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

After completing a nursing degree and becoming licensed as a registered nurse (RN), many nurses may wish to further their education. A common avenue is to become a nurse practitioner (NP)—and adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AGPCNPs) are one of the many specialists in this profession. AGPCNPs work closely with patients ranging from teenagers to older adults. They serve these populations in locations that include hospitals, health clinics and nursing homes. 

Completing an advanced degree may open a world of possibilities for nurses. For some, this may lead to a higher salary—but importantly, NPs can also deepen their understanding of primary care. Another perk of becoming an AGPCNP is greater autonomy: nurse practitioners are able to diagnose illnesses, order lab tests, and prescribe medications in certain states—responsibilities that are typically reserved for a physician. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics places nurse practitioners among the top ten fastest-growing occupations in the country. 

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Steps to Become an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner 

There are a number of steps to take if you want to become an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner. Find below a detailed overview of each step, including information on educational requirements and certification.

1. Become a registered nurse. 

The road to becoming an AGPCNP typically begins by becoming an RN through one of three means: a nursing diploma, an associate degree in nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Upon completing one of those programs, a prospective nurse must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) before applying for a nursing license in the state of their choice. 

2. Apply to an adult nurse practitioner program. 

Next, nurses can apply to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program that’s accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Most nurse practitioner programs require RNs to have at least a year of experience in the nursing field. To learn skills specific to AGPCNPs, look for a program with a concentration in adult-gerontology primary care. MSN programs typically range from two to three years but may take longer for students studying on a part-time basis or those who do not have a BSN and need to complete additional coursework. For the latter group, a direct entry BSN-MSN program is an option.  

3. Gain work experience in the field. 

Complete a minimum of 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours related to the adult nurse practitioner role and population. This requirement is for the ANCC Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Board Certification and  Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (A-GNP) certification, which you’ll read more about below.

4. Obtain national certification. 

AGPCNPs must obtain a certification from a professional organization as a requirement for practice. There are two types of certifications for AGPCNPs: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Board Certification (AGPCNP-BC) from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (A-GNP) certification from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). You’ll be required to take an exam for both of these certifications.

5. Become a licensed as a nurse practitioner in your state and maintain certification.

Once you become certified, you must apply for a state license. Each state grants nurse practitioners different authorities in a healthcare setting—so depending on your state, a physician might have to supervise your practice. While some states grant full practice, others grant reduced or restricted practice, so this could factor into where you decide to obtain your AGPCNP license.  

Your state certification must be renewed every five years. In addition to renewing certification through the certifying board, renewal through the state is required. You may need to complete additional continuing education contact hours to renew your state certification.

Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP Certification 

Like all nurse practitioners, aspiring AGPCNPs must become certified before applying for a state license to practice. The two certifications for this field are the AGPCNP-BC and the A-GNP. Each certification’s exam is unique, so it is recommended to research and determine which aligns with your strengths and goals. Find below an overview of each certification exam and certification renewal terms.

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Board Certification (AGPCNP-BC)

The Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Board Certification (AGPCNP-BC) is offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The exam takes up to 3.5 hours and consists of 175 questions about clinical content, nursing theory, and professional topics.

Eligibility Requirements: 

  • Hold an active RN license  
  • Hold a master’s, postgraduate, or doctoral degree from an accredited adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner program 
  • Complete 500 supervised clinical hours

Fee for Certification: 

  • $395 for nonmembers 
  • $290 for student members of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners
  • $295 for members of the American Nurses Association
  • $340 for members of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners or the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association

Renewal Information: 

  • Renewal is required every five years
  • Complete 75 continuing education hours in specialty area  
  • Pay renewal fee

Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Certification (A-GNP)

As stated earlier, the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (A-GNP) certification is offered by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). The exam is multiple choice and focuses only on clinical content. 

Eligibility Requirements: 

  • Hold an active RN license
  • Hold a master’s, postgraduate, or doctoral degree from an accredited adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner program 

Fee for Certification: 

  • $315 for nonmembers 
  • $240 for members of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners   

Renewal Information:

  • Renewal is required every five years
  • Complete a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours and 100 continuing education hours in specialty 
  • Nonmembers must pay a renewal fee of $195 
  • AANP members must pay a renewal fee of $120

State Nursing Licensure Information

AGPCNP Resources

Whether you’re a professional looking to network or a nursing student preparing for your future, there are resources online that may help you achieve your goals and guide you. Below is a list of organizations and resources dedicated to adult-gerontology primary care nursing: 

  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners. AANP is a dues-collecting professional organization that connects nurse practitioners with others in their area and publishes news from the nursing field.
  • Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association. This organization offers continuing education conferences for gerontology nurse practitioners. 
  • American Geriatrics Society. AGS is a nonprofit dedicated to educating healthcare professionals and funding research in the field of geriatrics.
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center. ANCC offers one of the board certifications (AGPCNP-BC) for adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners. On their site, you’ll find faculty resources, professional development tools, a current list of professional events and more.
    American Society on Aging. ASA is a membership organization of healthcare professionals who work with aging adults. They publish Aging Today, a bimonthly newspaper for professionals in the field. 
  • Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders. Also known as NICHE, this international nursing education program is supported by NYU’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing and provides consultation to nurses working with the elderly. 
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care and Primary Care NP Competencies [PDF, 426 KB]. This document, put together by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and published in 2016, outlines the unique role of the adult-gerontology NP.
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification Review, 2019. Authored by JoAnn Zerwekh, who holds a Doctor of Education and founded Nursing Education Consultants Inc., this exam study guide closely mirrors the AANP and ANCC test blueprints for adult-gerontology primary care NPs. The book contains more than 1,400 practice questions, some of which are illustration-based. You can purchase the paperback book on Elsevier and an electronic version on Amazon.


Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the field of adult-gerontology primary care, including the daily responsibilities, job outlook, and estimated salaries.

What is an adult-gerontology primary care nurse?

An adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP) is a nurse that specializes in the medical care of adults ages 13 and up. They care for patients, whether their ailments are episodic or chronic. AGPCNPs are classified as advanced practice nurses, which means they have gained advanced education through a master’s or doctoral degree program.

Within the realm of adult gerontology, there are two specialties: adult-gerontology acute care and adult-gerontology primary care. As opposed to a primary care nurse practitioner, an acute care nurse practitioner works with patients that are dealing with critical conditions. 

As the aging population continues to grow, nurses are becoming more and more central to the U.S. healthcare system. Nurse practitioners are increasingly important because they have the authority and expertise to step in amid shortages of physician. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of nurse practitioners is expected to grow 52 percent from 2020 to 2030

What does an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner do?

Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners have a range of responsibilities which vary depending on the setting and geographic location in which they work. Their day-to-day may include performing routine examinations, administering immunizations, ordering lab tests, and educating patients about their health. AGPCNPs also focus on preventive care—they analyze patients’ potential risks for illnesses or health complications and provide guidance to minimize the onset of certain conditions.

The adult-gerontology primary care scope of practice, or the responsibilities they are legally authorized to perform, varies by state. Nurse practitioners have the ability to prescribe certain medicines, but they may be limited in what they can prescribe or require the supervision of a doctor, depending on their location. In certain states, NPs can even practice medicine independently within a private practice. 

Where does an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner work?

AGPCNPs can work in a variety of healthcare settings. Many work in hospitals and physicians’ offices, but there are those who are also employed by private practices, nursing homes, homebound individuals, universities, pharmacies, and health clinics. Work as an AGPCNP can be high-pressure, but also rewarding. Each of these environments offers a different experience, so it is important to research which is the best fit for you.

For instance, nurses in long-term care facilities work with elders who are nearing the ends of their lives. These nurse practitioners focus on patients with chronic conditions, adjusting their treatments and therapies as necessary. On the other hand, nurse practitioners who work at walk-in health clinics diagnose and treat the ailments of a high-volume of new patients each day. 

How much does an adult-gerontology primary care nurse make?

Nurse practitioners have numerous opportunities for potential employment. The BLS reported that the median annual salary for nurse practitioners in 2020 was $111,680. A 2017 study published in South Medicine Journal showed that there was little difference between the lifetime earnings of a geriatric physician and an AGPCNP when adjusted for student loans. 

Nursing salaries tend to vary by geographical location too, so state-by-state nursing salary data can be a useful tool when determining where to practice.

Last updated in October 2021.