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How to Become an
Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)

Specialize as a gerontological adult nurse practitioner

As U.S. News and World Report’s best healthcare job in 2023, and one of the fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. (45% projected growth from 2022-2032*), nurse practitioner represents a great career option for Registered Nurses (RN).

Nurse practitioners may practice in a primary care role for adult gerontological/geriatric patients, working to help their patients manage long-term healthcare plans. Or you could choose an acute care specialty and care for patients with sudden or severe illnesses or injuries. Both types of AGNP have their own unique scopes of practice, which you can learn more about below.

We exist to help you find the career path in nursing that’s right for you. Here’s what you need to know about becoming a primary care or acute care AGNP.

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Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP) discussing treatment plan with patient and smiling

1. Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

The first step to becoming an AGNP is to work as an RN—if you don’t already (if you do, go ahead and skip to step 2).

Education and employment requirements may vary depending on the state in which you practice. You may not need to be an RN to qualify for enrollment into some nurse practitioner programs, but some employers may require a minimum amount of RN experience from job applicants.

However, we recommend you do first become an RN before working towards become a primary care NP. Here’s why:

  1. If you are currently not in nursing and/or hold a non-nursing degree and want to go straight to AGNP, chances are you could only qualify for a “direct entry” AGNP program. These programs aren’t right for everyone. They can be very demanding over a short time period, and you’ll be limiting your pool of potential nursing schools. Not every school offers this option.
  2. There’s so much you can learn as an RN. Earning an education and real job experience as an RN in a hospital or clinic setting helps you develop your skills, discover your strengths and weaknesses, and learn more about how nurses contribute to a healthcare team.
  3. You may find another specialty is better suited for your future career path as a nurse practitioner, such as pediatrics, psychiatric/mental health care, or family practice.

2. Understand the role of an AGNP

There are two common types of adult-gerontology nurse practitioners: those who specialize in primary care, and those who specialize in acute care. While both specialties target the adult patient population, there are some key differences to keep in mind.

Primary care AGNPs

Primary care AGNPs (AGPCNP) are responsible for providing continuous, comprehensive medical care for patients across the adult lifespan, including geriatric patients (13 and older). AGPCNPs work primarily in outpatient care settings helping patients develop their personal healthcare assessments and manage long-term chronic illnesses.

AGPCNPs work under the supervision of a physician, with varying degrees of autonomy. They do not “specialize” in a traditional sense, acting as big picture managers of a patients’ healthcare plan and facilitating connections to specialized care as necessary. However, nurses can begin their NP career in primary care and branch into a specialty of their choosing later, such as acute care or mental health.

Other types of primary care nurse practitioners work in a similar capacity with different patient populations, including family nurse practitioners (across the lifespan) and pediatric nurse practitioners (pediatric patients only).

Practicing as an AGPCNP requires close collaboration with a team of healthcare staff dedicated to the long-term health needs of their patients.

Acute care AGNPs

Acute care AGNPs (AGACNP) care for patients with sudden acute conditions, exacerbated chronic conditions, or complex diseases to help improve their health outcomes. In addition to performing basic nursing duties, AGACNP responsibilities include:

  • Perform physical exams
  • Order and interpret laboratory tests
  • Diagnose medical conditions
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Prescribe medication
  • Develop follow-up care plans

Because AGACNPs work with critically ill patients, they may also perform procedures such as:

  • Intubation and extubation
  • Casting and splinting injuries
  • Administering “conscious sedation” (anesthetics or sedatives)

AGACNPs work in many clinical environments, including hospital emergency rooms, Intensive Care Units (ICU), urgent care clinics, medical-surgical units, and operating rooms, as well as nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. AGACNPs may assist doctors and work with a team, but they also have the flexibility to examine and treat patients as part of a healthcare team.

AGACNPs may also focus on a particular area of medicine, such as cardiology, pulmonology, or neurology.

3. Earn a master’s degree or post master’s certificate

Becoming an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner requires a graduate-level education in the concentration of your choosing. Program eligibility depends on the highest degree you’ve already earned.

If you are an RN with a current, active, and unrestricted license in your state, you may be eligible to enroll in one of our AGACNP or AGPCNP program options.

All of our CCNE accredited MSN programs1 can be completed online—and we pledge your clinical placement through a Clinical Guidance Process, to ensure you receive career-focused practical training in a timely fashion and launch your new career quickly.

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Now Through June 30th

4. Complete clinicals

Practical experience is key to develop into a successful AGNP. Academic classes help you build a conceptual foundation to succeed with real patients in a real clinical environment.

A minimum of 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours as part of an AGPCNP program is required to sit for both the Board Certified Adult Gerontology Primary Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP-BC) exam and the Board Certified Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP-BC) exams.1

Your clinical placement is our pledge. We offer support through our step-by-step Clinical Guidance Process to ensure you get the clinical practice experiences you need. We’ll encourage you to find your own preceptor and clinical sites (there are many benefits to doing so), but we’ll provide extensive support should you need it.

After completing your education and earning valuable experience in clinicals, the next step is to get certified.

5. Become Board Certified (AGPCNP-BC)

We strongly recommend getting certified upon graduating with your master’s degree or post master’s certificate. This will put you in the best position to compete for the job you really want.

By graduating from any of our accredited AGACNP/AGPCNP program options1, you’ll meet the eligibility requirements to sit for the exams to become a board certified AGACNP (AGACNP-BC) or AGPCNP (AGPCNP-BC)

Once you pass the exam, the credential is valid for 5 years. From then on, you’ll need to meet the renewal requirements in place when your certification is due for renewal.

6. Obtain licensure in your state

Licensing is handled by your state’s board of nursing. There are very few states allowing nurse practitioners to practice without certification – but even in those cases employers and insurers often require nurse practitioners become certified.

In order to practice in another state, you will be required to become licensed there as a registered nurse if you are not currently in a compact state. Then you may become licensed as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

Contact the board of nursing in your state to find their requirements for AGACNP/AGPCNP licensure.

Frequently Asked Questions

While both jobs involve outpatient primary care under the “general NP” umbrella, the biggest difference between AGNP and FNP is the patient population. FNPs are trained for family practice across the lifespan, including children, while AGNPs are trained only for the adult lifespan (adolescent through end of life).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners earn an average salary of $124,680 per year ($59.94 per hour). Pay depends on many factors, including your location, what healthcare institution you work for and your level of experience.*

Discover the average nurse practitioner salary by state and find out what nurse practitioners make on average near you.

There are two types of general NPs: Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners (AGPCNPs) and Family Nurse Practitioners (FNP). Both NPs provide ongoing health counseling, prevention and management for their patients.

The primary difference is the patient population they care for: FNPs practice across the lifespan in family practice, including pediatric, adult, and geriatric care. AGNPs work only with adolescent, adult, and geriatric patients.

If you are open to working with children you may choose the FNP path, while those who prefer to work with adults only may choose the AGNP path.

Here’s a selection of the most common types of nurse practitioners:

Note: Herzing does not offer a track in Women's Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP).

Each specialty has its own unique requirements in terms of job experience and certification.

Sometimes hospitals form partnerships with schools like ours to provide employees with unique benefits should they choose to pursue an advanced nursing degree.

Employees of Herzing partners can potentially earn college credit for prior work or military experience, transfer existing credit, or earn a scholarship to make going back to school more affordable.

If you are currently an RN considering becoming a nurse practitioner, view our educational partnerships or check with your employer for potential possibilities.

Yes.

In the past, there were separate designations for Adult Nurse Practitioners (ANP) and Geriatric Nurse Practitioners (GNP). Now the two roles have been combined into Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP). The knowledge and skills developed in an MSN-AGNP program will best prepare you to work with geriatric/elderly patients.

Graduating with an MSN and becoming board certified as a primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP-BC) will qualify you to practice as an NP and pursue a geriatric specialty.

Advance your career as an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner

The need for advanced skilled and specialty nurses is great, and demand continues to grow. As an AGNP, you can increase your earning potential and gain a great sense of fulfillment helping patients with challenging diagnoses and acute illnesses.

We’re here to help you take the next big step in your nursing career and become possible.

Learn more about our online programs for nurse practitioners

CTA Bg

1. The master’s degree program in nursing and post-graduate APRN certificate program at Herzing University Madison are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.ccneaccreditation.org). Herzing University is approved to offer programs in an online learning modality through association with the main campus in Madison, Wisconsin.

2. Our program options range from 540-630 total clinical hours depending on the concentration and degree pathway you choose.


* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2022 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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