FAQ: Are there any online post-master’s AGNP certificate programs?

Answer: Yes! There are many online adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP) post-master’s certificate programs available from high-quality, accredited institutions.

Post-master’s certificates are designed for registered nurses (RNs) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who currently hold a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or higher and are looking to specialize in the acute or primary care of individuals ranging from adolescence to advanced age. Students in this field can complete a certificate program in one to four years.

The role of an AGNP depends on the sub-specialization in which the RN gains mastery. Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AGNP-ACs) specialize in diagnosing and treating acutely ill patients, often in inpatient settings. Through monitoring, diagnosis, medication, and referral, the central goal for an AGNP-AC is to make sure sick patients recover as quickly as possible, avoid complications from the illness, and in the case of serious illness, receive the appropriate palliative care.

While the role of AGNP-ACs focuses on the reactive, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AGNP-PCs) focus on the preventive. In providing primary care services to adults of all ages, AGNP-PCs focus on preventative care, promoting behavioral changes that foster improved health, and providing patients with long-term strategies for the management of chronic illness. AGNP-PCs provide patient-centered care where they come to know the patient, the context of a patient’s health history and present, and work toward the ultimate goal of fostering lifelong health and wellness for them.

Common Admissions Requirements for Online Post-MSN AGNP Certificate Programs

Each institution offering a post-master’s certificate in AGNP has unique requirements that prospective students must meet before admission. Those who apply for a post-MSN in AGNP should ensure that they understand the unique requirements for each program by carefully reading admissions websites and by speaking with admissions officers.

Education Requirements

A post-master’s AGNP certificate typically requires candidates to have an earned MSN from programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commision for Education in Nursing (ACEN). In some circumstances, students who have graduated from a non-accredited MSN program will be considered for admission if they meet other admissions requirements.

Students also need to demonstrate academic competency through a minimum GPA in their MSN program. Most GPA thresholds stand at 3.0, although more competitive or rigorous programs may expect higher minimum GPAs. Because post-master’s AGNP certificate programs are designed for those who have already completed masters-level coursework, GRE scores typically are not required for admission.

Licensure, Certification, and Experiential Requirements

All post-master’s AGNP applicants must have an unencumbered RN license in the state in which they plan to complete their clinical hours. Some programs also expect applicants to have an unencumbered APRN license and be board-certified through national certification bodies such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Some programs also require applicants to be certified in specific skills, such as advanced cardiac support before admission. Many programs expect applicants to have at least one year of practical clinical experience or a certain number of hours in a clearly delineated time frame (e.g., 1,000 hours in the past year of practice). Resumes or CVs must be submitted for proof of clinical experience.

Other Admissions Requirements

Many nursing schools only offer their online programs to residents of specific states due to state regulations. Applicants should ensure that their desired online post-master’s AGNP program is offered to residents of their state.

Applicants also need to submit personal statements or essays demonstrating why they are interested in specializing in AGNP and may need to provide up to three letters of reference from professional sources.

Length of an Online Post-Master’s AGNP Certificate Program

The time required to complete an online post-MSN AGNP certificate varies widely depending on the program and the previous academic experience of the APRN applying. Generally, AGNP certificate programs comprise core nursing courses and specialty AGNP courses. These programs take anywhere from one to four years, depending on whether a student is full- or part-time, as well as their previous coursework completed.

Some programs are static and requirements are the same for every student, while others are customized around a student’s knowledge and experience. In individualized certificate course plans, students who have already earned an MSN may transfer previous core credits. The more overlap between the applicant’s previous MSN courses and the post-masters coursework, the shorter the time to completion will be.

Another factor in the amount of time it takes to complete an online post-MSN AGNP certificate program is whether a student chooses to study part- or full-time. Students choosing to study full-time will finish the program in a shorter timeline than part-time students. Part-time study will take longer but could be a better option for those who wish to continue working full-time. Students who choose full-time study can expect to complete a post-master’s AGNP certificate in one to two years. Part-time students may take two to four years.

Online Post-Master’s AGNP Certificate Program Requirements

Admitted students must fulfill the designated number of credits, which depends wholly on how the program is designed and can range from nine to 49 credits. APRNs who enroll in a post-MSN program may have to take fewer credits than students with non-clinical MSNs, such as nurse educators. Students also have to complete coursework at a certain level of mastery, often a “B” grade or higher.

Students also have to obtain a set number of clinical hours. Clinical hours are specific to each program but often fall between 500 and 700. Generally, programs have students complete the minimum amount of clinical hours needed to sit for board certification. Most online AGNP certificate programs allow students to complete their clinical hours close to home. Some programs put the responsibility of finding a preceptor on the student, while others offer preceptor pairing and assistance.

In some circumstances, programs expect students to complete clinical hours on campus or at approved sites close to the institution. Usually, these practical experiences are scheduled sparingly and as consecutive blocks of time to be minimally disruptive to those who choose to work while earning their post-MSN certificate.

Post-Master’s AGNP Curriculum and Sample Courses

Post-master’s AGNP certificate programs commonly comprise core nursing coursework, followed by specialty AGNP coursework. While all accepted students must complete all specialty coursework, the amount of required core coursework depends on the academic experience of the student.

In some circumstances, programs only offer the specialty coursework, admitting MSN students who have completed core nursing coursework before admission. Below are examples of the types of courses AGNP certificate students can expect to complete in a post-master’s certificate program:

Core Nursing Courses:

  • Health policy and advocacy
  • Advanced pathophysiology
  • Clinical pharmacology for advanced nursing practice
  • Advanced health assessment

Acute Care AGNP Courses:

  • Acute care procedures and diagnostics for the advanced practice nurse
  • Management of acutely ill adults
  • Acute and critical illness is adults
  • Differential diagnosis and management of acute disorders

Primary Care AGNP Courses:

  • Primary care management of adult/geriatric health and illness
  • Childbearing/childrearing
  • Primary care of adults and elders
  • Diagnosis and management, care of the older complex adult