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Geriatric Nurse Careers and Salary Outlook 2020

June 3, 2020 | Staff Writers

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Those who want to provide medical assistance to the elderly population may want to learn how to become a geriatric nurse. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects positive growth in healthcare positions due to an increase in elderly citizens in the coming years. These elderly patients need specialized care to experience the best quality of life.

This page details geriatric nurse requirements, field resources and certification, and geriatric nurse salary potential. Aspiring nurses can use this page to learn more about a career as a geriatric nurse.

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What is a Geriatric Nurse?

Geriatric nurses focus on the elderly population. Professionals need extensive knowledge of common health conditions among the elderly, such as dementia and osteoporosis. These nurses serve important roles due to the unique health needs of the elderly. Geriatric nurses must handle elderly citizens with more care than average adults since their bodies are more fragile. An illness that a young adult would recover from could be catastrophic for an elderly patient.

These positions are not entry-level since geriatric nurses must hold a registered nurse (RN) license and boast years of field experience.

  • What Do Geriatric Nurses Do?

    Geriatric nurse practitioners possess the skills and training to understand and properly treat the complex mental and physical needs of the elderly. They assist patients in protecting their overall health and manage changes in their mental and physical skills to help patients maintain their activity levels and independence.

    Geriatric nurses care for elderly patients by assessing and documenting vitals, administering medication, and discussing illnesses and treatments. They also assist with basic functions, such as bathing and eating, and connecting individuals with resources for treatments and improved care. Geriatric nurses build comfortable environments that promote mental, emotional, and physical well-being in the elderly and help patients understand their conditions and treatments. Overall, these nurses help the elderly live safely and with dignity.

  • Where Do Geriatric Nurses Work?

    Geriatric nurses work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and ambulatory care centers. They also work at organizations that focus on the aging community, such as retirement and nursing homes. Geriatric nurses may visit patients’ homes to provide care or work in centers that help the elderly fight against memory loss and dementia.

    Geriatric nurses sometimes collaborate with primary care doctors, nutritionists, surgeons, cardiologists, and intensive care staff to ensure patients’ well-being. Additionally, these nurses may discuss treatments, finances, and resources with families, insurance companies, and community organizations.

  • Skills That Could Affect Geriatric Nurse Salaries

    Geriatric nurses should understand issues related to the elderly, such as dementia, to provide nurturing and effective care. These professionals should also communicate in ways that elderly patients can grasp. For instance, geriatric nurses should avoid contemporary phrases that the eldelry may not understand.

    The best geriatric nurses demonstrate patience since the elderly may need help sitting up, eating, or understanding treatments. These patients may also deal with emotional issues connected to their lack of mobility. Geriatric nurses should maintain positive and encouraging demeanors to help these individuals feel comfortable.

    Geriatric nurses should also be physically strong enough to lift and adjust patients. Emotionally and mentally, nurses may witness elderly citizens who miss their homes or families and grieve over patients after they pass.

How to Become a Geriatric Nurse

To become a geriatric nurse, candidates must earn a previous nursing license and complete years of experience in a nursing role. Individuals must also earn a related degree that addresses medical concepts.

Geriatric nurses provide safety, independence, and security to others who have already made contributions to society and are now in need of care. Nurses can provide these aging citizens with dignity and assistance, even when the patients’ families are unable to help. Those who enjoy helping others in this manner should consider this career path.


Candidates can earn undergraduate or graduate degrees in geriatric nursing. Advanced geriatric nursing degrees provide evidence of in-depth field knowledge, which can help differentiate nurses from other job candidates. Those who pursue higher degrees should enroll in programs with gerontological specializations.

Individuals with an RN license can become geriatric nurses without an advanced degree if they obtain related field experience. RN licenses typically call for a minimum of an associate degree, though RN licensure requirements differ among states. These associate degrees take approximately two years and usually include fieldwork.

Training and Certification

Geriatric nurse requirements include an RN license. Each state has its own criteria for an RN license, which may involve fieldwork, education, and the National Council for Licensure Examination. Geriatric nurses also need at least two years and 2,000 hours of experience in gerontological practice.

The Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA) offers the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Gerontological Specialist – Certified (GS-C) credential. This certification mandates an RN license and an APRN certification.

The GS-C also calls for at least 2,500 hours of APRN experience. This fieldwork must take place in five or fewer years before earning the GS-C and include work with the elderly. Additional requirements involve 50 continuing education (CE) contact hours from the previous three years. These CE hours must relate to elderly healthcare.

GS-C candidates must also take the APRN Gerontological Specialist exam comprised of 175 questions. Exam registration costs $295-$395, with GAPNA members paying the minimum amount.

Geriatric Nurse Salaries and Job Growth

How much does a geriatric nurse make? On average, these nurses earn $64,870 across the United States. Geriatric nurse salary is higher in Los Angeles, where nurses earn an average of $88,223. New York geriatric nurses average $81,736. These numbers surpass average salaries for similar positions, such as licensed practical nurses and medical assistants.

Geriatric nurse salaries increase with experience. Entry-level candidates average $54,953 and late-career candidates average $70,521. Entry-level geriatric nurses earn more, on average, than the U.S. median income for 2018 for all positions, which is $52,145.

Some locations and industries offer comparatively high employment levels or concentrations of registered nurse positions. Specifically, the general medical and surgical hospitals industry delivers the highest concentration of registered nurse positions, and California offers the highest employment level of all states.

Highest Salary Locations for Geriatric Nurses
National Median $64,870
Los Angeles, California $88,223
New York, New York $81,736
Houston, Texas $72,654
Boston, Massachusetts $72,005
Denver, Colorado $68,762

Source: PayScale

Median Salary for Geriatric Nurses by Career Experience

  • Entry Level: $54,953 yearly
  • Early Career: $60,932 yearly
  • Mid Career: $65,051 yearly
  • Experienced: $67,755 yearly
  • Late Career: $70,521 yearly

Source: PayScale

Related Job Salaries
Registered Nurse (RN) Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Medical Assistant Office Manager
$63,393 yearly $27,891 yearly $43,528 yearly $32,840 yearly $47,349 yearly

Source: PayScale

Geriatric Nurse Resources

  • Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association GAPNA offers a yearly conference and the Contemporary Pharmacology and Prescribing in Older Adults event. The group also publishes a newsletter and the journal, Geriatric Nursing. Individuals can research topics like cardiovascular issues, dementia, and pharmacology in the GAPNA online library and review eligibility requirements for the GS-C through the site.
  • American Geriatrics Society – Geriatrics Healthcare Professionals AGS offers events and opportunities that focus on enhancing medical treatment for the elderly. These events include the AGS Annual Scientific Meeting and the AGS CoCare programs. Members can receive a newsletter and access tools on using social media and excelling in clinical practice. Members can also access four free field journals.
  • Eldercare Workforce Alliance EWA represents 34 groups like the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the Gerontological Society of America. The alliance delivers field resources that include the EWA Advocacy Toolkit and issues briefs on topics like care coordination. Professionals can stay current on field innovations through the group’s newsroom and blog.
  • Gerontological Nursing Certification This resource explores the certification process and provides information on eligibility and cost. The site links individuals to the application and offers insights to certification renewal. Professionals can download the General Testing and Renewal Handbook from the website and access study materials for the required exam.
  • Job Search This website lists available nursing jobs that site viewers can browse by location and focus, such as geriatrics. Candidates can sign up for emails about new positions on the website. Professionals can also explore CE options for license or certification renewal in focuses like ambulatory care, critical care, and gerontology.
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