Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Career Overview


Updated August 1, 2023

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Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners (AGNPs) provide general and acute healthcare services to adults of all ages, from young adults to seniors.

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Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Career Overview
Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Career in Brief

AGNPs hold responsibilities in between registered nurses (RNs) and physicians. They meet with patients independently and assess and diagnose illnesses and other conditions. AGNPs can either specialize in acute care or primary care. Acute care NPs attend to patients with chronic or critical conditions, while primary care NPs offer general healthcare services.

MSN required
certification options

AGNP Responsibilities

  • Carrying out physical examinations
  • Interpreting diagnostic tests
  • Diagnosing patients
  • Prescribing medications — in some states independently, and in others, in collaboration with a physician

Career Traits

  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to assess and diagnose patients
  • Critical thinking skills

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Popular Online MSN Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Where Do Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners Work?

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) 2019 Compensation Report, the most common workplace settings for AGNPs included outpatient hospitals (14.4%), inpatient hospitals (13.3%), and private group practice (11.6%). In addition to home healthcare and Medicare home health programs, AGNPs also work in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, community health centers, and correctional facilities, among other locations.

  • Hospitals

    Stabilize patients in critical care, perform procedures, assess and diagnose patients

  • Long-Term Care Facilities

    Assess patients, diagnose any illnesses or medical conditions, prescribe medication

  • Private Clinics

    Meet with patients through appointments, assess their conditions, diagnose and prescribe medication

Why Become an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner?

Making a major career decision can seem difficult, which is why it can be helpful to weigh the pros and cons. The lists below show some advantages and disadvantages of becoming an AGNP.

Advantages To Becoming an AGNP

  • NPs have greater autonomy and responsibility; they can meet with patients and assess them independently.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the profession to grow by 52% from 2019 to 2029, making it one of the fastest growing professions in the country. That means more job opportunities for aspiring NPs.
  • NPs earn a high median annual wage of $109,820, according to BLS.

Disadvantages To Becoming an AGNP

  • The educational pathway to becoming an AGNP can be both challenging and lengthy.
  • Bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees can be costly, and NPs often end up with a large amount of student debt.
  • NPs work long, difficult shifts.

How To Become an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

Earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a BSN
An ADN typically lasts two years, while a BSN can take four years to complete. Both degrees prepare students to work as RNs.

Pass the NCLEX-RN to receive RN licensure
The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam tests foundational nursing skills and knowledge, evaluating whether test-takers are prepared for RN licensure. Sometimes individuals work as RNs after earning licensure; others go straight to an MSN. However, some graduate programs may require RN experience for admission.
Earn an MSN
This two-year advanced nursing degree teaches students about high-level topics, such as pharmacology, physiology/pathophysiology, and health assessment.
Choose a certification focus
Graduates of AGNP programs choose to become certified as either an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner or an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner.
Pass the National Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Certification Board Exam
The results of this exam determine whether individuals qualify for adult-gerontology licensure. Prospective AGNPs either take the acute or primary care exam, which includes questions about core competencies and clinical practice.

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care vs. Primary Care

AGNPs can specialize in primary or acute care. Duties and work settings differ between the two specializations.

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care vs. Primary Care
Trait Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
  • Focus on treating existing illnesses
  • Diagnose and develop treatment plans for patients
  • Prescribe medicine
  • Focus on preventative care
  • Promote health education
  • Assist in managing long-term health issues
Work Setting Hospitals or inpatient settings Community clinics; private practice; home healthcare; long-term care facilities
Salary $118,000 $112,000

How Much Do Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners Make?

BLS data shows that NPs earned a median salary of $109,820, regardless of specialization. For adult-gerontology NPs in particular, the AANP's 2019 compensation overview shows that:

  • Adult-gerontology primary care NPs made a median base salary of $107,000, with a median total income reaching $112,000.
  • Adult-gerontology acute care NPs earned a median base salary of $112,000 and a median total income of $118,000.

Additionally, BLS data shows the number of NPs could increase by 52% from 2019 to 2029, making it one of the fastest growing professions in the country. According to federal data from Projections Central, the highest projected job growth for NPs from 2018 to 2028 are from the following states:

  • Arizona: 50.9%
  • Colorado: 44.7%
  • Georgia 41.4%

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner?

The answer to this question depends on the pathway. A bachelor's degree traditionally lasts four years, while an MSN typically takes two years to complete. On that path, aspiring AGNPs can earn licensure in six years. Students who enroll part-time can take even longer to graduate.

However, many nursing professionals decide to gain a few years of experience as an RN in between the two degrees. Others earn an associate degree, work as an RN, and then enroll in an RN-to-MSN bridge program, which can also affect the timeline. Some AGNP programs require RN experience prior to admission. Depending on the program, it can be 1-2 years of required experience.

Can adult-gerontology nurse practitioners prescribe medicine?

Yes. In some states, adult-gerontology NPs can prescribe medicine independently. In other states, they need to enter a supervisory or collaborative agreement with a physician to prescribe medication.

How much does an AGNP make in a year?

Adult-gerontology primary care NPs make a median base salary of $107,000, and adult-gerontology acute care NPs earn a median base salary of $112,000, according to a 2019 AANP survey. That said, salaries vary significantly based on experience, employer, and location. Education level matters, too. NPs with a doctoral degree are likely to earn more than those with a master's degree.

Where do AGNPs work?

AGNPs can work in many settings: hospitals and hospices, long-term care facilities and nursing homes, urgent care clinics, primary care practices and clinics, and correctional facilities.

Resources for Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners

  • The AANP states its mission is to "empower all NPs to advance quality healthcare" and does so by providing educational and professional resources to all NPs, regardless of specialization. In addition to hosting continuing education opportunities and conferences, the AANP also involves advocacy, promoting the NP role through legislative changes.
  • GAPNA offers a professional community for NPs who specialize in providing healthcare to adults. The group publishes a scholarly journal and resources, including toolkits and an online library. Students can also join and take advantage of the career center. Members may attend two GAPNA conferences: the general annual conference and a pharmacology conference.
  • Founded in 1896, this organization represents millions of RNs in many different positions. The group advocates for nurses at both the state and federal legislative levels. ANA is part of the same group that provides NP certification — the American Nurses Credentialing Center — as well.
  • Based primarily in Houston, Texas, the NBNPA is a nonprofit group that fosters community and connections between Black NPs. Nurses can continue learning about their profession through webinars and other events, and they can search for jobs through the career center. Students pursuing MSN degrees may apply for scholarships to help fund their studies.
  • The AGS connects healthcare professionals — including NPs, physicians, and others — who provide care to older people. The organization hosts several programs, including an annual scientific meeting and initiatives to help people with Alzheimer's and dementia. Members can access education and clinical tools and read the group newsletter to stay on top of the industry's latest news.

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