Advanced Practice Nursing

How to Become an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

How to Become an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AGPCNP) establish long-term relationships with patients, providing routine medical care and offering a holistic, wellness-based approach to your patients’ health. Image from Unsplash
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Michele Lynn July 2, 2019

Somewhere between a registered nurse and a physician, an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner provides primary health care services to adults ages 13 and up. It's a great job for caring and conscientious health care professionals who love working one-on-one with patients.

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If you are looking for a career providing health care for adults, __becoming an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP)__ might be the perfect fit. Applying a comprehensive health care approach with a personal touch, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners diagnose and treat patients of all adult age groups, from teenagers through senior citizens.

Because they are trained as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), AGNPs can assess patient needs, order and interpret diagnostic and laboratory tests, diagnose illness and disease, prescribe medication, and formulate treatment plans while emphasizing patient-centered care. In short, they do many of the same things that MDs do.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Kinds of adult-gerontology nurse practitioners
  • Pros and cons of becoming an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner
  • Educational requirements to become an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner
  • Licensing and accreditation to become an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner
  • Resources for becoming an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner
  • Typical career path of an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner

Read on to discover career paths, pros and cons, educational and licensing requirements and more about this dynamic career choice.

Kinds of adult-gerontology nurse practitioner careers

Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners fall into two basic fields: primary care and acute care.

Primary care adult-gerontology nurse practitioners

Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AGPCNP) establish long-term relationships with patients, providing routine medical care and offering a holistic, wellness-based approach to your patients’ health.

As an AGPCNP, you will:

  • Provide both preventative and curative care to patients
  • Assess, diagnose, and manage common acute and chronic health problems for patients from age 13 through the senior years
  • Delivering high-quality and cost-effective care, emphasizing disease prevention and health promotion

AGPCNPs become an important part of a patient’s health care team. A crucial element of this role is teaching patients and their families about maintaining their health and preventing disease.

AGPCNPs can work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Ambulatory care centers
  • Community clinics
  • Internal medicine offices
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Prisons or jails
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Specialty clinics
  • University student health centers

Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners may follow their patients in many different care settings, serving as guardians to protect care quality and patient safety during transitions.

Acute care adult-gerontology nurse practitioners

If you prefer handling complex patient situations in a fast-paced setting, your niche could be as an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP).

As an AGACNP, you will:

  • Manage patients’ multifaceted cases by providing complex monitoring
  • Order and interpret diagnostic tests
  • Develop detailed treatment plans

Your work, based on current evidence-based practices, will be designed to stabilize each of your patients and maximize their overall health. By focusing on managing current and ongoing problems and preventing complications, you will play an integral role in ensuring the health of your patients.

AGACNPs typically work in acute care and hospital settings such as:

  • Emergency care
  • Intensive care
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Sub-acute care units (also known as step-down units)
  • Trauma units


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Pros and cons of becoming an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner

Regardless of which type of AGNP you choose to become, you will be an integral part of each of your patients’ care team. If helping others is your passion, this is a great way to achieve your goal. You can literally make a difference between life and death for some of your patients, which arguably can be a pro or a con. Here are some other pros and cons of the job:


  • Earning potential. You’ll earn a good salary. According to, adult-gerontology nurse practitioner salaries range from $71,000 to $110,000 annually, with a median national annual salary of $89,548. Annual bonuses average $4,913, with a range from $2,000 to $8,000.
  • Flexibility. In addition to typically earning more than RNs, AGNPs have more independence as health care providers. Many AGNPs work in private practice, outside of physician supervision.
  • Job market. While there are more than 270,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) licensed in the U.S., fewer than 10 percent are adult-gerontology nurse practitioners. With more than 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, there is a huge need for AGNPs, with their specialized knowledge of geriatric needs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of nurse practitioners will grow by 31 percent from 2016 to 2026, more than four time faster than the average for all occupations.


  • Long hours. Working as an adult-gerontological nurse practitioner can mean long hours, sick patients, and stressful days (and nights). You’ll need to be sure that in all of your caregiving that you also make time to take care of yourself.
  • Doesn’t work with kids. If you want to work with young children, you might be better off becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner.
  • Risk of burnout. Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners often work in high-intensity, fast-paced environments, which can sometimes lead to burnout.
  • Competitive industry. In communities where physicians are in short supply, AGNPs are often the lead health care practitioners. But in areas where MDs are plentiful, there can be turf battles that create stressful relationships between you and the doctors with whom you collaborate.

Educational requirement to become an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner

Whether working in acute care or primary care, a minimum of a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) is required for all nurse practitioner roles, including AGNPs. The MSN degree typically takes two years of full-time study, which generally includes courses in:

  • Advanced diagnostic and therapeutic skills
  • Management of common adult health problems
  • Pathology
  • Physiology
  • Clinical issues in the care of older adults

You will gain knowledge and skills through both coursework and clinical experience.

The standard of education in this field is shifting, with the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) becoming the desired degree program. In 2004, the schools affiliated with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) endorsed the Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing, which voiced support for the DNP, saying that our country’s changing health care environment requires nurses with the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise in order to ensure quality patient outcomes.

Earning a DNP generally takes students with a bachelor’s degree three to four years. The DNP curriculum includes classes that enable students to translate research into practice, evaluate evidence, and apply research in health care decision-making.

Licensure and accreditation for becoming an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner

Before you can become an AGNP, you must first become a registered nurse (RN). To do this, you complete an undergraduate degree in nursing and apply to your state’s board of nursing for a license. Another step in RN licensure is passing the NCLEX exam.

Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners require a board-certified credential from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners require a board-certified credential from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).

With this credential, nurses can earn their nurse practitioner license from the state where they plan to practice. Nurses in states where NPs have prescribing privileges also need to apply for a DEA number in order to prescribe controlled substances.

Resources for becoming an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner

Does being an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner sounds like the right fit for you? Check out these resources for more information:

Typical career path for an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner

Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners have great flexibility in choosing the type of practice in which they work. They can choose to work in:

  • Assisted living facilities
  • Community health clinics
  • Home care
  • Hospitals
  • Long-term care settings
  • Private medical practices
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Specialty clinics
  • Urgent care
  • Veteran’s Administration facilities

Because they are in great demand, AGNPs can move to different settings throughout their career. Many find this flexibility appealing, and it certainly increases employment opportunities.
For many registered nurses, the AGNP role is the logical next step in their careers, increasing both their level of responsibility and their earning potential.

AGNP work can ultimately lead to opportunities in administration and management, although many AGNPs enjoy working directly with patients too much to make the move. Fortunately, your training as an AGNP will leave both of these options open to you.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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Categorized as: Advanced Practice NursingNurse PractitionerNursing & Healthcare