a pathway into the broader literature surrounding her/his dissertation topic
  • In consultation with the Graduate Program Director (GPD), the student selects a faculty chair to guide the exam. Together with the committee, the student will identify a topic, a set of organizing questions and a reading list. Two additional committee members are assigned by the GPD
  • The qualifying paper exam is normally taken after the completion of course work

4. Doctoral Dissertation

  • Students in the Gerontology PhD Program are required to complete a doctoral dissertation that reflects an original and independent scholarly contribution to the state of knowledge in the field of gerontology
  • A doctoral dissertation proposal may be prepared upon successful completion of the preliminary examination
  • Following development of a proposal, a dissertation committee is established and approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies
  • Candidates develop the dissertation proposal with guidance from the dissertation committee and complete nine credits of Dissertation Research (Geron 899)