Geriatric Nurses


Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you are interested in a gerontological nursing career, be prepared to continue your education after high school. You should take a general college preparatory curriculum, which will include studies in history, social sciences, science, math, English, and computer science. Science and math classes, such as biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, and geometry, will be particularly important to take. Taking four years of English classes is also recommended because these classes will enhance your ability to research, write, and speak effectively. In addition, you should consider taking a foreign language, which will further broaden your communication skills.

Postsecondary Training

To work as a gerontological nurse, you must first become a registered nurse (RN). There are three basic kinds of training programs that you can choose from to become an RN: associate's degree programs, diploma programs, and bachelor's degree programs. The associate in arts in nursing is awarded after completion of a two-year program, which is usually offered by junior or community colleges. You receive hospital training at cooperating hospitals in the general vicinity of the community college. The diploma program, which usually lasts three years, is conducted by hospitals and independent schools. Perhaps the best route, however, is the bachelor's degree program. One reason is that you will have more time to study a variety of topics in a four-year bachelor's program. As the need for geriatric nurses has grown, more and more bachelor's programs have begun to incorporate classes on gerontological nursing or care of older adults into their core curriculums. Another reason to pursue this degree is that it will give you the most career mobility. This is because a bachelor's degree is required for most supervisory or administrative positions, for jobs in public health agencies, and for admission to graduate nursing programs. The bachelor's of science (B.S.) in nursing is offered by colleges and universities and requires four (in some cases, five) years to complete. Besides taking courses to fulfill your college's general requirements, typical courses you may encounter in a B.S. nursing program include health assessment, pharmacology, nursing care of adults, health policy and issues, gerontological nursing, and management strategies. Once you have completed any one of these three programs, you must take and pass a licensing examination that is required in all states to become an RN.

So how do you get the title gerontological nurse once you are an RN? You'll need to gain experience working in gerontology, and, if you fulfill other requirements, you can become certified as a gerontological nurse by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. If you would like to advance into a specialty position, a position with more responsibilities, or a position teaching at a college or university, you will need to get further education. With a master's degree, you can work as a gerontological nurse practitioner or a clinical specialist in gerontological nursing. Nurses in these advanced positions are able to diagnose and treat common illnesses. In addition, they can have prescriptive authority; that is, they can write prescriptions for their patients. Nurses wanting to pursue research need to complete a doctorate degree. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing ( accredits all types of nursing programs offering a certificate, diploma, undergraduate, or graduate degree. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (, part of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, also accredits nursing programs. Both groups provide information on these approved programs. 


The New York University College of Nursing, in collaboration with the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, offers a post-master's advanced certificate in gerontology with a special focus on interprofessional primary care for older adults with multiple chronic conditions. Visit for more information. 

Some colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate certificates in gerontological nursing and related fields. Contact schools in your area to learn more.  

Other Education or Training

The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists and the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association provide webinars, classes, workshops, and other continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Certification is available from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and is highly recommended. Candidates with one of the three educational backgrounds (associate's degrees, diplomas, and bachelor's degrees), current RN licenses, and a certain amount of experience in the area of practice (gerontology) are eligible to take specialty and informatics exams. Upon passing one of these tests, they are board certified and can use the initials RN-BC after their names. They can also earn become certified as gerontological clinical nurse specialists, adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialists, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners, and in other categories. Additionally, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses offers several applicable certifications.

All states and the District of Columbia require practicing nurses to be licensed.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Nursing students should gain experience by completing several nursing internships, or clinical rotations (ideally in geriatric nursing), as part of their postsecondary training. Geriatric nurses typically obtain some experience (one to three years) as a staff nurse before entering geriatric nursing.

Geriatric nurses should enjoy working with and being around older people. They must have a general interest in aging and understand the problems related to growing older. The geriatric nurse must have the ability to get along with the patient's family members and must be able to work well with other professionals such as hospice nurses, chaplains, and social workers. Being able to work as part of a team is essential since many people may become involved in the health care and health needs of the elderly person. Communication skills are also essential. The nurse must be able to communicate with the family and the patient and explain medical terminology and procedures to them so they understand what is being done and why.