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How to Become an Adult Gerontology
Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP)

Become your patients’ long-term healthcare advocate

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.

You can take these 7 steps to become an AGPCNP:

Adult Gerontological Primary Care NP Discussing Diagnosis with Patient

1. Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

The first step to becoming an AGPCNP 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 AGPCNP, chances are you could only qualify for a “direct entry” AGPCNP 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 acute care, psychiatric/mental health care, or family practice.

2. Understand the role of an AGPCNP

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

AGNPs 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 AGNP requires close collaboration with a team of healthcare staff dedicated to the long-term health needs of their patients.

3. Earn an AGPCNP master’s degree or post master’s certificate

Becoming an Adult Gerontology Primary Care nurse practitioner requires a graduate-level education in the concentration. 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 AGPCNP program options:

  • RNs who currently hold an associate degree. You may qualify for our accelerated RN to MSN-AGPCNP program, which you may complete in as few as 24 months.
  • RNs who currently hold a bachelor’s degree. You may qualify to go from BSN to AGPCNP in our MSN–AGPCNP program. You can complete the program in as few as 20 months.
  • Master’s degree holders. If you already have earned a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), you may qualify for our post master’s certificate AGPCNP program, which can be completed in as few as 20 months.

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.

Classes Start January 8th

Waived Enrollment Fee

4. Complete clinicals

Practical experience is key to develop into a successful AGPCNP. 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 the Board Certified Adult Gerontology Primary Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP-BC) exam.i

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.

i. Our program options range from 540-585 total clinical hours.

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 AGPCNP program options1, you’ll meet the eligibility requirements to sit for the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) exams to become a board certified 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 AGPCNP licensure.

Frequently Asked Questions

While there are some similarities between the two main types of adult gerontology nurse practitioners, these are the biggest differences between primary care NPs and acute care NPs:

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), core competencies for Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners include:

  • Contributes to improved knowledge and care of the adult gerontology population
  • Uses scientific knowledge and theoretical foundations to detect psychological, physiological, and sociological development and aging
  • Be a leader facilitating the coordination and planning to deliver care to the adult gerontology population
  • Promotes safety and risk reduction
  • Continually evaluates the quality of care delivery models
  • Integrates appropriate technologies into deliver healthcare in remote, face-to-face encounters
  • Aids in the development of health promotion programs within a health community or system
  • Provides wellness promotion and disease prevention services balancing the costs, risks and benefits to individuals

That’s just a sample! As an AGNP you will carry many different responsibilities as a crucial member of a healthcare team.

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).


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.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners earn an average salary of $124,680 per year ($59.94 per hour).*

NPs specializing in adult gerontology in primary care may increase their earning potential by becoming board certified, gaining valuable experience and continuing their education.

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.

7. Find your first job as an AGPCNP

By becoming educated, experienced, certified, and licensed, you have the qualifications to find a job as an AGPCNP and succeed right from the start.

No matter where you are now and where you want to be, we exist to help you get there. If you’re ready to begin your pathway to become an AGPCNP, choose a lifelong partner in learning dedicated to your career success.

Learn more about our AGPCNP program options


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 ( Herzing University is approved to offer programs in an online learning modality through association with the main campus in Madison, Wisconsin.

* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, 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.

Classes Start January 8th

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