Career Information for a Degree in Nursing for Adults and Seniors

Sep 28, 2019

Nurses who are interested in working with adults and seniors may choose to specialize in the field of geriatric medicine. A registered nurse typically has an associate's or bachelor's degree, while nurse practitioners complete their master's degree and can opt to specialize in gerontology. A master's degree in gerontology will also qualify graduates to pursue a career as a postsecondary nurse educator.

Essential Information

Adult and senior nursing programs, also referred to as geriatrics or gerontology, are generally offered at the graduate level and lead to master's degrees or graduate certificates. Bachelor's degree nursing programs can also include courses in geriatric education, which may lead to a career as an adult and senior nurse. Regardless of the program, geriatric nursing education may cover topics in palliative care, common adult health problems, social issues in aging and frail elderly care.

Career Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner Nurse Educator
Education Requirements Bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN) or an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or passage of a credentialed nursing program Master's degree Master's degree
Additional Requirements Nursing license Nursing license; must be certified as a APRN Nursing license
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 12% 28% 20% for postsecondary nursing teachers and instructors
Median Salary (2018)* $71,730 $107,030 $73,490 for postsecondary nursing teachers and instructors

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Options

A degree in geriatric or gerontology nursing can prepare graduates to work in nursing homes, long-term care facilities and other environments where the majority of patients are adults and seniors. They prepare students to work as registered nurses, nurse practitioners or nursing educators in a variety of contexts involving care of the elderly. Nurses who work in nursing care facilities were expected to see faster than average growth in employment. Keep reading for an overview of three careers in the field of geriatric nursing.

Registered Nurse in Geriatrics

Registered nurses graduate from accredited undergraduate nursing degree programs, pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and obtain licensure to work within their state. They may work specifically with elderly and senior patients in hospital geriatrics wards, nursing homes or long-term care settings. Nurses who specialize in geriatrics need to be familiar with procedures for specific health concerns that occur more frequently in senior populations, such as incontinence, lack of mental clarity and reduced mobility. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports data for geriatric nurses with that of registered nurses. The BLS noted that the median annual salary for registered nurses in nursing care facilities was $71,730 in 2018. Employment opportunities for registered nurses was predicted to grow by 12% from 2018-2028.

Nurse Practitioner in Geriatrics

Nurse practitioners are RNs who hold master's degrees and, unlike registered nurses, have the authority to make autonomous decisions regarding patient care. In some states, they may prescribe medication without consulting a physician. Nurse practitioners who specialize in gerontology may work in hospitals, managed care facilities or health clinics. Depending on the setting, they function as primary healthcare providers for adult and senior patients. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for all nurse practitioners was $107,030 in 2018. The BLS also predicted that nurse practitioners will see a 28% growth in employment between 2018 and 2028.

Nurse Educator in Geriatrics

Nurse educators generally hold at least a master's degree in nursing in addition to their RN education. They teach new nurses how to conduct tests, take blood samples, administer medication and provide care in different settings. Geriatric nurse educators work in hospitals, colleges and universities to educate aspiring nurses on the concepts and procedures of geriatric nursing. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for postsecondary nursing instructors was $73,490 in 2018. Postsecondary nursing teachers and instructors are predicted to see a 20% growth in employment between 2018 and 2028.

Nurses in all fields can expect to see strong job growth from 2018-2028. It is possible to take geriatric studies while pursing a bachelor's degree in nursing, which helps prepare graduates for a career working with the elderly. Those with a master's degree can work as a nurse practitioner, or opt to teach nursing at a postsecondary institution.

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