Gerontology nurses play a critical role in caring for a growing population of elderly patients in the United States. Nurses specializing in gerontology study the process of aging throughout the lifetime and provide critical healthcare to senior patients. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 15% job growth rate for registered nurses (RNs) through 2026, with employers preferring candidates with specialty skills in gerontology.
While students only need a bachelor’s degree and a license to become an RN, earning additional certification requires a traditional or online MSN in gerontology. In addition to coursework, the degree typically includes several years of supervised clinical work. The best online MSNs in gerontology prepare students to pursue an advanced practice RN license. The following guide outlines what to expect from a gerontology-focused MSN degree.
Below are what we believe to be the top 4 online gerontology MSN practitioner programs.
Best Online MSN in Gerontology Programs
North Carolina-based Duke University established its nursing program in 1931. The school’s MSN offerings include a 42-credit online adult-gerontology nurse practitioner-primary care option. Students complete the first four core courses in this online MSN in gerontology through distance learning; they must, however, attend campus-based group sessions for the didactic content and clinical preceptorships. The program also requires a final residency for its clinical synthesis experience. The School of Nursing staffs its own technology department, offering online students round-the-clock support. Duke also provides nursing students the unique opportunity to complete short-term courses or clinical work at international sites.
The program recommends that applicants boast at least one year of nursing experience before applying. Applicants with an undergraduate GPA below 3.4 must submit Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores. Students may waive the GRE if they possess a GPA of 3.5 or better from an accredited institution.
George Washington University
With locations in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia, George Washington University developed a highly respected master of science in nursing that blends online coursework with some on-campus requirements. The GW nursing program includes adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (NP) and adult-gerontology primary care options.
The part-time acute care NP program requires 54 credits taken over nine semesters, including 650 clinical hours. Students must attend five on-campus training experiences lasting between one to three days each. Students may complete the 48-credit primary care NP option in 5-7 semesters. It requires 625 clinical hours and two on-campus components. Both options require a bachelor’s degree in nursing with an overall GPA of 3.0 from a regionally accredited school. Acute care NP applicants need at least one year of critical care experience.
University of South Carolina
Established in 1801, the University of South Carolina offers more than 450 programs to its over 34,000 students. The College of Nursing has awarded more than 5,000 health-related degrees in the past five years. The adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program requires 40-43 credits. Students may complete the program in four to five years, taking most courses online in a flexible asynchronous format. The program requires students to attend on-campus sessions at least twice each semester during their clinical courses.
Applicants need a bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited program, a minimum GPA of 3.0, and at least 600 hours of recent experience as a registered nurse in an acute care setting. The program accepts a limited number of transfer courses, excluding nurse practitioner foundational or clinical courses and those with grades below B.
Philadelphia-based Drexel University has provided online educational programs since 1996. The College of Nursing and Health Professions offers a 54-credit adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner program in an accelerated, distance-learning format that students can complete in less than three years. Students progress through the program taking four, 10-week quarters each year. Applicants need a bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited school with a cumulative 3.0 GPA and a current, unrestricted registered nurse license. Although not a requirement, Drexel prefers applicants with one year of adult nursing experience.
While the program uses a highly interactive eLearning method that delivers most courses synchronously, students must attend mandatory on-campus and intensive learning experiences two to four times during the clinical component of the program — each requiring two to three days of residency. These on-campus experiences offer students a unique adult-centered learning environment, providing training in a state-of-the-art simulation lab.
MSN in Gerontology Online Programs: An Overview
Online MSN in gerontology programs offer various admissions requirements, completion times, and curricula; however, there are some standards that most programs have in common. The following section outlines what to expect from a typical online MSN in gerontology program regarding admission, length, curriculum, and certification.
Admission Requirements for an Online MSN in Gerontology Program
Students applying to an online MSN in gerontology must possess a bachelor’s degree and a state RN license. While most schools do not require the applicant to hold a bachelor’s in a specific nursing specialty, some require that the undergraduate degree receives approval through the Board of Nursing. Additionally, some schools prefer bachelor’s degrees accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
Typical online MSNs in gerontology also require a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission. Most programs do not require applicants to submit standardized test scores or complete prerequisite field experience.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online MSN in Gerontology Program?
The completion times of online MSNs in gerontology vary, though most students complete the degree within two years. Some schools offer accelerated options and flex scheduling, enabling students to graduate in as few as 18 months. While an online nursing degree may offer the majority of courses through a distance learning platform, aspiring gerontology nurses must also complete a clinical practicum at a local site, which may lengthen the time to completion.
Most online MSNs in gerontology require 48-56 credits. Applicants should consider whether their study plan includes full-time or part-time coursework and self-paced or cohort learning. Self-paced programs typically allow students to take as many courses as they want each semester, while cohort learning requires students to progress at the same pace as their peers.
Example Courses for Online MSN in Gerontology Students
Coursework in an online MSN in gerontology prepares students for many clinical tasks. Most programs build on the student’s existing skills as an RN, training aspiring gerontology nurses to assess, diagnose, and treat adult and geriatric patients. As the qualifying program for graduates aspiring to both primary and acute adult-gerontology credentials, courses typically explore a broad set of common health problems, acute and episodic issues, and chronic conditions. Below, are common courses found in online MSN gerontology programs.
- Adult-Gerontology Comprehensive Assessment: This course teaches MSN candidates to perform comprehensive assessments of illness, chronic disease, injury, and/or disability in patients of advanced age. Students also learn to examine methods of health promotion and measure risk factors, including the physical, mental, and economic status of the patient.
- Transitional Care for Chronically Ill Adult Patients: Aspiring MSNs learn to treat patients with chronic or complex health problems who are transitioning from hospital to home, or home to a long-term or skilled care facility. Topics include team intervention methods, coordination of services during transition, and health insurance management.
- Common Adult Health Problems: This course explores the most common illnesses affecting adult-geriatric patients. Through evidence-based practice and management strategies, coursework emphasizes clinical decision making, collaborative healthcare management planning, and comprehensive assessment tools.
- Acute and Episodic Adult-Gerontological Health Problems: This course teaches MSNs to treat patients with episodic health problems, comorbid conditions, and chronic or complex illnesses. Students learn how to implement strategic management plans, make clinical decisions, and assess patient conditions.
- Adult-Geriatric Syndromes: The study of adult-geriatric syndromes builds on previous coursework on health problems affecting this age group. Students explore syndromes, including incontinence, functional decline, and dementia, in the context of risk factors like cognitive impairment and impaired physical mobility.
Though online MSN gerontology students complete most courses online, the practicum component, or clinical experience, plays a critical role in preparing students to become certified adult-gerontology nurse practitioners. Distance learners can arrange to meet clinical requirements at a local approved clinic, hospital, or healthcare facility. Details vary by program, though most online MSNs in gerontology require a multi-semester practicum, comprising 9-18 credits and 500-600 hours.
As a key component of an online MSN degree, most programs offer advising and placement services for distance students. Many healthcare facilities foster partnerships with local schools to provide clinical training to aspiring nurse practitioners. Some online learners prefer to complete clinical hours at a facility near their school’s campus to receive in-person support.
Certifications and Licenses This Program Prepares For
- Adult-gerontology Acute Care Nurse practitioner: Nurses holding AGACNP certification demonstrate advanced qualifications over traditional RNs, with the ability to write prescriptions, monitor and assess patient reactions to medications and treatments, and interpret electrocardiogram tests. Aspiring AGACNPs must hold an RN license in their state, complete a CCNE-accredited or ACEN-accredited graduate nursing program with a minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours, and pass an exam.
- Adult-gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner: AGPCNP nurses enjoy more responsibilities and higher salaries than traditional RNs. Generally, AGPCNPs qualify for many of the same roles as AGACNPs but with additional opportunities in health promotion and chronic healthcare. Candidates must hold a state RN license, complete a graduate program accredited by the CCNE or ACEN, complete a minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours, and pass an exam.
Accreditation for Online MSN in Gerontology Programs
Online MSN gerontology students should ensure that their chosen school is accredited. The best online post-MSN gerontology NP programs and master’s degrees receive institutional accreditation through a national or regional agency supervised by the Department of Education (ED) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Many schools prefer regional accreditation for its more rigorous standards, and many regionally accredited colleges only recognize transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools. Students should check the ED and CHEA websites to confirm accreditation status.
In addition to institutional accreditation, some online MSNs in gerontology receive programmatic accreditation through the ACEN or the CCNE. Accreditation through these agencies demonstrates that a nursing program meets industry standards for education and training.
Job and Salary Outlook
Job Opportunities for MSN in Gerontology Graduates
remain in high demand in any discipline; however, nurses specializing in gerontology may see additional benefits over the next decade. As the baby boomer population continues to age and life expectancy rises, nurses with experience treating aging patients are increasingly needed. Graduates of an online MSN in gerontology qualify for many jobs as RNs and NPs in acute care, gerontology, or adult gerontology, along with supervisor and administrator positions.
Median Annual Salary: $92,319
Nurse practitioners perform many of the same duties as physicians, often acting as a patient’s primary healthcare provider. Nurse practitioners need an ADN or BSN to obtain an RN license and extensive clinical experience.
Median Annual Salary: $98,149
NPs specializing in acute care assess, diagnose, and treat patients for a particular illness or injury. Employers require ACNPs to hold a master’s degree and most prefer extensive acute care experience.
Median Annual Salary: $34.86/hr
Nursing supervisors may supervise teams of nurses and healthcare workers within a hospital or clinic, or coordinate in-home nursing care for private clients. Most nursing supervisor positions require a nursing degree and an RN license. Many employers prefer management experience.
Median Annual Salary: $89,380
Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners treat patients ranging from adolescence to advanced age. AGNPs may specialize in primary or acute care. AGNPs can obtain certification by earning a master’s degree, obtaining 500 clinical hours of experience, and maintaining a state-issued RN license.
Median Annual Salary: $95,375
Adult nurse practitioners generally treat patients over the age of 21, working under the supervision of physicians. Job requirements vary, with most employers preferring a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing and exceptional communication and interpersonal skills.
Source: PayScale, Nov. 2018
How Much Do MSN in Gerontology Graduates Make?
Graduates of an online MSN in gerontology qualify for lucrative entry-level and early-career salaries. As shown in the table below, nonclinical nursing jobs, including nursing supervisors, represent the low end of the salary spectrum, with acute care nurses earning the highest average salary. Gerontology nurses with more than 20 years of experience see the highest earnings. However, factors including location, employer, and credentials can affect earning potential.
||Overall Median Salary
||Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years)
||Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years)
||Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
|Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
|Adult Nurse Practitioner
Nursing students pursuing gerontology can find connections, credentialing, and career advancement from professional organizations. The following organizations for nursing students include benefits such as career advocacy, industry discounts, financial aid and networking opportunities, and credentialing services.
Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association: The GAPNA serves a membership of more than 3,700 advanced practice nurses, spanning primary, acute, post-acute, and long-term nursing care for older adults. The organization stands alone in providing the GS-C credential to gerontological specialists in nursing. Members enjoy discounts on certifications and insurance fees, access to the annual GAPNA conference, and networking and continuing education opportunities.
American Association of Nurse Practitioners
: As the world’s largest conglomeration of nurse practitioners, members of the AANP span all nursing specialties. Student members enjoy free continuing education opportunities, advanced job notice and resume placement services, access to exclusive scholarships and grants, and discounts on certifications and annual conference registration fees.
ICN Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Practice Nursing Network
: This organization serves NPs and APNs interested in policy making, nursing education, and health advocacy networking opportunities. Members of the NP/APNN can participate in global networking events, collaborative projects, and discussion forums aimed at improving the nursing profession.
Financing Your Online MSN in Gerontology Program
Nurses can pursue multiple financial aid opportunities to help pay for their online MSN in gerontology, including loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. Many nurses receive aid in exchange for a commitment to work in a high-need area, particular organization, or specialization after graduation. Submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is required to determine federal aid eligibility.
Scholarships for MSN in Gerontology Students
Geraldine “Polly” Bednash ScholarshipWho Can Apply:
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing presents this scholarship to enrollees or graduates of an AACN-accredited or CastleBranch-affiliated program. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.2 GPA.
CastleBranch GNSA ScholarshipWho Can Apply:
Offered by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, this scholarship awards students enrolled in an AACN-accredited or CastleBranch-affiliated graduate program. Applicants must have a minimum 3.5 GPA, Graduate Nursing Student Academy membership, and submit an essay and letter of recommendation.
The Together We Care® Nurse Practitioner Scholarship ProgramWho Can Apply:
The Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies awards this scholarship to up to 40 nurse practitioners annually. Applicants must be enrolled in a program leading to certification, show involvement in community leadership, and maintain a minimum 3.2 GPA.
National Health Service Corps ScholarshipsWho Can Apply:
A division of Health Resources and Services Administration, the National Health Service Corps awards this scholarship to students in healthcare practitioner programs preparing for careers as MDs, DOs, dentists, nurse practitioners, or certified nurse midwives. The award includes tuition, related fees, and a living stipend, in exchange for a commitment to work in a high-need area after graduation.
NPHF/Procter & Gamble Endowed Scholarship in Community ServiceWho Can Apply:
The Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation offers this award with Procter & Gamble to nurse practitioner graduate students making notable contributions in school, patient care, or in the community.
Nurses Educational Funds ScholarshipsWho Can Apply:
The Nurses Educational Funds awards scholarships to graduate nursing students who hold a prior degree in nursing accredited by the ACEN or CCNE. Applicants need at least 12 credits and a minimum 3.6 GPA.
Nursing Economics Foundation ScholarshipsWho Can Apply:
The Nursing Economics Foundation awards scholarships to registered nurses pursuing graduate programs in nursing administration or management. The foundation awards up to four scholarships; recipients cannot win the award more than once.