DP Gerontology Certificate

students studying

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 goals of the DP Gerontology Certificate are to enhance students’ understanding of the aging process and to provide them with the specialized skills relevant to practice with and/or on behalf of older adults and their family members.  Knowing how to work with older adults and their family members as a social work professional offers many opportunities in an era when that segment of the population continues to increase rapidly.  The COSA Gerontology Certificate is designed o 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

To earn the DP Gerontology Certificate, students must fulfill all specialized direct practice requirements as well as those of the focus area. Therefore, students must successfully complete Models of Intervention (SWINT 2082); an Advanced Practice course in cognitive-behavioral (SWINT 2031), social systems (SWINT 2032), or psychodynamic (SWINT 2033) approaches; a second-level research course; and electives, as well as:


SWBEH 2077 HB: Adult Development & Aging (HBSE II)                                    3 crs.

(offered in Spring Term only)

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

(offered in Spring Term only)

SWINT 2030  Direct Practice with the Elderly                                                      3 crs.

(offered in Fall Term only)

Required Electives:

SWINT 2004* Grief and Loss: Interventions, Implications & Understanding   3 crs.


SWINT 2009* Introduction to Psychopharmacology and Social Work Practice         3 crs.

*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.

Certificate Declaration of Intent 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 rengel@pitt.edu.