According to the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF), a multi-organizational task force agreed upon six main specialties in the nurse practitioner field: family (i.e., across the lifespan), women’s health/gender-related, pediatric (acute care and primary care), neonatal, psychiatric mental health, and adult-gerontological. The adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (or AGNP) specialty—the first NP specialization to be defined—is subdivided into acute care (AG-ACNP) and primary care (AG-PCNP). With the demand for adult healthcare services on the rise—particularly among the aging Baby Boomer population—there’s been a concurrent explosion in AGNP programs, including opportunities in distance-based education.
The standardization of accredited online AGNP programs has made pursuing graduate nursing degrees more convenient for aspiring NPs who live in rural regions or those with unbreakable time commitments necessitating some scheduling flexibility. Web-based AGNP schools typically have two components: online coursework and clinical practicums (i.e., supervised, hands-on training) to be completed at preceptors close to a student’s home.
According to the American Association of Colleges in Nursing (AACN), there are four components to the regulation of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), including NPs: licensure, accreditation, certification, and registration. For AGNPs, this involves pursuing a graduate degree—either a master of science in nursing (MSN), a post-master’s certificate (for NPs seeking a change in specialty), or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Prospective AGNPs are advised to seek out online AGNP programs accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN). Following graduation, these highly trained NPs typically pursue certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), or the American Association of Critical-care Nurses (AACN). Check out the certification section below to learn more about this step.
So what do AGNPs typically do? These healthcare professionals provide a wealth of services such as diagnosing health problems; developing treatment plans; prescribing medication; offering preventative care; performing physical examinations; collaborating with other specialized NPs and physicians; ordering laboratory analyses; giving counseling; and educating patients about best practices for optimal health. The AANP (2018) reports that AG is one of the largest NP subfields, finding that 15.7 percent of the more than 248,000 working NPs nationwide are in adult care, as well as 4.4 percent in the AG-PCNP area, and 2 percent working in AG-ACNP.
As mentioned above, AGNPs must have at least an MSN degree to qualify for national certification, although the DNP is increasingly becoming adopted as the new standard of educational preparation. In fact, the AACN reported that this more advanced preparation may be preferable for several reasons, including the widespread concern about patient safety; the shortage of doctorally-prepared nursing faculty in university programs; and the fact that other medical disciplines have practice-focused doctorates (e.g., PsyD, DPT, MD, DDS, etc). Some schools such as the prestigious Johns Hopkins University (JHU) are even retiring their online MSN programs in the AGNP specialty in favor of the DNP degree.
Read on to discover the growing opportunities in accredited, online AGNP education, including the enrollment prerequisites, coursework, various academic pathways, and certification.
NursePractitionerSchools.com compiled a database of over 640 online NP programs across the U.S. that offer MSN, post-master’s certificate, and/or DNP degrees. To be considered an “online program,” the institution had to require fewer than 10 visits to the campus over the entire duration of studies. The programs were ranked by total (not annual) program tuition for out-of-state students, although it’s important to note that these figures do not include any additional fees.
Please note that this data was collected between 2017 and 2018. The utmost efforts were made to ensure the accuracy of all information, but the tuition and availability of certain degree programs evolve over time. Also, while a majority of the programs listed are at the MSN level, some of these institutions also provide affordable post-master’s certificate and DNP options with similar cost-per-credit figures. Aspiring AGNPs with questions not answered in this analysis are encouraged to contact program coordinators directly. To add programs or correct existing information, please contact us.
The application materials for distance-based AGNP programs vary by academic pathway (e.g., ADN-to-MSN, BSN-to-DNP, etc) and by school. In order to qualify for an online AGNP program, applicants are typically expected to submit the following:
Typical admissions requirements to online DNP-AGNP programs include:
While Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores aren’t generally mandatory for online AGNP programs, there are exceptions such as the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Arkansas. Some schools may waive their GRE or MAT requirements for candidates with especially high GPAs or following a portfolio review. Additionally, applicants to the online MSN-to-DNP programs in the AGNP field may also be required to have achieved professional certification.
In online MSN programs, AGNP classes in both acute and primary care typically include:
Online AG-ACNP programs may also involve classes such as complex & acute illness or complex & chronic disease management. In online AG-PCNP programs, coursework may include human development throughout the lifespan and adolescent & adult health.
Online AGNP-DNP programs share much of the core coursework with other NP specialties, and classes typically include:
In all online AGNP programs, students are also expected to complete between 600 (MSN) and 1,000 (DNP) clinical hours at approved preceptor sites close to their homes.
For students across all distance-based NP programs, ensuring one’s eligibility is extremely important. There are differing regional restrictions regarding the provision of online education. These are typically listed on online AGNP program pages or in the “state authorization” section of a university’s website.
One of the largest regional agreements in place surrounding the delivery of online schooling is the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), a compact agreement between all states except for Massachusetts and California.
Above all, AGNP students are cautioned to ensure that they’re able to enroll in web-based programs from their state of residence, and should contact program coordinators with any questions.
Finally, aspiring AGNP graduate students are advised to screen their online NP schools for their accreditation status. As mentioned in the introduction, there are two main entities which accredit nursing programs in the US: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc.(ACEN). To learn more about this process, please consult individual accreditation websites or the eponymous section of the main online NP programs page
Luckily for people with associate degrees in nursing (ADN) or RNs with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees, there are some online AGNP programs available. For the post-ADN option, programs may confer a bachelor of science (BSN) degree en route. Although the distance-based RN-to-MSN degrees in the AGNP field are more limited than programs open to post-BSN candidates, there are some accredited options available.
For example, George Washington University (GWU) offers a three-year online RN-to-MSN AGNP “bridge” program for candidates with bachelor’s degrees in non-nursing fields. GWU only requires four campus visits during the AG-PCNP program: a new student orientation, a Campus Learning and Skills Intensive (CLASI), an Objective Structured Clinical Examinations period (OSCEs), and a final Program Test Out. Available in both part- and full-time formats, this online AG-PCNP program provides 48 semester hours of coursework in areas such as evidence-based practice for healthcare researchers; biostatistics for healthcare researchers; concepts in population health; and four AG-PCNP intensive classes. Students are also required to complete at least 625 clinical hours at preceptor sites close to their homes. Please note that there’s also a new AG-ACNP program at GWU, but it requires substantially more campus visitation than the established PC option.
South University of Savannah provides an online AG-PCNP program for candidates who are RNs. Offering both a BSN and an MSN following completion of 221 credits of coursework, this rigorous online program focuses on community-based healthcare, especially for at-risk populations. In addition to general education requirements, classes include anatomy & physiology, human pathophysiology, medical terminology, caring for the community, leadership in a diverse society, financial management for nurses, gerontological care, and advanced health & physical assessment.
Please note that both of these programs are also available to candidates with BSN degrees. While the number of credits and time to complete an online RN-to-MSN program varies by program and prior coursework, this pathway typically takes at least three years of full-time work to complete. To learn more about RN-to-MSN programs in the AGNP field, please check out the appropriate section of the online nurse practitioner programs page.
There’s a wider variety of distance-based AGNP-MSN programs to candidates who have BSN degrees. Please note that these programs can also be taken as post-master’s certificates for NPs seeking to change specialties.
For example, George Washington University provides online MSN degrees in both the acute (AG-ACNP) and primary (AG-PCNP) specialties. In its AG-ACNP program, students take courses such as concepts in population health, nursing leadership, and advanced pharmacology for nursing. The first cohort of this program will matriculate in fall 2016 and GWU advises that they be “local” due to the relatively high number of campus visits required, although this may change in the future. The AG-PCNP program, by contrast, only requires four campus visits. This program takes two years of full-time work (three years part-time), requiring 625 clinical hours and 48 credits of classes such as genetics for healthcare providers and four advanced AG-PCNP courses.
The University of Alabama (UAB) offers online programs in both the AC and PC AGNP subspecialties. Both the online AG-ACNP and AG-PCNP programs require 600 clinical hours and 44 credit hours of classes such as leadership in advanced nursing practice roles, healthcare systems for advanced nursing practice, and pharmacology & therapeutics. Further specialization in advanced forensic nursing, palliative care, and “RN first assist” is open to AG-ACNP students. For AG-PCNP students, subspecialization is available in forensic nursing, palliative care, and oncology. In both the AC and PC programs, students are required to travel to campus four times: once for orientation and three times for multi-day intensives. Notably, UAB was ranked 15th nationwide among US News & World Report’s top MSN programs.
Grand Canyon University provides an online MSN program in the AG-ACNP subfield. This 53 credit, distance-based program features classes such as theoretical foundations for nursing roles & practice; healthcare research analysis & utilization; ethics, policy & finance in the healthcare system; scope of practice, documentation & billing; and advanced pharmacology for acute care.
Georgetown University also offers an online MSN program in the AG-ACNP field, involving 600 clinical hours and 40 credits of classes such as healthcare ethics; anatomy for healthcare professionals; research methods & biostatistics for healthcare providers; diagnostic reasoning & clinical decision-making; and health policy. Georgetown’s AG-ACNP program takes only 23 months to complete and requires a total of six campus visits.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences provides part-time, online AG-ACNP and AG-PCNP programs requiring minimal campus visitation. In its distance-based AC option, students take classes in research methodology, community concepts in advanced nursing practice, advanced health assessment & diagnostic reasoning, and adult-gerontology acute care theory. In the online PC program, coursework includes advanced clinical expertise, development of differential diagnoses, clinical leadership, and advocacy (i.e., patient agency). Both part-time pathways typically take 3-3.5 years to complete.
Other notable online MSN-AGNP programs include those at Clarkson College, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Delta State University, and Duke University (among others), many of which are also offered as post-master’s certificates. While completion time and number of credits required varies by program, they typically take two years (full-time) or three years (part-time). To discover the rich variety of online MSN programs in the AG-ACNP or AG-PCNP specialties, check out the online programs page.
For non-APRN master’s graduates (e.g., nurse educators and administrators) and post-MSN NPs seeking a new specialization in adult-gerontology, pursuing an online AGNP certificate can be an attractive option. Please note that a majority of the online MSN-AGNP programs are also offered as certificates.
The University of South Alabama (USA) provides online post-MSN certificates in both the AC and PC subfields of adult-gerontology, both requiring minimal campus visitation. In its online AG-ACNP certificate program, USA provides instruction in areas such as evidence-based practice & quality improvement in healthcare; advanced nursing assessment; scientific underpinnings of advanced nursing practice; healthcare policy & finance; and health promotion/disease prevention & issues for adult-gerontology acute care. The online AG-PCNP certificate program features coursework in pharmacology for advanced practice nurses; physio-pathological basis of advanced nursing; and assessment of vulnerable populations.
The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University offers an online certificate in the AG-PCNP specialty with classes such as professional role development; research methodology, clinical management of older adults, and theories of nursing.
Additional online post-master’s certificates of note in the AGNP subfield are available at East Carolina University, Maryville University, the University of Missouri—Kansas City, Northern Kentucky University, and Monmouth University, among others. The number of credits and coursework varies by program, but distance-based AGNP post-master’s certificates typically take between 18 months and two years of full-time study to complete. To discover the broad array of online post-MSN certificates available, please consult the online nurse practitioner schools page.
As mentioned in the introduction, the new gold standard in nursing preparation is the doctor of nursing (DNP). These programs offer a more practice-focused alternative to a PhD program, and they generally involve not only the completion of distance-based coursework and clinical practicums, but also a scholarly project (i.e., capstone course) as well. Fortunately for qualified, aspiring AGNPs, there’s a growing selection of accredited online DNP programs in both the AG-ACNP and AG-PCNP fields.
By illustration, Brandman University provides an online BSN-to-DNP program in the AG-ACNP specialty. Involving both online course delivery and limited 3-5 day immersion sessions on its Irvine, CA campus, Brandman’s competitive, 73-credit program has training in areas such as healthcare policy, organization & delivery; genetics across the lifespan; palliative care & pain management; health communication; transforming healthcare through outcomes measurement; innovations in technology & information access; and complex and chronic problems in adult-gerontology acute care.
The University of Arkansas also offers an online BSN-to-DNP program for AGNP specialists in the acute care role. The rigorous 79-credit curricula has instruction in role development; evidence-based practice & innovations in nursing; epidemiology; healthcare informatics; pharmacotherapeutics; and organizational management & systems leadership. At just $409.94 per credit hour, this is also one of the more affordable online DNPs available in this specialty.
The world-renowned University of Massachusetts at Amherst provides an online BSN-to-DNP in the AG-PCNP specialty. It offers a unique selection of classes such as primary healthcare of adolescents & adults; organizational behavior; leadership of public health systems; complex health problems in primary care for patients; and pharmacotherapy management. Please note that GRE scores are required for the BSN-to-DNP applicants, but not for the post-master’s DNP pathway.
Online DNP programs are expected to flourish on into the future. Other notable distance-based AGNP DNP programs were available at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Missouri—Kansas City, and Rush University, among others. The online BSN-to-DNP programs vary, but typically take at least three years of full-time (or five years of part-time) study.
For practicing AGNPs seeking the terminal degree in the discipline, there’s a variety of online DNP programs available, including the programs featured above, which typically accommodate post-MSN students as well. Please note that at this level, much of the leadership-oriented coursework is shared with other NP specialties, although original research (i.e., capstone projects) and clinical hours are generally completed in one’s field of expertise.
The University of Michigan—Flint provides a part-time online DNP program featuring 33 to 36 credits of coursework (depending a student’s prior studies). This school has classes such as biostatistics for advanced practice in healthcare; advanced transcultural care; healthcare research; organizational & administrative theory; theoretical perspectives in the discipline of nursing for advanced practice; informatics; nursing education; and health policy & economics.
The University of Massachusetts at Amherst also offers an online, 36-42 credit DNP program with classes including healthcare quality; organizational behavior; defining evidence for problems & solutions; and several practicums.
Lastly, the University of Nebraska Medical Center has an online, 35-credit DNP program for AGNPs with instruction in clinical inquiry; methods for assessing clinical practice outcomes; healthcare economics & financial management; epidemiology; changing complex systems to improve healthcare delivery; and transformational leadership.
There is a wealth of online post-master’s DNP programs available. In addition to the schools featured in the BSN-to-DNP section, additional terminal degrees in the AGNP discipline can be found at the University of Arizona, the University of Arkansas, and Kent State University, among others. Please note that MSN-to-DNP adult-gerontology nurse practitioner programs typically involve at least 35 credit hours of coursework, 500 clinical hours, and two years of full-time study.
In order to practice as an AG-ACNP or AG-PCNP, national credentialing is typically required. To qualify, candidates typically must have the following:
Multiple organizations provide AGNP credentialing. First, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers two “board certified” certifications: the AGACNP-BC and the AGPCNP-BC. These are each valid for five years, and can be renewed following the completion of 75 hours of continuing education (CE) and 1,000 practice hours. Please note that 25 hours must be completed in the field of pharmacotherapeutics. Since renewal requirements evolve, check out the ANCC Renewal Requirements Handbook for the latest standards.
The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) provides two acute care NP certifications which are valid for five years: adult and adult-gerontological, and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) provides an additional five-year AG-PCNP certification. For a detailed examination of the certification options open of AGNPs, check out the credentialing websites or the adult-gerontology NP programs or how to become a nurse practitioner pages.