Geriatric Nurse Programs by Degree Program Level

Students can pursue a certificate in licensed practical nursing (LPN), earn a bachelor's degree and become a registered nurse or study at the master's level and achieve certification and licensure as a geriatric nurse practitioner.

Essential Information

Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) programs teach students to perform the basic tasks of nursing. Students who have completed LPN training may qualify for enrollment in accelerated bachelor's programs in nursing. Admission to a geriatric care master's programs typically entails prior completion of a nursing bachelor's program, and some schools also want applicants to have nursing experience. In addition to classroom work, all of these programs require extensive clinical experience in healthcare facilities. Master's programs generally offer an online option.

Licensed Practical Nursing Certificate

Many licensed practical nurses work in the field of geriatrics, providing basic bedside care and assisting patients with everyday activities such as dressing, bathing and personal hygiene. Under the supervision of a physician or registered nurse, LPNs may measure and record vital signs, assist during exams or procedures, give injections and enemas, dress wounds and provide therapeutic massages.

A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for this certificate program. Training in practical nursing is provided by many junior colleges, community colleges and technical schools. Certificate programs for LPNs lasts 18 months to 2 years, and include pertinent courses in topics like:

  • Patient assessment
  • Evaluating care
  • Promoting health and nutrition
  • Wellness/Illness programs

Most programs also include courses in family, adult and older adult health issues. Every state in the union and the District of Columbia require graduates to pass a licensing examination.

Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

Registered nurses are qualified to develop a treatment plan or assist in treatment development, then put that plan into motion by administering medications, performing tests in the home, hospital or medical office and consulting with family members regarding the patient's condition. A registered nursing program bachelor's degree program usually consists of 4 to 5 years of classroom and clinical training.

Since registered nursing programs are run through colleges, universities or medical facilities, all applicants must provide both student transcripts and SAT scores. Outstanding scores in biology and other sciences are encouraged, along with pertinent volunteer work in a medical setting. Many colleges also offer a fast-track program for qualified licensed practical nursing. An LPN certificate is required to be admitted into the bachelor's program.

Along with a liberal arts curriculum, registered nursing studies in geriatric care include courses in:

  • Health appraisal over the lifespan
  • Lifespan development
  • Adult healthcare theory and practice

Many colleges give nursing students the opportunity to study special topics related to geriatric nursing, such as acute care and adult primary care. Others offer a senior care practicum where students can make use of the school's senior and rehabilitation clinical sites.

Master of Science in Nursing/Geriatric Care

Many universities and medical centers offer advanced degree programs for geriatric care. MSN-NP programs train registered nurses to work as licensed nurse practitioners.

Programs require that students provide transcripts, proving that they have graduated with a bachelor's degree from a credited nursing school with at least a 3.0 grade point average. A current nursing license copy is required, along with experience in the field. Each school has different experience prerequisites. Unless the student has a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher, he or she will need to pass the Graduate Record Examination. In this case, the applicant will also need to have an in-person interview with the nursing department.

Students get in-depth knowledge of critical decision-making, diagnosis, case management, maintenance and restoration of health and counseling patients toward promoting death with dignity. Pertinent courses are provided online and on site. These include:

  • Health promotion/disease prevention
  • Older adult policy
  • Acute and chronic illnesses
  • Management of the frail elderly

There is a clinical practice requirement, usually between 120 to 240 hours in a clinical environment, before graduation.

Employment Prospects and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) ( estimates that hiring for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses will climb 16% between 2014 and 2024. The mean wage earned by licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses amounted to $44,030, but LPNs who work in nursing care facilities earned a higher average wage, $45,060 per year. Those working for home health care services also earned a higher than average rate, $45,460 annually (wages are based on BLS figures, May 2015).

The BLS projects that job opportunities for registered nurses will rise 16% from 2014 to 2024. May 2015 BLS wage figures indicated that registered nurses earned an average wage of $71,000 annually.

Earning a master's degree can prepare graduates to move into nursing care facility management. The BLS estimated that the job growth for medical and health services managers, including those working for nursing facilities, will grow at a faster rate than the national average, 17%, between 2014 and 2024. The May 2015 mean wage figures for medical and health services managers was $106,070, and the annual average wage for managers in home health care was $95,260.

Individuals interested in a career in geriatric nursing can begin their education with an LPN certificate and continue their education in nursing all the way through a bachelor's or master's degree where they can specialize in geriatric nursing. These programs consist of coursework and clinical experience to prepare for a career in nursing.

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