COSA Gerontology Certificate

The focus area in aging has been in place at the School of Social Work since 1980 and continues to attract numerous MSW students. The COSA Gerontology Certificate is designed to increase students’ understanding of the aging process and to provide skills to practice with organizations and communities and to advance advocacy on behalf of older adults and their families.

Through courses and field placement experience, Gerontology Focus Area students are exposed to the various roles and settings that constitute contemporary social work practice in aging.  Emphasis is given to understanding client and family strengths; diversity among the aging population; the social, cultural, community, and policy contexts of aging; and how these factors inform, and may be influenced by, social work practice.

Gerontology Focus Area students are encouraged to apply to the Hartford Program Partnership in Aging Education Fellowship

For the COSA Gerontology Certificate, students must fulfill all specialized COSA requirements, as well as those of the focus area.  Therefore, students must successfully complete Human Services Management (SWCOSA 2084); Community Organization and Planning (SWCOSA 2088); a second level human behavior course HBSE: Human Behavior and the Urban environment (SWBEH 2008); a second-level research course; and electives, well as:

SWWEL 2039 Social Policy & Gerontology (Policy II)                                           3 crs.

(serves as 2nd level Social Welfare course in lieu of SWWEL 2087)

(offered in Spring Term only)

SWBEH 2077 HB: Adult Development & Aging                                       3 crs.

(fulfills a general elective)

(offered in Spring Term only)

Two gerontology-related electives:

One of the two electives must be a specialized COSA (SWCOSA) elective where the student completes a project or assignment with a gerontology focus.  Both could be SWCOSA electives.  The SWCOSA electives must fit the student’s track—Community Organization or Social Action.  For SWCOSA electives, students will submit to the Gerontology Certificate Chairperson a form with information about the assignment and topic.

Options for students doing the COSA Social Administration Track*

SWCOSA 2040           Grant Proposal Writing                                            3 crs.
SWCOSA 2090           Working w/ Group & Intergroup Relations           3 crs

Options for students doing the COSA Community Organization Track*

SWCOSA 2090           Working w/ Group & Intergroup Relations           3 crs
SWCOSA 2096           Community Planning and Development               3 crs.

The final three elective credits could be a Gerontology Elective(s) from the University Certificate in Gerontology*.  This certificate is administered outside the School of Social Work.  Offerings may vary and include courses from other Schools within the University.  Students selecting this option would use these three credits to fulfill a general elective requirement for the MSW.  Please see the website for current options UCSUR (@PittCSUR) - Graduate Certificate in Gerontology

*Another elective relevant to practice in aging may be taken if approved by the Certificate Chairperson in advance.  Elective courses outside the School of Social Work are permitted within the limits of MSW Program policy and with the prior approval of the Certificate Chairperson and the student's academic advisor.

Recommended Course of Study 

Certificate Declaration Form 

Required Field Work

Both DP and COSA students complete a specialized practice field placement (12 credit hours - 720 clock hours) in a program, unit, or agency that has a primary focus on aging.  Direct Practice student work directly with older adults and their families.  COSA students work with programs, organizations, or communities that serve older adults.  These options could include, but are not limited to, long term facilities, hospitals, hospices, area agencies on aging, aging advocacy organizations, and community-based specialized day health centers that have activities relevant to the student’s specialization.

Contact Us

Students should speak to their advisor if interested in pursuing the Certificate or they can contact Dr. Rafael Engel, Gerontology Certificate Chairperson, at