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.


The faculty teaching in the Gerontology Senior Advocate Certificate program represent a wide range of specializations and research interests, ranging from lifespan development to specialization areas within the field of gerontology (e.g., industrial gerontology). Instructors within the program are also practitioners, consultants, and/or administrators who offer real-world insights for students regarding careers in the burgeoning areas aging-related support services and other occupational opportunities.

Credit hours required: 21


The program admits students for the fall, spring and summer semesters.

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Program Benefits

Northeastern’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.

Knowledge and Skills

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:,,

For more detailed career information, visit the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Academic Catalog Information

Take a closer look at the Gerontology Senior Advocate certificate and the courses offered toward the program.

Gerontology Senior Advocate, Certificate

Department and Contact Information

If you are interested in the program or have questions, please contact Gerontology at (773) 442-5840. 

Feel free to contact the program coordinator, Lisa Hollis-Sawyer,, for more information.

Gerontology Department Homepage

About Northeastern

Northeastern Illinois University is home to students from all corners of the world and is one of the most ethnically diverse universities in the nation. Our small class sizes, flexible schedules and dedicated faculty can help you succeed in your studies.

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