Becoming a Geriatric Nurse: Salary Info & Job Description

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A geriatric nurse's median annual salary is around $67,000, but is it worth the lengthy education requirements? Read real job descriptions and see the truth about career prospects to decide if becoming a geriatric nurse is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Geriatric Nurse

Becoming a geriatric nurse gives you the opprtunity to work with older and elderly adults, which can be very rewarding. But to know whether this career is right for you, first take a look at the pros and cons listed below.

Pros of a Career as a Geriatric Nurse
High demand field (19% projected growth through 2022)*
Wide variety of jobs available****
Global job market*
Well-paying job ($67,000 median salary for nurses in 2014)*
Higher pay at the advanced practice level ($67,000-$106,000 salary range in 2015)**
Job satisfaction*

Cons of a Career as a Geriatric Nurse
Initial education requirements (4-6+ years)*
Evening and weekend shifts*
Continuing education and credentialing requirements***
Management of multiple patients*
Emotional strain*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com, ***American Nurses Credentialing Center, ****Multiple job listings from May 2012

Career Information

Nurses working with older patients specialize in what is called gerontological care, and are often called geriatric nurses. Depending upon your skill level, you might provide basic, daily care, or you might oversee and coordinate all the care that your patients receive, liaising between therapy providers, social workers, psychologists, doctors and other nurses and aides.

Gerontological care providers work in hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers and senior living campuses, as well as in private homes. In this work, you might also work more peripherally, performing intake interviews as patients come into a medical facility and working with families to ensure continued care as patients return home.

Salary and Job Prospects

According to the BLS, registered nurses earned median salaries of $67,000 in 2014 (www.bls.gov). Payscale.com reported a salary range of $67,000-$106,000 as of July 2015 for advanced practice nurses such as nurse practitioners. Nursing as an occupation is projected to grow by 19% through 2022, due to the needs of the aging population of baby boomers. At the advanced practice level, jobs for nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists are projected to be very plentiful.

The increase in the need for geriatric care comes at a time when hospitals are looking to discharge patients as quickly as possible. This has raised the need for care (and thus the number of job opportunities) in long-term care facilities and nursing homes, as well as in the field of home health care.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Education

To work as a nurse, you will need to earn an undergraduate degree in nursing, which will involve taking classes such as microbiology, anatomy, gerontological nursing and the basic concepts of care. During the course of your degree program, you will take clinical practicum courses, which will allow you to spend time in varying care settings practicing what you've learned in class.

Specializations in gerontological nursing are mostly available at the graduate level and generally lead to becoming a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or a nurse practitioner (NP). Master's degree programs in nursing involve clinical rotations in medical facilities and hospitals specializing in gerontological care.

If you already hold a master's degree in another field of nursing, you can earn a certificate in gerontological care. Certificate programs will generally be specifically designed to fit your educational needs, so that you won't repeat classes that are common to all graduate nursing degrees.

Licensing and Credentialing

All nurses need to be licensed, which is typically done after earning your undergraduate degree. You will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam, which is given by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

There are credentials for nurses who specialize in gerontological nursing, which are not typically required by employers but might help you to be hired for a specific position. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) administers credentialing for clinical nurse specialists and gerontological nurse practitioners.

Skills

As a nurse, you will need to be particularly sensitive to the issues facing the elderly. You will often be working with the families of your patients and will need to carefully balance patient confidentiality. You will also need to be compassionate and kind and be able to clearly communicate with your patients and other members of the care team involved. The ability to accurately document treatment is also critical with fragile patients.

What Kinds of Jobs Are Available?

Job postings for gerontological nurses generally require you to be licensed in the state you want to work in. Communications skills, the ability to use computers and the ability to work as a member of a team were mentioned in job ads as necessary skills. Educational requirements vary, but typically employers will ask you to have several years of experience if you do not have a master's degree. A sampling of positions that were advertised in May 2012 follows:

  • A senior living organization in Massachusetts advertised for a charge nurse with 2-5 years of experience to work overseeing the nursing floor. Candidate would delegate work, oversee patient care and manage patient intakes and discharges. RN license and experience working in long-term care were required.
  • A medical services provider sought a nurse practitioner to work in the greater Boston area providing health and risk assessments for patients in skilled care, assisted living and in-home settings. A master's degree, NP license and certification, access to transportation and good communication and collaborative skills were required.
  • A senior services company in Ohio posted a position for an RN supervisor to work in home health care. Two years of experience, preferably in home care or geriatrics, was required. Excellent communications and organizational skills were also required.
  • A hospice provider in Atlanta looked for a hospice triage nurse. A BSN, current state nursing license and three years of experience in geriatrics or medical/surgical nursing were required. Personal skills in compassion, reasoning, time management and organization were also required.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Earning a credential in gerontological nursing shows both dedication to your field and verify your work within it. To apply to take the certification exam, you need to be a licensed RN, have two years of full-time nursing experience and have 2,000 hours of clinical practice within the previous three years. Additionally, you need to have completed 30 hours of continuing education in gerontological nursing in the last three years. Renewals are required every five years.

Other Career Possibilities

Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse

If four or more years of education aren't on your radar screen at this point, you might want to look into becoming an licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). This work involves providing basic nursing care to patients under the direction of nurses and doctors. You will need to earn a certificate from an accredited program, which takes about a year, and be licensed, which involves passing an exam. There are a wide variety of places that hire LPNs and LVNs, and job prospects in this field are excellent. According to the BLS, LPNs and LVNs earned median salaries of $41,000 as of 2011.

Medical Services Manager

If you would prefer to coordinate the activities of a nursing home, rather than work in one, then you might find the field of medical services management more to your liking. These jobs typically require a bachelor's degree. According to the BLS, medical services managers earned median annual salaries of $86,000 in 2011. Jobs in this field were expected to grow by 22% from 2010-2020.

Nursing Instructor

Teaching nursing, which involves preparing and implementing lessons, advising students and grading their work, is an avenue that some nurses pursue after working in clinical practice for a few years. This might be a career choice to consider for later in your career, as it will likely require additional coursework or degrees. Nurse educators who teach at the community college level typically need master's degrees. Those who work at the university level are normally required to hold doctoral degrees with an emphasis in nursing education. Jobs for nursing educators are expected to be plentiful at the college level, given the need for nurses. Post-secondary nursing instructors earned median salaries of $64,000 in 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • RN to BSN
      • RN to BSN
    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Psychology - Gerontology
      • Education Specialist - Nursing Education
    Master's
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor - Nursing Practice
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
    Master's
      • MS - Nursing - Nursing Administration
      • MS - Nursing - Nursing Education
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Nursing (RN to BSN completion)
      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. The University of Scranton

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Health Administration
    Certificate
      • Executive Certificate in Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Health Care Management
      • Masters in Health Care Administration
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Acute Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Long Term Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Service Organization
    Bachelor's
      • RN to Bachelor of Science
  • Online Programs Available
    7. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - Gerontology
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Queens University of Charlotte

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Nursing: Undecided
      • Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Administrator
      • Master of Science in Nursing: Clinical Nurse Leader
      • Master of Science in Nursing: Clinical Nurse Leader Certificate
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Health and Human Services Administration
    Bachelor's
      • RN to Bachelors of Science in Nursing

Featured Schools

Keiser University

  • RN to BSN
  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Psychology - Gerontology
  • Education Specialist - Nursing Education
  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor - Nursing Practice
  • MS - Nursing - Nursing Administration
  • BS - Nursing (RN to BSN completion)

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The University of Scranton

  • MBA - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Health Administration
  • Executive Certificate in Health Administration

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Utica College

  • MBA - Health Care Management
  • Masters in Health Care Administration
  • RN to Bachelor of Science

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - Gerontology
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management

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Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Science in Nursing: Undecided
  • Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Administrator
  • Master of Science in Nursing: Clinical Nurse Leader

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