May 23, 2018  
2015-2016 Graduate Catalog 
2015-2016 Graduate Catalog

Gerontology, PhD

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The PhD Program

UMass Boston’s PhD Program in Gerontology is located in the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. The PhD Program is designed to prepare students for leadership roles as teachers, researchers, planners, and policy makers in this field of growing importance for both the private and the public sectors. The program’s approach reflects the urban mission of the University of Massachusetts Boston. Special attention is given to the needs of the low-income elderly, and to issues of racial and cultural diversity.

The PhD Program in Gerontology qualifies a select group of skilled researchers and policy analysts to extend the frontiers of this growing field through research, teaching, and policy development; and to prepare themselves for leadership roles in our aging society. Advanced work in gerontology is interdisciplinary, bridging theories, concepts, and research methods drawn from the social and behavioral sciences.

The curriculum of UMass Boston’s PhD Program in Gerontology is designed to give graduates command of a broad body of pecialized knowledge in aging and social  policy, as well as the capacity to develop methodologically sound procedures to expand that base of knowledge and understanding.

The program may be completed in four years: five semesters of full-time course work, one semester of combined course and dissertation work, and two semesters of full-time dissertation work.

The program’s location on campus adjoins UMass Boston’s Gerontology Institute. The Gerontology Institute, established by the Massachusetts Legislature, constitutes a major resource for the doctoral program. The Institute’s mission is to focus attention on the economic, social, and political issues that confront the aging population. Institute activities include policy research and analysis, as well as publication of two journals: Demography of Aging and the Journal of Aging & Social Policy. The Institute emphasizes the demography of aging, income security, health care, longterm care, retirement and pensions, and productive economic and social roles for the elderly. The Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging was created with the goal to promote the demographic and applied research capacity within the Gerontology Institute. Older people themselves are often involved in the design and execution of Institute activities. Students in the program gain experience by participating in the Institute’s research and policy projects.

Degree Requirements

Please see the general statement of degree requirements for doctoral programs in the “Admissions ” section of this publication.

Degree requirements for the Gerontology PhD Program include course work, an empirical research paper, a qualifying paper examination, and a doctoral dissertation.

Course Work

Students in the Gerontology PhD program must accumulate 69 credits, through taking courses as listed below:

A. Four foundation courses, which emphasize different disciplinary approaches to aging:

D. One advanced gerontology policy course, providing a scholarly, in-depth examination of aging policy:

E. Professional Development Seminar:

Seminars are one credit each. Take three for a total of three credits.

F. At least six elective courses at the graduate level

At least six elective courses at the graduate level; these may be taken in the Gerontology Program or other UMass Boston graduate programs, or (with prior approval by the graduate program director, and subject to university transfer credit limitations) at other cooperating universities.

G. Dissertation Research

Students take a total of 9 credits.


Please note: Up to 6 credits of appropriate graduate course work not already counted toward another degree may be transferred; please see the University’s general transfer policy in the “Academic & Administrative Policies ” section of this publication. In addition, students who enter the program already holding an appropriate master’s degree may petition the Graduate Program Director for waiver of up to 12 credit hours of required or elective course work. Prior graduate courses will be considered for meeting elective requirements on the basis of their pertinence to the student’s course of studies in gerontology. All courses considered for waiver or transfer must have been completed with a grade of at least B. Consideration will be given only to courses completed within 7 years of enrollment. Acceptance of prior course work is subject to the approval of the Graduate Program Director and the Dean of Graduate Studies.

An Empirical Research Paper

By the end of the fourth semester of study, students are expected to complete an empirical research paper, comparable to an article that would be published in a professional academic journal. The paper is based on the preparatory course work in research methods and statistical analysis undertaken during the first and second years of study.

In the third semester of study, students enroll in 

  , and in the fourth semester they enroll in GERON GR 727 . The two courses provide an opportunity to do an in-depth examination of databases in aging, participate in a process of detailed analysis of findings, and learn how academic material is presented for scholarly review. The resulting research paper contains all the elements of a scholarly article: statement of the problem, literature review, research design or analytic framework, presentation of findings, and conclusions. Completion and acceptance of the paper by two faculty reviewers by the end of the fourth term is a prerequisite to taking the qualifying paper examination.

Qualifying Paper Examination

The qualifying paper exam tests students on their ability to lay the foundation for a substantial research project by reviewing diverse literature and developing a sound conceptual/theoretical framework that reflects the current scientific literature. The exam will normally be taken in the spring semester of the student’s third year of study, following the completion of all required course work. After passing the qualifying paper examination, the student becomes a candidate for the PhD degree.

Doctoral Dissertation

Students 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 qualifying paper examination. Following development of a proposal, a dissertation committee is established and approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies. The dissertation is supervised by a primary advisor.

A dissertation committee consisting of at least three members, two of whom must be members of the Gerontology graduate faculty and one of whom must be from outside the Gerontology faculty, is responsible for approving the dissertation proposal, overseeing data collection and analysis, and reviewing drafts of the dissertation. Candidates enroll in GERON 899 Dissertation Research . An oral defense of the dissertation may be scheduled only after all members of the committee agree that the dissertation is ready to be defended.

If the presentation and successful defense of the dissertation do not take place within eight years of matriculation, the candidate may appeal for a one-year extension. The extension may be granted by the Dean of Graduate Studies if the dissertation chair and the Graduate Program Director are able to certify that the student is actively working on the dissertation and has a realistic plan in place for completion of the dissertation within one year. (Please see the general statement on time limits and leaves of absence for all graduate programs in the “Academic & Administrative Policies ” section of this publication.)

The adequacy of each student’s progress toward the degree is reviewed at least once a year. Until the student’s dissertation committee is formed, this assessment is made by the Graduate Program Director in consultation with the faculty. Benchmarks for adequate progress include performance in courses, completion of the second-year paper, and passage of the preliminary examinations. Students must maintain at least a B average in courses to remain in good academic standing. Students are strongly encouraged to participate in the Gerontology Speaker Series, as well as other events sponsored by the Gerontology Department and Institute.

Admission Requirements

Please see the general statement of admission requirements for all graduate studies programs in the “Admissions ” section of this publication, and the “Special Instructions for Applicants to Individual Programs” section of the application for admission to graduate study.

Admission to the program is competitive; approximately six to eight full-time students will be enrolled each year, in addition to a limited number of part-time students. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution; an undergraduate grade point average of 3.00 or better; strong general GRE scores (verbal and quantitative); transcripts of all prior academic work; three letters of recommendation; and a personal statement. Applicants in mid-career should also submit a resume and at least one letter of recommendation from an employer among the required three. Members of minority groups are encouraged to apply. The admissions committee expects to interview applicants in person or by phone, whenever possible. Priority is given to those who submit applications and all supporting credentials by February 1. This deadline is especially important for applicants who wish to be considered for a research or teaching assistantship.

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