Gerontology is the study of aging and the problems that afflict the elderly. Adult care is the field in which caregivers provide services tailored to the needs of this population. As the baby boomer generation gets older, the demand for adult caregivers will rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), positions for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners are projected to grow by 31% from 2016 to 2026. PayScale reports that the average salary of adult nurse practitioners is $95,000 annually.
To work as an adult gerontology nurse practitioner, you must earn a master’s degree in nursing. This will qualify you for certification and enable you to secure employment in a variety of settings. Generally, a master’s degree in nursing will give you a distinct advantage over those with similar experience and a bachelor’s degree when it comes to employment opportunities. Master’s-level nurses with certain certifications are authorized to perform a wider range of tasks, such as prescribing medication in medical settings.
This guide will give you an overview of the processes involved in earning your degree and becoming an adult gerontology nurse practitioner.
What is an AGNP?
An adult gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP) is a nurse in advanced clinical practice who provides continuing healthcare to patients from all stages of life, from adolescence through old age. AGNPs can be found working in a variety of settings, including hospitals, medical clinics, physicians’ offices, and treatment centers. They typically earn one of two specialty credentials: adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AG-ACNP) or adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AG-PCNP), and operate within that field. AG-ACNPs work primarily with acute illness while AG-ACNPs focus on health management. Unlike most registered nurses, AGNPs are authorized to prescribe medication, order diagnostic tests, and put together treatment plans.
What Degree Do You Need to Be a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner?
In order to become an AGNP, you must first become a registered nurse (RN). This involves completing your bachelor’s degree, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, and earning an RN license from your state’s nursing board. After achieving RN status, many nurses work in the field for several years to acquire clinical experience prior to making the move to become an AGNP. This step is not a necessary prerequisite to apply for an AGNP license, but can help you secure employment once you’ve finished the education and licensure process.
After you’ve received your RN license, you must complete a master’s degree in nursing and pass an exam sponsored by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to earn certification to become an AGNP. A graduate degree in nursing demonstrates that you have acquired the knowledge and expertise necessary to perform the wide range of tasks required of this profession.
Benefits of Online Learning
Online geriatric nurse practitioner programs offer several advantages over earning your degree on campus. Generally, students find that online programs are much more flexible. Distance learners can complete coursework from the comfort of their own homes, usually on their own schedules, as classes are often available asynchronously. This means that students are able to complete their degrees with minimal disruption to their careers and family life. Studying from home also means you won’t have to relocate or commute to a physical campus to attend your classes. Online nursing programs enable you to find internship locations that are local.
Distance learning is sometimes less expensive than on-campus learning. In addition to tuition that is frequently cheaper than brick-and-mortar colleges, online students are spared the expenses of commuting, parking, relocating, and physical textbooks that are often higher than their digital counterparts.
In order to become an adult nurse practitioner, you must earn a master’s degree in nursing from an accredited program. There are a variety of master’s programs to choose from that differ markedly from each other with respect to specializations and other features. In general, these programs have a few admission requirements in common. Students applying to these programs must have completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Usually, the bachelor’s degree does not have to be in nursing, although some master’s programs require you to have taken coursework in specific areas, such as biology, sociology, psychology, or statistics.
A minimum GPA of 3.0 is commonly recommended for undergraduate coursework. Applicants do not need to hold an RN license prior to applying to a master’s in nursing program. Many of these master’s programs require that degree candidates submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Interested students applying to nursing master’s programs do not usually need to have experience in the healthcare field.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Adult Care/Gerontology?
Graduates who have earned a master’s in adult care and gerontology can work in a variety of fields within the healthcare industry. Often filling positions at assisted living facilities, long-term care clinics, and government agencies, these professionals work with the aging population to promote a good quality of life and to ensure that their needs are taken care of through various services and activities.
Geriatric Social Worker
Geriatric social workers care for the elderly in nursing homes, in hospice, or through government agencies. Their daily responsibilities may include providing company, offering counseling, and promoting involvement in activities.
Nurse practitioners coordinate patient care and develop treatment plans in line with a patient’s individual needs and lifestyle.
Social Services Director
Social services directors use leadership and management skills to oversee social services tasks that serve different populations in their community. They also work with quality measurement techniques to maintain integrity of service delivery.
Life Enrichment Coordinator
Typically working with aging populations in assisted living facilities and long-term care clinics, life enrichment coordinators work to keep residents satisfied through beneficial and enjoyable leisure activities.
Resident Service Coordinator
Resident service coordinators with nursing experience often work in assisted living facilities, maintaining adherence to budgeting restrictions in service delivery and overseeing staff training initiatives.
Salaries and Job Outlook for Gerontology Professionals
|Occupation||Minimum Degree Required||Annual Median Wage|
|Geriatric Social Worker||Master's||$45,136|
|Social Services Director||Bachelor's||$51,450|
|Life Enrichment Coordinator||Bachelor's||$37,045|
What to Expect From a Master's in Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Program
How Long Does it Take to Earn a Master's in Gerontology Degree Online?
Full-time students earning their master’s degree in gerontology typically complete their program within two years. Some schools offer distance learners the chance to complete their degree at an accelerated pace, allowing them to earn their master’s in one year. A typical degree requires students to complete 30-35 credit hours of core coursework and electives, including courses in their specialization. After graduation, students must complete additional pre-certification training in order to qualify for licensure that enables them to practice in the field of adult care and gerontology.
Courses in an Online Adult Care/Gerontology Master's Program
A typical curriculum for a master’s in gerontology program includes courses in social and ethical issues regarding aging populations, public policy, long-term care administration, and the psychology of aging. Read below to learn more about sample courses for a master’s in gerontology program.
Long-Term Care Administration
This course teaches students the history and development of long-term care and assisted living in the U.S. and the fundamentals of being an assisted living administrator. Students learn about the importance of leadership and management skills and how to employ such abilities with regard to the needs of an elderly population living in a regulated and licensed environment.
This course provides a framework of the aging process and its relation to various illnesses. Students learn about chronic illnesses that patients of advanced age are commonly afflicted with and how these translate to higher needs that must be accommodated by their caretakers.
Students in an applied gerontology course focus on topics in biopsychosocial research and practice models to enhance leadership capabilities and explore different career paths. Students work with theoretical models to understand real-world applications of gerontology principles and ethical considerations.
Aging and Public Policy
Students learning about aging and public policy explore the foundations and development of public policies that impact the elderly, their families, and service providers. Topics covered throughout the course include private sector employment, healthcare, retirement, and housing concerns relevant to caring for an elderly population.
Aging and Dementia
A gerontology course on aging and dementia covers the impacts of disease, including psychological, economic, and physiological effects. Students focus on the direct influence of dementia on afflicted patients, their families, and caregivers.
Some master’s in nursing programs require a practicum or clinical component for graduation, though this feature isn’t necessarily common among these programs. A typical practicum experience is about three credits and requires students to secure a position providing care services to members of the elderly population at a healthcare facility or assisted living home in their area. These locations must be pre-approved by the college or university to ensure that the experience will be compliant with the school’s educational requirements. The purpose of such a program is to give students hands-on exposure to the type of work they will be doing and the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned to practical applications.
Licensure and Certification
Most professionals who wish to work in adult care and gerontology must be certified as nurse practitioners. The ANCC offers two certifications for professionals in this field: the AG-ACNP and the AG-PCNP. The designation you choose will depend on the type of care you wish to focus on in your career as an AGNP. AG-ACNPs work with patients experiencing acute illness, while AG-PCNPs help patients manage health in a more general, long-term sense.
To earn these licenses, you must have a bachelor’s degree and an RN license. After earning those credentials, you must complete a master’s degree in nursing from an accredited college or university and earn a passing score on an ANCC certification exam. In addition, candidates for AG-ACNP and AG-PCNP certification must have accrued 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours working in an adult gerontology nurse practitioner role.
Accredited Online Master's in Gerontology Programs
As you look for gerontology nurse practitioner programs, you should pay attention to the accreditation status of schools. When a school has been accredited, it means its programs have been evaluated and deemed to be in compliance with an agency’s standards for academic quality. Earning your degree from such a school is a wise choice, as an accredited degree is a requirement of many employers, licensing bodies, and educational institutions accepting transfer credits.
The two primary categories of accreditation are regional and national. Regional accreditation is considered the more prestigious of the two, as regional accreditation agencies hold schools to more rigorous standards than national accreditation agencies. The primary agencies that accredit gerontology nurse practitioner programs are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. You should ensure that the school you choose has earned accreditation status from one of these two agencies as you evaluate gerontological nurse practitioner programs.
Online Master's in Gerontology Nurse Practitioning Scholarships
Pursuing a primary care nursing degree can be very expensive. If you’re like most students, cost will be a factor in choosing which school you attend. As you evaluate your financial situation and the options available to you, you should be aware of scholarship opportunities that you may qualify for in order to help finance your education.
Tylenol Future Care Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Tylenol awards its Future Care Scholarship annually to students who display academic excellence in pursuit of a career in healthcare. Eligible applicants must have at least one year of school remaining and be working toward a degree that will enable them to treat patients directly.
Amount: $5,000 to $10,000
Maxine Williams Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: In honor of the first president of the American Association of Medical Assistants, the Maxine Williams Scholarship is available to students in medical assisting programs with a GPA of 3.0 or above. The program that the student is attending must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
A Place for Mom Senior Wisdom Video Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Sponsored by a senior living referral service, the Senior Wisdom Scholarship is available to students interested in the aging and gerontology fields who submit a compelling video of a story or interview with an inspirational senior.
Henry Welch Scholarship in Aging
Who Can Apply: Presented by the Colorado Gerontological Society, the Henry Welch Scholarship is awarded to full-time students in Colorado who are working toward a degree in gerontology, aging, or another related field. Applicants must submit a two-page essay regarding their experience with geriatrics/gerontology.
Mary Opal Wolanin Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The National Gerontological Nursing Association awards the Mary Opal Wolanin Scholarship each year to two nursing students with at least a 3.0 GPA who intend to work in geriatrics or gerontology.
Madeline Pickett Cogswell Nursing Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Madeline Pickett Cogswell Nursing Scholarship is presented annually to two students in accredited nursing programs. To earn the award, applicants must be members, descendants of members, or eligible for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution.
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