Graduate Certificate in Aging

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the number of Americans 60 years and older will reach 70 million by 2030. The National Institute on Aging estimates the need for 70,000 social workers in older adult services by 2020. In view of these statistics, social work professionals require special knowledge about a broad range of fundamental issues experienced by older adults and their families, as well as how to address these issues.

The UC Berkeley Graduate Certificate in Aging focuses on ameliorating the physical, psychosocial, familial, cultural, ethnic, racial, organizational, and societal factors which serve as barriers to physical and emotional well-being in later life. Particular attention is given to interventions directed at enhancing dignity, self-determination, personal fulfillment, quality of life, and optimal functioning in the least restrictive setting. Students gain expertise in conducting holistic bio-psycho-social geriatric assessments, which attempt to untangle interconnected physical, psychological, and social factors that affect health outcomes and well-being. Students also learn strategies for prevention and crisis intervention, as well as other forms of treatment modalities to strengthen coping, social support, rehabilitation, and problem-solving.

The aging certificate program has three goals: (1) to provide up-to-date knowledge about biological, physical, and psychosocial changes in later life; (2) to familiarize students with a range of interventions to address the issues that older adults and their families encounter as a result of these changes; (3) to provide an opportunity to develop specialized social work practice skills in working with older adults and their families.

Requirements for the Certificate in Aging

Students should generally express their interest as early into their graduate studies as reasonable, to ensure the ability to complete program requirements in the normative time allowed for their graduate degree program (generally two or three years for masters students).

The Graduate Certificate in Aging curriculum requires a total of 7 to 9 units, including:

  • one required anchor course
  • one course in advanced social work practice
  • at least one additional, professionally relevant elective course chosen from an approved list
  • at least 120 hours of direct practice field experience with or on behalf of older adult clients.

Anchor Course

The required course that synthesizes aspects of the certificate program’s subject matter is SOC WEL 210C: Aging Processes (2 units).

This course explores the aging process and the experience of aging from a variety of perspectives relevant to understanding the complexity of aging, including physiological, psychological, sociocultural, and phenomenological. Normative aspects of and changes associated with the aging process are considered, including those that are considered positive as well as negative, as well as individual variations. Emphasis is placed on understanding personal and societal responses to the aging process, and differentiating those which are adaptive and maladaptive. Readings include scholarly sources, as well as some autobiographical, clinical and fictional writings, in order to deepen and broaden understanding of the complexity of the aging process.

Selective Course in Advanced Social Work Practice

Students must complete one of the following courses in advanced social work practice:

Course Title Units
SOC WEL 244 Direct Practice in Community Behavioral Health and Recovery Services across the Adult Life Span 2
SOC WEL 245 Direct Practice in Health Settings across the Adult Life Span 2

Elective Courses for the Graduate Certificate in Aging

Students must complete at least one additional, professionally relevant course, offered in Social Welfare or other campus units, valued at 2 units or higher. The following courses are currently approved to satisfy this requirement:

Course Title Units
PB HLTH C202B Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Health Status 4
PB HLTH 204F Culture, Public Health Practice, and Eliminating Health Disparities: From Ideas to Action in the 21st Century 3
PB HLTH 204G Research Advances in Health Disparities: Multidisciplinary Perspectives 1-3
PB HLTH 216A Biological Embedding of Social Factors 2
PB HLTH 217C Aging and Public Health 3
PB HLTH C217D Biological and Public Health Aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease 3
SOC WEL 226 Social Policy and Gerontology 2
SOC WEL 250M Death and Dying 2
SOC WEL 298 Group Study for Graduate Students (requires advance approval) 2

Students may also petition to have additional courses added to the approved list by submitting a current course syllabus to the GSAO at, which will be reviewed by the Academic Program Manager.

Field Experience Requirements

Students must complete at least 120 hours of field experience with or on behalf of older adult clients. Current MSW students can satisfy the field experience requirement as part of the normal fieldwork hours required for the MSW (SOC WEL 410A&B or 412A&B). Students must have completed the anchor course SOC WEL 210C before beginning their field experience, or be taking this course concurrently.

Applying to the Graduate Certificate in Aging Program

To be eligible for the Berkeley Graduate Certificate in Aging, candidates:

  1. Must be registered and enrolled in a graduate degree program at UC Berkeley.
  2. Must be in good academic standing (e.g., GPA of 3.0 or better).
  3. Must submit a brief statement describing their interest and experience in social work practice with and on behalf of aging and older adult clients.

Application Process

Applications to the Graduate Certificate in Aging Program are accepted from currently enrolled graduate students must be submitted by May 1st of the semester in which you intend to graduate.

When you're ready, and before the deadline, complete the Application Form for the certificate program, and submit it to the GSAO via email (