How to become an adult gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP)

male nurse practitioner explains procedure to elderly woman lying in hospital bed

Adult gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP) career overview

Where you’ll work: Hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes or assisted living facilities. 

What you’ll do: Provide care to an aging population. 

Minimum degree required: Nurse practitioners need a BSN and either an MSN or DNP.

Who it’s a good fit for: Adult gerontology nurse practitioners should be resourceful and creative due to often limited funding. They address broader health and wellness issues, including topics like food insecurity and housing.

Job perks: Older people are some of the most vulnerable people in the population. Caring for them can be very emotionally rewarding. Adult gerontology nurse practitioners can have a lot of autonomy since they often work alone or in small teams. These nurses also have the reward of helping some of the most vulnerable people in their community.

Opportunities if you pursue a higher degree or certification: A doctor of practitioner degree (DNP) could help you advance to a practice leadership position. 

Median annual salary:

1 in 6 people in the U.S. are 65 and older, marking the fastest growth in this demographic in over 100 years. With an aging population comes an increased demand for nursing and care.

Gerontology nurses and nurse practitioners are particularly poised to handle the boom in the aging demographic. That’s because they specialize in understanding how aging impacts our bodies, from our physical to mental well-being. 

What is adult gerontology nursing?

Put simply, adult gerontology nursing deals with the care of older adults from middle/late age to end-of-life. “Gerontology” is the study of how aging impacts our bodies. Adult gerontology nursing professionals are experts on how our bodies and minds change as we get older.

Steps to become an adult gerontology nurse practitioner

To become a nurse practitioner, you need at least a master’s degree, making this career path a longer commitment, education-wise. Here are the steps you should follow if you’re interested in becoming an adult gerontology nurse practitioner.

Decide if adult gerontology nursing is right for you.

nurse practitioner walks down darkened hospital corridor on night rounds

Are you interested in working with older adults and seniors? Do you want to provide primary care? Are you willing and able to take and pass two licensure exams? Can you handle the fragility and sensitivity that comes with dealing with older patients? If yes, pursuing a career in this field may be worthwhile. 

The most important skill for an AGNP is critical thinking/attention to detail,” says Dr. Michaela Robbins, AGNP and DNP. “The ability to take information (from history, exam, lab results, etc.) and draw conclusions from it is paramount when it comes to diagnosis and management, especially with our older patients. The other important skill is empathy. So much of our job is about making people feel cared for and it’s what raises the bar in patient satisfaction ratings.” 

Graduate from an accredited nursing program.

smiling nurse graduate from accredited program

The next step to becoming a nurse practitioner is to get a degree in nursing from an accredited institution. A bachelor’s degree is necessary because you’ll need to go on to earn a master’s after you become a registered nurse. 

Get licensed as a registered nurse.

nurse looks pensive and reads vitals

You’ll need to take and pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to earn your RN license—no matter which state you live in.

Graduate from an advanced degree program.

female adult gerontology nurse practitioner talks with male senior patient

You can earn either a master of nursing science (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. During your course of study, you’d choose between specializing in adult-gerontology acute care or adult-gerontology primary care.

Get certified as an adult-gerontology NP.

male nurse practitioner shows aging patient improvement in vitals

Once you’ve graduated with an advanced degree, you must take and pass a national board specialty exam. 

Get licensed as a registered NP

nurse practitioner brings lunch to senior in nursing home

After passing your adult gerontology specialty exam, apply for NP licensure in the state you intend to practice.  

What does an adult gerontology nurse practitioner do?

AGNPs provide either primary or acute care to adults, from young adults to seniors. Acute care AGNPs care for patients with chronic, acute, or critical illnesses and injuries. Primary care AGNPs assist patients with more routine activities, such as getting dressed, bathing and taking medications. 

“A typical day for an adult gerontology nurse practitioner usually consists of back-to-back patient visits. Depending on the setting, visits might be outpatient office visits for an annual physical or sick visit, inpatient rounds where you check in on and assess a set of patients in the hospital and generate a care plan for the day for each one, procedures or tests you facilitate, etc. Often, the AGNP also has some administrative time sprinkled in where you have dedicated time to finish notes, review lab results, return patient calls, fill out patient forms, etc,” adds Robbins. 

Where do AGNPs work?

Like most other nurses, adult gerontology nurse practitioners work in hospitals. AGNPs mainly work in acute care, treating older adults who have, say, fallen and broken a bone or contracted a respiratory illness.

  • Assisted living facilities
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Nursing homes 

“Many adult-gerontology NPs go into primary care, however, AGNPs can go into inpatient positions as well as most specialties so long as they practice within their scope and adult patient population. Given our education in gerontology some NPs also go into home health care or nursing home care,” Robbin clarifies.

Education to become an adult gerontology nurse practitioner

Nurse practitioners hold advanced degrees: either a master of nursing science (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. Those with DNP degrees go into either advanced patient care or nursing leadership roles, whereas MSN graduates go on to practice patient care. 

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

  • Prerequisites: Courses in sciences and math-based courses like statistics.
  • Core curriculum: Subjects such as physiology, nutrition, pharmacology and public health. 
  • Clinical experience: Hands-on training in nearly any setting, including hospitals, clinics, public health organizations and long-term care facilities.
  • Time to complete: 4 years of full-time study

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

  • Prerequisites: A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited program. at least a 3.0/4 GPA, current RN licensure in the United States, one year of relevant clinical experience as an RN and certain schools may require standardized test scores (GRE, MAT, GMAT, MCAT).
  • Core curriculum: Subjects such as physiology, nursing management and healthcare policy and ethics.
  • Clinical experience: Hands-on training occurs in your area of specialty. For adult gerontology, this could be in a hospital or long-term care facility.
  • Time to complete: 2 years of full-time study

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

  • Prerequisites: A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited program or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), current RN licensure in the United States, 200+ practice hours and some schools may require standardized test scores (GRE, MAT, GMAT, MCAT).
  • Core curriculum: Health policy, disease prevention, practice leadership, scholarly writing. 
  • Clinical experience: Hands-on training in places relevant to adult gerontology, including hospitals or nursing homes. 
  • Time to complete: 3 to 5 years of full-time study

Online Adult Gerontology Nursing Programs

Both MSNs and DNPs require you to complete clinical hours. While you may be able to take your core coursework online from anywhere, you will need to be onsite to do your clinical hours in order to graduate. 

…you may be able to take your core coursework online but you will need to be onsite to do your clinical hours in order to graduate.

What to look for in a school

There are thousands of nursing undergraduate programs and about 400 nurse practitioner programs in the United States. These are the most important factors to consider when deciding between institutions. 


Accreditation is essential. You’ll need to attend an accredited undergraduate program in order to apply for financial aid, your eventual licensure, and most employers will look for it when hiring. 

Student preparedness

How many students pass the NCLEX exam on their first try? How many pass the AGNP certification exams? Inquire about how many students from the most recent graduating class have found nursing jobs in adult gerontology.


Does the program give you the opportunity to specialize in adult-gerontology? Can you take courses geared towards gerontology and get your clinical hours in a gerontology setting? 

Post-education services

Does the program boast strong job placement and career counseling services? What resources are in place to help you find a job in adult gerontology nursing? 

AGNP Licensure

Upon graduating from a bachelor’s degree program, you’ll need to take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam in order to become a licensed nurse. 

The six-hour test is taken on a computer and focuses on eight areas which are: 

  • Management of care
  • Safety and infection control
  • Health promotion and maintenance
  • Psychosocial integrity
  • Basic care and comfort
  • Pharmacological and parenteral therapies
  • Reduction of risk potential
  • Physiological adaptation 

The number of questions can range from 75 to 145 and can be multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, drag and drop or “hot spot,” which means you click on a specific part of an image or graph. 

After becoming a licensed RN, you’ll need to meet the experience and educational requirements to apply for an NP license. Each state has its own requirements, so be sure to check your state’s governing body on nursing to understand what you need. 


Certain states don’t require you to earn a certification in adult gerontology, but others do. It’s good to have nonetheless and makes you stand out to employers and state boards alike.

You can earn a nurse practitioner certification in acute care or primary care from the following organizations: 

Adult gerontology nurse practitioner salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, NPs earn a median salary of $121,610. The top 10% earn $165,240 and the bottom 10% earn $87,340 annually. You can check the median and top and lowest 10% annual salaries for AGNPs in your state here:

Nurse Practitioners

National data

Median Salary: $121,610

Projected job growth: 44.5%

10th Percentile: $87,340

25th Percentile: $103,250

75th Percentile: $135,470

90th Percentile: $165,240

Projected job growth: 44.5%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $101,150 $79,960 $131,300
Alaska $128,870 $52,980 $168,240
Arizona $120,480 $80,970 $157,800
Arkansas $102,880 $83,670 $128,190
California $157,160 $103,890 $220,460
Colorado $118,590 $85,080 $143,280
Connecticut $130,090 $100,650 $163,900
Delaware $122,530 $99,160 $156,040
District of Columbia $125,370 $105,780 $171,490
Florida $107,600 $63,880 $136,290
Georgia $112,090 $82,590 $148,710
Hawaii $135,760 $91,520 $162,960
Idaho $116,710 $64,780 $159,920
Illinois $124,840 $100,520 $142,580
Indiana $119,160 $100,610 $142,860
Iowa $123,460 $101,930 $158,730
Kansas $108,350 $84,370 $132,900
Kentucky $104,630 $74,270 $129,590
Louisiana $115,620 $81,550 $152,730
Maine $112,210 $99,160 $142,520
Maryland $117,540 $81,710 $159,740
Massachusetts $133,030 $105,410 $178,690
Michigan $109,250 $95,960 $132,800
Minnesota $128,020 $102,230 $151,580
Mississippi $108,920 $85,640 $153,020
Missouri $106,640 $81,320 $138,170
Montana $127,350 $94,210 $137,940
Nebraska $115,920 $97,000 $146,320
Nevada $130,050 $91,800 $173,970
New Hampshire $125,450 $100,090 $156,170
New Jersey $136,480 $111,560 $170,940
New Mexico $125,190 $94,010 $176,210
New York N/A N/A N/A
North Carolina $111,140 $94,990 $137,390
North Dakota $107,680 $91,990 $139,240
Ohio $113,040 $96,640 $135,890
Oklahoma $121,010 $93,600 $147,240
Oregon $132,230 $107,950 $167,690
Pennsylvania $116,980 $93,230 $158,130
Rhode Island $121,310 $105,780 $145,810
South Carolina $103,950 $84,010 $137,740
South Dakota $108,250 $93,050 $140,510
Tennessee $103,080 $47,950 $131,820
Texas $121,270 $95,140 $160,740
Utah $112,490 $66,700 $163,780
Vermont $115,940 $91,700 $147,850
Virginia $110,860 $89,340 $141,490
Washington $134,200 $105,690 $167,840
West Virginia $104,290 $83,850 $133,570
Wisconsin $120,700 $102,590 $140,800
Wyoming $112,770 $75,480 $145,140

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Top 10 metropolitan areas that have the highest employment levels for nurse practitioners are: 

Metropolitan Areas Employment
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 16,910
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 6,190
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 5,720
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 5,450
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH 5,310
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN 5,030
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 4,940
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 4,550
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 4,200
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 4,200

The states with the highest employment levels for nurse practitioners are: 

  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Tennessee

Nursing jobs are expected to grow $121,610 over the next decade, meaning this is a rapidly growing field. The demand for nurse practitioners is largely driven by the fact that the aging population is expected to increase dramatically. 

Professional resources for AGNPs

Professional resources are a great way to network and advance your career. They can help you connect with others in your field, as well as provide you with educational and career advancement opportunities. 

Here are two organizations to consider: 

American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP): A community of over 121,000 members, the AANP gives you access to medical journals, clinical tools, continuous education, an exclusive job board and networking opportunities.

Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA): Offers online learning opportunities, a networking forum, and two annual in-person conferences.

Published: August 28, 2023

mimi polner

Written and reported by:

Emily Polner

Contributing Writer

michaela robbins

With professional insight from:

Dr. Michaela Robbins, AGNP, DNP

Modern Age, NYC Aging Wellness Clinic