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Gerontology Senior Advocate Certificate

It is projected that there will be an increase of 236 million adults aged 65 and older from the time period of 2015 to 2025 in the world (The Aging World: 2015 by the U.S. Census Bureau, 2016). By design, the 21 credit hour Gerontology Senior Advocate Certificate program is in response to an increasing number of careers related to elder advocacy needed to help this growing aging population trends in the coming decades. This certificate is designed for professionals currently working with or wishing to work with a growing aging clientele and who see a need to better understand aging issues. The certificate is also beneficial to individuals faced with elder caregiving responsibilities and who want to be a better advocate for their care recipient.

Delivery Method

The certificate program currently offers cohort-style curricular programming but students can apply and enter year round (fall, spring, or summer) to be flexible for students’ needs. Classes are currently predominantly online but we also have “blended” (hybrid/flipped) courses. The gerontology certificate program should be fully online by 2021-2022.

Admission Requirements

Students must fulfill the general admission requirements of the College of Graduate Studies and Research of Northeastern Illinois University. A complete application packet may be obtained on-line from the Graduate Enrollment Services website, from the office located in room D-101D, or by calling (773) 442-6001.  A complete application includes:

  1. The admission form.

  2. A transcript showing completion of a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university.  Undergraduate course work should include at least five (5) courses or 15 credits in the social sciences (anthropology, economics, history, political science, psychology, or sociology) and at least one (1) course in psychology-related statistics (preferred).

Note: If the applicant has met all requirements except that of psychology-related statistics, they may be admitted conditionally and may be expected to complete an undergraduate course in psychology-related statistics that is approved by the gerontology program coordinator (e.g., PSYC 202).  Any statistics course taken to meet this requirement will not count toward fulfillment of the 21 required credit hours.           

  1. Evidence of scholastic ability, reflected by an undergraduate grade point average of 2.75 or better on a 4-point scale.  All course work completed prior to the bachelor's degree as well as any completed graduate courses are considered.

  2. Two letters of recommendation on the forms provided.

  3. A two-page statement of personal goals for graduate work in gerontology. This statement also serves as a sample of writing competency.

  4. Two letters of recommendation on the forms provided.

  5. A two-page statement of personal goals for graduate work in gerontology.

  6. A résumé showing all paid and volunteer work experience.

Note:  Students may enter the program without previous professional or volunteer work experience with older people, but will be required to compensate for this deficiency by completing the PSYC 415, Practicum in Gerontology.

Transfer Policy

Students may transfer the full 21 credit hours of the certificate as per university course transfer policy into the M.A. in Gerontology program.

Special Characteristics

Northeastern Illinois University’s gerontology program is the only public state university in northern Illinois offering a post-baccalaureate certificate specifically designed for the training of elder advocates. Further, the gerontology is nationally recognized as a quality graduate program within the field of aging.


The Gerontology Senior Advocate Certificate program is designed to graduate well-prepared elder advocates who can effectively serve a growing and diverse aging population on a local, national, and global level. This is accomplished in the following ways:

  • Students complete 120 hours of on-site practicum training in a well-established, aging-related organization. 

  • Coursework reinforces a strong research model for students, with a solid grounding in human developmental theories.

  • Students learn important skills of good academic writing and critical analysis in reading and writing. Each course in the curriculum emphasizes the development and utilization of these important skills over time as their knowledge increases from introductory to more advanced levels of information.

  • The program has flexible course offerings for both working professionals and lifelong learners with busy lives. Both core and elective courses are offered during the evening and on Saturdays, and many of our elective courses are now fully online.

  • Program faculty assist students with career opportunities and professional development throughout the program and even after graduation.

  • The tuition is the most cost effective in comparison to other comparable gerontology certificate programs in the Chicago area.


By the end of the training, students acquire a knowledge of:

  • both classic theories of human development (foundational) and "state-of-the-art" research content and processes within specialty areas of aging,

  • available library resources to conduct research on an aging topic,

  • "real world" aging-related legislation, policies, and service related issues affecting the lives of older adults within communities; and

  • ethical issues in interacting with older adults (e.g., care ethics).


Students also learn skills in how to:

  • find scholarly research articles on different aging topics using research search databases (e.g., AgeLine and PsycInfo research databases),

  • accurately read and interpret research within the field,

  • synthesize research to summarize in a literature review,

  • write a research paper incorporating both proper grammar and sixth edition APA style formatting,

  • critically analyze concepts and theories presented in coursework and related research activities,

  • conduct professional activities in an aging organization related to their specific career interests through practicum on-site training, and

  • present topics and research in various presentation formats in the classroom or at a conference (e.g., a PowerPoint presentation).

  • ...among other learning outcomes.


Career Options

The job title “elder advocate" is increasingly a part of healthcare and other age-related service occupations. There are many aging organizations which emphasize senior advocate training on their websites (e.g., AARP; Alzheimer’s Association). The following are some possible career opportunities related to the certificate training (some additional professional training may be needed):

  • patient and family care advocate in healthcare settings,

  • client care advocate in a health care services organization,

  • senior services specialist in an educational institution,

  • care advocate in a hospice care situation working with families,

  • advocate for hospital health care transition planning,

  • care coordinator,

  • geriatric care manager, and

  • aging social services case manager guardianship in a department on aging.


Check out the following websites for more gerontology career information: www.agework.com, www.geron.org.

Watch this webinar to learn more about the program.