How Does an RN Become an Adult-Gerontology NP (AGNP)?

There are numerous specializations to pursue in a nurse practitioner career and becoming an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP) covers the widest age range of patients. While family nurse practitioners (FNPs) specialize in adolescent and adult primary patient care, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners (AGNPs) focus on providing primary or acute care to adults of all ages and stages. With a master’s or doctoral degree, a registered nurse (RN) can become a nurse practitioner and choose from several specialty areas, including adult-gerontology. 

What’s the difference between adult-gerontology primary and acute care? According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AGPCNPs) see patients in hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. They provide primary care, including age-appropriate pharmacological treatments. 

By comparison, adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AGACNPs) focus on treating diseases and helping patients manage acute health conditions. Most AGACNPs work in trauma units such as intensive care or rehabilitation facilities, although they can also work in outpatient clinical settings. 

The aging Baby Boomer population and the expansion of the Affordable Healthcare Act are two reasons why healthcare openings, including those for nurse practitioners, are experiencing explosive growth. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that nurse practitioner careers will increase 46 percent from 2021 to 2031, more than nine times faster than the national average (5 percent). In fact, it’s the top-growing occupation in the country. There’s also a movement to push for nurse practitioners to have full practice authority, meaning NPs can practice and prescribe without physician supervision. 

Depending on the level of education, RNs with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) can become nurse practitioners in one to five years with a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing. 

Keep reading for a step-by-step guide for RNs to become adult-gerontology nurse practitioners, including accredited on-campus and online programs, licensure, and salary data. 

Step-by-Step Guide for RNs to Become Adult-Gerontology NPs

Registered nurses with bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degrees are well-positioned to become AGNPs. Here is a step-by-step guide for RNs to become adult-gerontology nurse practitioners (APRNs). 

Step 1: Graduate from an Accredited Masters or Doctoral Program (Two to Six Years)

While there are many pathways to becoming an AGNP, one firm requirement is that AGNPs complete an accredited master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) degree. In addition, many programs offer specializations in adult-gerontology, or students can learn the specialty through an optional post-master’s certificate. 

Here are four unique degree pathways for RNs with BSN degrees, which can be completed part- or full-time: 

  • BSN-to-MSN: Two to five years
  • BSN-to-DNP: 1.5 to four years
  • MSN to DNP: One to two years
  • Post-Master’s Certificate (optional): One to two years 

Many on-campus and online programs are available for these degree programs, which are detailed in the sections below. 

Step 2: Complete Clinical Hours (Timeline Varies)

To qualify for licensure and AGNP certification, certifying bodies require a minimum number of clinical hours. For example, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers two adult-gerontology certifications to RNs who meet their coursework and clinical requirements. 

In addition, a minimum of 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours must be included in a student’s graduate program to qualify for the certification exam. 

Step 3: Earn Adult-Gerontology NP Certification (Timeline Varies)

Earning one or more specialty certifications is required in some states and recommended in others. Here is a list of three organizations offering AGNP certification. 

Renewal requirements vary for each certification body, but typically include maintaining an active nursing license and fulfilling continuing education or practice hours requirements.

Step 4: Apply for APRN License (Timeline Varies)

Depending on state board of nursing (SBON) requirements, registered nurses (RNs) apply to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) upon completing an accredited graduate or doctoral program. Each state board of nursing outlines unique requirements. APRN candidates must familiarize themselves with the board of nursing requirements for the state or states where they want to work. 

For example, California is one of the top employers of nurse practitioners and offers three pathways to earn an NP board certification. All three pathways require: 

  • Submitting an online application
  • Paying a fee 
  • Verification of an accredited nurse practitioner graduate or doctoral program 
  • Verification of valid and unencumbered out-of-state nursing license (if applicable)

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) provides a list of all state boards of nursing in the United States. In addition, this organization supports the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which allows a nurse to have a multistate license. As of 2022, 39 jurisdictions have enacted NLC legislation, allowing nurses to provide care in areas needed.

On-Campus Adult-Gerontology NP Programs

Here are four on-campus programs offering adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP) programs. 

George Washington University: BSN-to-MSN

The School of Nursing at George Washington University offers a BSN-to-MSN program with a specialization in adult-gerontology acute care. This 48-credit program prepares graduates to become nurse practitioners and advanced practice nursing leaders. Students in this program complete 600 clinical hours and must commute to Washington DC for six in-person immersion experiences in comprehensive critical care management, ventilators and airway management, and other topics. 

  • Location: Washington DC
  • Duration: Three years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,395

Johns Hopkins University: BSN-to-DNP

The School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University offers a BSN-to-DNP program that can be completed in four years. This 78-credit on-campus program offers a DNP specialization in adult-gerontological health and critical care and offers online immersion experiences in addition to in-person clinical rotations. 

During this program, students accrue 784 acute care clinical hours and 224 DNP practicum hours. Applicants with an accredited BSN degree and a GPA of 3.0 or higher are eligible to apply. 

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $51,669 per year

Oregon Health & Sciences University: MSN-to-DNP

Located in Portland, OSHU offers two DNP programs for BSN and MSN degree-holders. The post-master’s DNP program is practice-focused and prepares graduates for leadership roles in nursing and specialty care areas including adult-gerontology. Students can complete their clinical rotations in environments near their place of residence. Graduates from this hybrid and on-campus program have a 100 percent board pass rate and typically get multiple job offers upon completing their degrees. 

  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Duration: Two to three years 
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $683 per credit (in-state); $886 per credit (out-of-state)

University of Rochester: Post-Masters AGNP Certificate

The School of Nursing at the University of Rochester offers an on-campus post-master’s certificate program for nurses with master’s degrees to specialize in a particular area or become nurse practitioners. 

Two adult-gerontology specializations are available: acute or primary care. Professional core courses include advanced pharmacology, nurse practitioner procedure lab, and advanced health assessment. Students in this 45- to 47-credit certificate program earn 672 clinical hours. Applicants must have an accredited BSN or MSN degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, current RN licensure in New York, and clinical experience in adult gerontology and related areas of nursing practice. 

  • Location: Rochester, NY
  • Duration: One to two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,680 per credit

Hybrid & Online Adult-Gerontology NP Programs

Nursing programs have clinical hour requirements, so many AGNP programs are offered in a hybrid format with online classes and in-person immersions or hands-on experience in clinical settings. Here are four hybrid and online programs offering adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP) programs. 

Drexel University: BSN-to-MSN

The College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University offers an online MSN NP with a specialty in adult-gerontology acute care. This 57-credit program includes 800 clinical hours and a mandatory on-campus four-day intensive. 

Didactic courses are offered online and clinical rotations can be completed in the student’s area of residence. Graduates from this program are prepared to become nurse practitioners in specialty clinics, hospitals, and hospice facilities. Applicants to this program must have an accredited BSN degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher and two years of acute care and critical care nursing experience. 

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $841 per credit

University of Southern Alabama: BSN-to-DNP

Located in Mobile, Alabama, the University of Southern Alabama offers an online BSN to DNP program that prepares them for advanced nursing practice roles. Applicants to this program must have already earned a BSN and can choose an NP specialization in adult gerontological acute or primary care. 

This program can be completed in ten semesters full-time or 12 semesters part-time. To complete this program, students complete online classes and in-person clinicals as well as a final project that results in a quality improvement change that has a substantial effect on healthcare outcomes. 

  • Location: Mobile, AL
  • Duration: Five to seven years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $594 per credit

University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences: MSN-to-DNP

With multiple campuses across the U.S., the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences offers MSN-to-DNP and BSN-to-DNP programs. The MSN-to-DNP program features distance and optional immersions and online and hands-on formats. 

Depending on the specialty, students can complete their degree in 2.5 to four years, depending on their level of education and specialty. Students in the MSN program must complete 540 to 1,000 practicum contact hours. 

  • Location: Multiple campuses in California, Florida, and Texas
  • Duration: 2.5 to four years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $38,934 per year

University of Pennsylvania: Post-Masters AGNP Certificate

Penn Nursing offers a streamlined adult gerontology acute care NP post-master’s certificate program. This online program is open to applicants who have completed nurse practitioner programs, including coursework in pathophysiology, pharmacology, and physical assessment. 

The curriculum includes two clinical care courses in diagnosis and management of gerontology acute care patients and a clinical practicum course that emphasizes the assessment, diagnosis, management, and evaluation of chronically-ill adults across the adult age continuum. 

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Duration: One to two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $52,508 per year

Adult-Gerontology NP Program Accreditation

To qualify for NP certification exams, nurse practitioner students must ensure their graduate, postgraduate, or doctoral programs are accredited by the CCNE or the ACEN. 

In partnership with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the U.S. Secretary of Education, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits nursing programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) specifically accredits graduate, postgraduate, and doctoral programs in nursing. The ACEN also accredits providers for continuing professional development. 

How Much Do Adult-Gerontology NPs Make?

Nurse practitioners earn salaries well above the national average of $58,260. According to the BLS (May 2021), nurse practitioners earn an average annual salary of $118,040. Salaries vary based on education, experience, and cost of living. The annual salary percentiles are as follows: 

  • 10th percentile: $79,470
  • 25th percentile: $99,540
  • 50th percentile (median): $120,680
  • 75th percentile: $129,680
  • 90th percentile: $163,350
Rachel Drummond

Rachel Drummond


Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. A dedicated Ashtanga yoga practitioner, Rachel is interested in exploring the nuanced philosophical aspects of contemplative physical practices and how they apply in daily life. She writes about this topic among others on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).

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