A lifetime of hard work ends, for most, in retirement. Throughout a career, life’s experiences are stored up as wisdom. Many retirees refuse to see retirement as a season of life to kick back and simply enjoy the fruits of their labor. For many, retirement is better seen as a transition that brings new opportunities. Opportunities to pass on wisdom, to explore new employment avenues, and continue to contribute to younger generations. A love of learning, experiencing new ways to engage others, and contribute to society do not expire with a person’s retirement. Seniors are more and more rethinking and redesigning their future by seeking new opportunities and careers.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 5 Americans will be over the age of 65 by 2030. A significant number of current senior citizens are considering going back to school. It is not surprising that numerous educational institutions and organizations are stepping up and finding ways to accommodate this new trend.
Many universities and colleges are developing online studies and degree programs that fit the knowledge and skills of older Americans who want to get training towards a new occupation or career. Encore.org, an organization founded by Marc Freedman, is a strong advocate of this kind of initiative. Encore.org has given birth to Encore U, an expanding group of colleges and universities that appeals to the adult-education market and prepares them for new careers.
While the thirst for education and refresher courses can excite many older Americans, a college education requires time, energy, and money. Many online programs that universities and colleges offer for senior citizens address these difficulties. These programs fulfill the needs of the older, non-traditional students who want education opportunities but can’t commit to an on-campus degree program.
Check out our “Things to Consider” section:
I’m a senior citizen. What subject matter is best to pursue for someone my age?
Naturally, your personal interest will play a major role in this decision; however, some of the most popular topics include accounting, entrepreneurship, childcare, healthcare, real estate, tax preparation, and psychology, just to name a few. All degree levels are available to seniors, of course.
What’s the number one advantage for seniors who earn online degrees or career certificates?
It’s no secret that as we age, we sometimes begin to lose our memory and critical thinking skills. To keep the mind sharp, an online degree program is perfect for boosting one’s cognitive functions.
Am I too old to learn new things?
The brain is capable of learning till the very end; however, true… it may be a little harder for us to grasp the information as fast as we used to. If you have trouble retaining information, games, such as crossword puzzles, are an excellent way to keep the brain sharp. In many ways, your experience will help you tremendously in your studies… and just think of the knowledge you have to share with young whipper-snappers!
- George Mason University
- The University of Maine at Augusta
- University of Iowa
- West Virginia University
- University of Georgia
- University of Massachusetts-Lowell
- Bellevue University
- Indiana Wesleyan University
- Nova Southeastern University
- Pacific Oaks College
- City University of Seattle
- Faulkner University
- Adams State University
- North Carolina State University
- University of Massachusetts-Amherst
- Norwich University
- Bryan University
- Lesley University
- Ashford University
- Creighton University
- University of Wyoming
- University of Mississippi
- Stanford University
- Portland State University
- Arizona State University
- Harvard University
- University of California, Berkeley
- Bismarck State College
- Duke University
We’ve gathered 30 schools offering online degrees, certificates, and courses that senior citizens can take advantage of. These universities and colleges provide education opportunities for older people that may be completed in short duration and accelerated formats.
George Mason University
Found in Fairfax, Virginia, George Mason University is one of the schools that offer a variety of programs for senior citizens. It also has a lot of available courses online that senior citizens might be interested in, such as a Business Management degree and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.
For those who want to earn a master’s degree in Social Work, the university’s degree program is designed to help to advance social justice through direct client service. Graduates of the Master in Social Work can work in different fields, from family services, international government organizations and NGOs to community development and health and mental practice. The degree requires 60 credit hours in a flexible online format.
A more practical choice can also be explored in the graduate certificate, Teaching English as a Second Language. It allows graduates to teach ESL nationally and internationally in adult continuing education and community college environments.
The University of Maine at Augusta
Known for transforming the lives of students of every age and background across the state of Maine and beyond, the University of Maine at Augusta provides education with an emphasis on excellence, civic engagement, as well as professional and liberal arts programs.
One of its online programs is the Information and Library Science. It is available as a certificate (22 credit hours), associate degree (66 hours), and a bachelor’s degree (120 credit hours). The program provides training and education to prepare students in acquiring professional skills essential to supporting the effective functioning of libraries and other information-intensive organizations. This is great for senior citizens who want to explore learning opportunities where books, students, and teaching come together.
The university has a proven record in valuing senior citizenship education with the launch of the University of Maine at Augusta Senior College years ago, although their courses are limited in classroom settings.
University of Iowa
One of the premier universities in the United States, the University of Iowa is located alongside the picturesque Iowa River in Iowa City. The university gives long-distance students to acquire the best education experience from the comfort of their homes with its 617 distance and online courses.
Seniors who wish to continue learning can take up the Bachelor of Arts in Enterprise Leadership online. This degree equips students with entrepreneurial leadership experience that will prepare them in project management, market research, analysis and planning, and financial management. For adult learners who are involved with nonprofit organizations, this degree program can enrich their knowledge and skills.
The University of Iowa’s online programs offer high-quality credit course work and other degree programs tailored for both traditional and nontraditional learners, making it one of the best choices for flexible education.
West Virginia University
West Virginia University, located in Morgantown, West Virginia, prides itself for its inclusive environment and commitment to diversity. It is also one of the universities in the country to offer those who are unable to attend campus education a diverse selection of online courses that they can take anytime and anywhere.
Nontraditional learners can continue their education while juggling the demands of their careers. It is also great for senior citizens who want to go back to school and earn a degree. One of the programs available online is the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in General Business, offered through the university’s College of Business and Economics.
Adult students and retirees can acquire an overall understanding of business, and the way organizations operate. Some of the skills that they can learn from this course include business and management skills and the ability to research and interpret financial data.
University of Georgia
Georgia’s flagship institution, the University of Georgia can be found in the city of Athens. The school is part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute that provides unique adventure and education opportunities for those age 50 and above through their vast selection of courses, Luncheon Programs, and Shared Interest Groups.
However, if interested adult students do not live in the state of Georgia, it is still possible to continue their education and even earn a degree through the university’s online programs. One of the available degrees that senior citizens can take is the Master of Business and Technology program, which is uniquely designed to reinforce IT skill-set and complement it with management experience.
Senior citizens with a background in Information Technology or those who are handling small businesses can take advantage of this program where the gap between business strategy and technical know-how is addressed. This fully online degree program allows self-paced coursework. It is possible for students to complete a degree within two years.
University of Massachusetts-Lowell
Known as a national research university, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell emphasizes the importance of affordable and high-quality education.
It is also possible for senior citizens to avail of long-distance education through their online degree programs. For adult learners who came from the business sector but without a formal degree, they can earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree entirely online.
The course is made up of 40 classes and requires 120 credits. This program is most suitable for senior citizens who are up for the challenge of building their foundational knowledge on the functional areas of business, from accounting and finance to operations and marketing.
A non-profit, open access institution, Bellevue University is one of the top military-friendly institutions. It is also an ideal choice of school for non-traditional students who wish to complete their degree in less time.
The university’s accelerated online cohort degree programs allow students the flexibility and convenience of online classes. For senior citizens who work with non-profit foundations helping families and youths facing crises, the Bachelor of Science in Child Protection and Juvenile Justice degree program is the best path for social work.
Those who are in the field of social work who wish to finish their degrees can make use of this degree program, helping them develop their skills and knowledge in dealing with at-risk children, juveniles, and their families. The major coursework requires 40 hours.
Indiana Wesleyan University
Established in 1919 by the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Indiana Wesleyan University offers a selection of online degree programs. Many of them are conducive for adult students with flexible learning formats.
Senior citizens who are dedicated in service to fellow human beings can earn a Bachelor of Social Work program online. This degree can be completed in as fast as 24 months and tailored to meet the experiences of working adults and other non-traditional students.
The degree program is perfect for senior learners who wish to make an impact in the state of the world by doing social work.
Nova Southeastern University
Founded in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nova Southeastern University has a unique and innovative approach to education. It offers many traditional and non-traditional learning opportunities to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or religion.
The university also prides itself with the establishment of the Lifelong Learning Institute which meets the learning passions of retired adults. Senior citizens who are not located in Florida, however, can still find education opportunities in the university’s available online programs.
One of them is the Bachelor of Science in Human Services with a focus in Advocacy/Case Management. This is suitable for those who aim to improve the quality of life through understanding social dynamics. The online course is convenient for adult learners who wish to complete the degree on their terms. Earning this degree can boost their skills and experience in working for non-profit agencies and community-based organizations.
Pacific Oaks College
A non-profit and regionally accredited higher education institution, Pacific Oaks College offers many degree programs in numerous fields both on-campus and online. Suitable for different scheduling needs and learning styles, online degree programs can be explored by senior citizens who want to pursue a degree or continue their education.
Senior citizens who are dedicating their free time in studying the impact of social justice reform and with previous experience in this field can take up the M.A. in Advocacy and Social Justice online. They will be able to expound on their skills and experience in mobilizing communities in pursuing reform in different areas, from civil liberties to poverty and environmental policy.
Graduates of this degree are expected to engage in advocacy and equity work with a sharp concentration on legal studies. They can also specialize in culture and communities, education, or legal studies.
City University of Seattle
A private, nonprofit institution, the City University of Seattle designed programs with success in mind. Aside from its on-campus offerings, it also extends the learning opportunity to those who prefer long-distance learning.
Senior citizens looking for a degree that can equip them with more knowledge and skills in doing social work will find the Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology degree program helpful. This degree program provides a thorough grounding in behavioral science at a practical level. The skills that they can acquire from this course are numerous. It includes developing their interpersonal skills, critical thinking abilities, and ethical consciousness.
The program can be completed in as little as three years.
Established in Montgomery, Alabama, Faulkner University’s mission is to provide education anchored in intellect, character, and service. Currently, they have 23 programs available online, which is welcome news to senior citizens who want to earn a degree or continue their education.
Their Bachelor of Science in Sports Psychology is accessible to adult and senior learners anytime and anywhere with its flexible, individualized experience. Physically active retirees who wish to explore other avenues of learning can take advantage of this online program and learn sports psychology. It is a well-rounded degree that complements the areas of rehabilitation, motivation, and physical activities for the elderly.
The program requires 120 credit hours to graduate.
Adams State University
Located in the surrounds f the beautiful Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountain ranges in Alamosa, Colorado, Adams State University provides an excellent environment for learning.
For senior citizens who come from the field of counseling, the Master of Arts in Counseling with a concentration in Clinical Mental Health can be a way to expand their knowledge and continue their learning. The program is designed to provide students with a range of intervention and diagnostic skills, this degree program relevant in the field of social services and many other community settings.
It has a flexible, online format that is suitable for long-distance learners, especially for older adults who want to earn a degree from home.
North Carolina State University
A powerhouse in science, technology, and engineering, the North Carolina State University is also at the forefront of humanities and social sciences. One of the offerings is the Master of Mental Health Counseling.
This degree program is available online, a perfect choice for older adults who want to advance their education and strengthen their knowledge of research and practice. It is ideal for those who desire to serve their communities through prisons, social service organizations, and schools.
Senior citizens who enrolled in this program needs 30 graduate credit hours for completion. It is ideal for those who dream of earning a master’s degree as their final degree.
University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Located in Amherst, Massachusetts, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst has a rich cultural environment in a rural setting. Senior citizens with a background in working with families and communities for the health and well-being of children will find a B.A. in Children’s Learning and Development an ideal choice for a first or second degree.
If they are involved in agencies and programs that serve children, youth, and families, this degree program will help them develop their knowledge and enhance their understanding and skills that are relevant to their field. Even better, this degree is available online. The university seeks adults who are determined to finish their bachelor’s degree anytime and anywhere.
Older adult learners who have prior experience in the said field can even use these experiences to earn credits, reduce expenses, and save time by presenting their previous coursework, portfolio, and professional training and certificates.
With 200 years of proven record in providing quality education, Norwich University offers continuing education programs for both working adults and lifelong learners who want to explore subjects they are passionate about. Located in Northfield, Vermont, this educational institution has established the Norwich University Leadership and Change Institute that gives opportunities to alumni, individuals, and organizations.
Senior citizens who are still leading their business or organizations can benefit from the Master of Science in Leadership, a degree program available online that can help them become effective leaders. They will learn exceptional communication skills, develop a strategic outlook, and acquire strong ethical convictions that they can use in inspiring positive change in their organizations.
This master’s degree program allows them to choose their preferred concentration, such as Organizational Leadership and Leading Change Management Consulting.
Founded in 1940 in Tempe, Arizona, Bryan University has continuously delivered exceptional education since its inception. Lifelong learners who wish to quench their thirst for knowledge and explore their passion can even take up degrees online.
One of the distance-learning offerings is an Associate Degree in Applied Exercise and Fitness where staying fit and changing lives is at the forefront of the program. Senior citizens who still want to make a difference as fitness instructors and professionals can benefit from this degree.
It offers a broad range of learning competencies, including live coaching and health and fitness training. The online format provides an interactive learning environment adapted to the students’ unique needs.
Established in 1909 by Edith Lesley, Lesley University is instrumental in providing students with transformative education to arm them with knowledge, skills, and understanding in helping shape a humane and sustainable world.
Aiming to accommodate the need for a flexible and unique learning environment for those who wish to study how and where they want, the university has provided a wide range of online programs in diverse fields. One of their offerings is the Bachelor of Science in Business Management with a concentration in Non-Profit Management.
This is an ideal choice for senior citizens and lifelong learners who want to finish their degree or earn another for personal enrichment and commitment to continue serving society. This degree program brings innovation and problem-solving to the business world, arming them with the necessary skills to lead non-profit organizations.
Located in San Diego, California, Ashford University made it their mission to provide quality, accessible, and innovative educational programs without discrimination. Now, the university makes use of technology to give long-distance learners access to their education online.
This is good news to senior citizens who want to finish their degrees or explore another field of study — the B.A. Health and Wellness will especially appeal to those with background and experience in health and wellness. This program lets them explore the dimensions of wellness and its relation to chronic conditions.
Lifelong learners will learn the best way to promote health and wellness on an individual level through lifestyle evaluation and the development of personalized wellness programs.
Making its home at Omaha, Nebraska, Creighton University is a top-ranked education in the Jesuit tradition. Aside from their diverse degree program choices on-campus, the school also offers selected degrees online.
Senior citizens wanting to continue their education and enrich their knowledge and experience, a Graduate Certificate in Health Care Ethics is available through long-distance learning. This online program expounds on the complexities of health care ethics. It consists of 15 credit hours and can be completed within a year.
Highly customizable, this online degree lets students choose their four electives based on their interests and goals.
University of Wyoming
Located along the Rocky Mountains, the University of Wyoming has expanded globally to accommodate students from nearly 50 countries. Education is made even more accessible for students who wish to complete their degrees from home with the online option.
Older adults who wish to share their vast knowledge and experience can earn the Online Instruction Certificate to help them develop and teach online courses in a variety of setting. It is a post-baccalaureate, credit-bearing certificate that aims to produce competent professionals contribute to online teaching in different learning environments.
This certificate can let adult lifelong learners explore their passion for teaching through the means of new technology.
University of Mississippi
A flagship university of Mississippi, the University of Mississippi prides itself in providing experiential learning and opportunities for community action. It is also committed to providing accessible education for lifelong learners.
While senior citizens can avail of undergraduate-level courses from the university, it might not be ideal for those who reside out of state. Good thing online learning is also available, giving them the chance to earn a degree from the comforts of their home.
Lifelong learners who wish to take their business experience on another level can upgrade their bachelor’s degree by taking up the Master in Business Administration. The courses can be completed fully online, with a 36-hour comprehensive program that can be completed in as little as two years.
As one of the most prominent and excellent universities in the U.S. Stanford University opens its doors to people in midlife and older who wish to continue their education or forge new learning paths through offering online courses, graduate and professional certificates, advanced degrees, and executive education programs.
The Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate is one of the certificates available online. This course teaches essential skills and effective strategies for those who want to work in and manage innovative organizations or even starting new ones. It is most suitable for senior citizens who aspire to be entrepreneurs.
The courses offer maximum flexibility as they can be taken in any order and at their own pace. Composed of eight courses, the certificate consists of online lecture videos, self-paced assignments, and a final exam. Each course can be completed within 45 days.
Portland State University
Located in Oregon, Portland State University accommodates the need for lifelong learning for Oregon residents who are 65 and older. Its Senior Adult Learning Center has a wide range of courses that meet the preferences of senior citizens in a variety of subject areas, from History, Literature, and Geography to Physical Education and Jazz.
The school offers an online Certificate in Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship for those who want to create social change. This course teaches students to deeply analyze a social or environmental challenge, design a business, non-profit organization, or internal program offering real solutions. This is a certificate program that can be completed in less than 12 months.
Senior citizens who are interested in taking this course will be pleased to know that it has a flexible framework, meaning they can customize it to their interests and background. The lectures and course content are posted once a week, requiring asynchronous participation.
Arizona State University
Making its home in Tempe, Arizona, Arizona State University is one of the many schools in the country with extensive choices for online degree programs and many courses and certificates catering for continuing and professional education. It has also put importance for lifelong learning with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
Senior citizens who plan to work with nonprofit and social sectors might find the online Social Entrepreneurship and Community Development Graduate Certificate useful. The transdisciplinary program puts social entrepreneurship and innovative community development together to provide a basis for exploring the capacity building and fostering positive change for organizations and societies. The certificate program is made up of 15 hours of graduate credit coursework.
Career opportunities for this certificate include social and community service managers, community specialists, and child and family social workers.
When it comes to continuing education opportunities for retirees, Harvard University leads the way with its Institute for Learning in Retirement. This gives its members a chance to join a shared commitment to learning with a range of subject fields that will provide new experiences and new perspectives. However, it is only accessible for those who are near 34 Concord Avenue.
Fortunately, the premier university also offers available courses online for those who are interested in long-distance learning. One of its offerings is an online executive program called Leadership, Organizing and Action: Leading Change. This program is designed by Harvard Kennedy School for those involved in organizing projects around the world like leaders of civic associations, advocacy groups, and nonprofits.
Students can also take advantage of other online courses in diverse fields from HarvardX, from Principles of Biochemistry and Masterpieces of World Literature to Financial Accounting and Leaders of Learning.
University of California, Berkeley
Recognizing the need for many people to pursue education anytime and anywhere, the University of California, Berkeley offers a wide range of certificates and programs that can be completed entirely online. This is especially great for senior citizens who wish to go back to school and continue learning. The Berkeley Retirement Center also runs a Learning in a Retirement program that allows retirees to avail free courses in different fields, including natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities and arts.
Some of the certificates available to long-distance learners include the Certificate Program in Business Administration. This program is most suitable for older students or retirees who want to manage a small or family business. The curriculum has six required courses and one elective course for a total of 225 hours of instruction. It typically takes two years to complete the program.
For those who want to take advantage of free online courses, dozens of them are available via BerkeleyX like Journalism for Social Change course and many more.
Bismarck State College
Situated in the vibrant capital city of Bismarck, Missouri, Bismarck State College is part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute that offers courses, lectures, and events to adults aged 50 and above. It is an ongoing learning community that lets senior citizens explore new areas of knowledge and traditional disciplines. But since the classes are mostly on-campus, adult students who are not close to the university might find it hard to attend the courses.
The university, however, provides opportunities for long-distance learners through its online programs. One of its available online courses is the Geographic Information Systems Technician. Older adult students who are interested in spatial and statistical methods to analyze geographic information will find this course fascinating.
This course is entirely online and with three program options and flexible formats. Graduates of this program can find career opportunities in agriculture, environmental monitoring, and wildlife, and natural resources.
Situated in Durham North Carolina, Duke University offers a wide selection of online educational options for older adults. Senior citizens interested in completing a certificate or develop their skills can avail of the available courses and earn it from home.
The Nonprofit Management Program offers courses and certificate programs for those who are working with nonprofit organizations. It aims to help nonprofit workers and volunteers to provide vital services that contribute to the health of communities and ensure they grow in scope and quality. The program allows adult students to avail of affordable, practical, and accessible noncredit courses and certificate programs.
There are many more online courses available in a wide range of subject areas that interested senior citizens can explore in Duke Online.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What college education programs and benefits are offered to senior citizens?
There are many education programs and benefits for senior citizens that open up a well of learning opportunities, both on-campus and online.
One of the most prominent programs is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, an award-winning program that offers non-credits, activities, and events for adult learners. There are a variety of courses ranging from art, history, science, sports, and business that senior citizens can take advantage of.
The program partners with many universities and colleges across the country to provide a repertoire of stimulating, non-credit courses and educational activities for people aged 50 and older.
Other colleges and educational institutions provide opportunities for senior citizens through academic scholarships that lower the costs of taking courses. Scholarships vary and readily available from the federal government and state government agencies, public institutions, and private foundations.
Some of the scholarships that senior citizens can take advantage of are the Globe University Senior Citizen Scholarships, the Jeanette Rankin Foundation Women’s Education Fund, and the BPW Foundation Career Advancement Program.
Senior citizens can also make use of tuition waivers for seniors from some universities across the country. This scheme can waive or significantly reduce tuition for seniors for both credit and non-credit courses. Seniors can also avail of tax deductions of up to $10,000 offered by the government to pursue higher education.
If all those options are unavailable for some seniors, they can also consider auditing a course. Many colleges and universities offer this opportunity for seniors by letting them attend lectures without being required to do homework or take exams. They can enjoy the social and learning benefits without the accompanying stress that most degrees and courses entail.
Why should senior citizens and retirees consider earning an online degree?
Many people age 50 and above are going back to school. Some do it to expand their knowledge and find more social engagement while others want to explore new career paths. However, there are certain limitations to many of them when it comes to finding educational opportunities.
The cost and the effort to travel back and forth from home to school can be taxing for older people. That is why the option of taking courses and degrees online is such an attractive prospect for seniors. Long-distance learning affords them the chance to learn and advance their education without leaving the comforts of their homes.
There are many colleges and universities that offer degree programs entirely online. In these arrangements, the lectures are delivered through videos, webinars, and emails. Senior citizens can study anytime and anywhere, especially with asynchronous programs that let them take the course at their own pace.
Online courses are considerably cheaper than traditional degree programs.
Do seniors get free tuition?
Some states require state-funded institutions to allow low-income senior citizens to avail of free tuition.
One example is the Senior Citizens Higher Education Act of 1974 which benefits Virginia residents age 60 and older to take college courses for free. Alabama’s Senior Adult Scholarship Program allows residents who are 60 years old and older to attend two-year colleges for free, regardless of income.
Participating colleges and universities in the Osher Lifelong Institute Program offers senior citizens the opportunity to avail of low-cost education, and with bigger discounts on courses for older students.
Since free tuition can vary from state to state, the best course for many senior citizens is to find out whether their home state mandates free or discounted college tuition. It is also advisable to contact their state university system or their state’s Department of Aging.