Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist Program

100% Online » MSN, Post-Graduate Certificate, & DNP

Adult-Gerontology CNS Program Overview

Kent State's Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (AGCNS) program will prepare you for a unique, multi-faceted role in advanced nursing practice.

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) play an essential role in healthcare. Similar to their Nurse Practitioner (NP) colleagues, many CNSs provide specialized advanced nursing care. However, CNSs also work behind-the-scenes to ensure that patients in their units and across their organizations are receiving the highest quality care.

Every CNSs' responsibilities are unique. When they are not providing care, the CNS may be found advocating for patients and their families, leading interdisciplinary healthcare teams to promote patient and organizational outcomes, teaching and consulting nurses, conducting nursing research, and/or influencing policy both within their organization and across the healthcare system.

As the population in this country grows older, CNSs who have an adult and gerontological population-focus are increasingly called upon for their distinctive expertise in applying evidence-based practice guidelines and addressing skyrocketing health care costs.

In the CNS program, you will develop the necessary competencies to practice as a CNS for patients spanning the entire adult to older-adult spectrum. These include direct care, consultation, systems leadership, collaboration, coaching, research, ethical decision-making, moral agency, and advocacy.

Class and clinical experiences focus on providing advanced nursing care across the health continuum, from wellness to acute care. The Adult-Gerontology CNS program curriculum is verified by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses for the Acute Care CNS–Adult-Gerontological certification.

Why Kent State? We offer you:

  • Expert faculty. You will receive faculty mentorship and advising from nationally certified advanced practice nurses, as well as active researchers with decades of experience.
  • Excellent online courses. Classes in the AGCNS program are held 100% online and delivered by expert nurses via leading edge instructional technology.
  • Maximum flexibility. Choose the path that is best for you – MSN or DNP (or certificate for graduate-degree holding nurses). Start in the fall or spring semester and complete the program full or part-time.
  • Affordability. The Adult-Gerontology CNS program costs only $525 per credit hour, no matter where you live.*
  • Credibility. Kent State’s graduate program is recognized by employers and universities around the world for its excellence.
  • Hands-on learning. You will complete 525 clinical practicum hours with qualified clinical nurse specialist preceptors in your primary state of residence. Each practicum will expose you to the variety of opportunities that you will have after graduation.
  • Top-notch preparation for certification. Graduates of this program meet educational eligibility requirements to sit for ANCC Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (AGCNS-BC) certification or AACN Acute Care CNS–Adult-Gerontological (ACCNS-AG) certification. In 2020, Kent State graduates across all advanced practice programs attained a 94% average board certification pass rate.

Meet the Faculty

Learn more about the Adult-Gerontology CNS instructors:

Photo of Cindy Wilk

Cindy Wilk
Concentration Coordinator

Photo of Tina Saunders

Tina Saunders
Senior Lecturer

Proudly CCNE Accredited

CCNE Accredited

The MSN, DNP, and Post-graduate APRN certificates at Kent State are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Kent State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Kent State: An NLN Center of Excellence

NLN Center of Excellence Seal

Kent State University is a two-time designated Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing (2013-2017, 2017-2022). We are recognized in the "Advancing the Science of Nursing Education" category for our dedication to innovative and evidence-based nursing education.

Program Outcomes

MSN & Post-graduate Certificates

Graduates will be able to:

  • Acquire educational eligibility to meet standards for advanced practice certification or other advanced professional distinction.
  • Acquire competencies based on professional standards to assume advanced roles in nursing, and for leadership and career advancement, including doctoral study.
  • Communicate, integrate and apply advanced nursing knowledge and skills to provide evidence-based, culturally sensitive nursing care and promote quality outcomes in nursing and health care.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Graduates will be able to:

  • Develop systems and strategies to promote health and fiscal outcomes across the healthcare continuum.
  • Provide expert, advanced nursing care to select populations within a variety of settings based on evidence, ethics, theory, professional standards and models of care.
  • Provide leadership and interdisciplinary consultation and collaboration to plan, implement and evaluate programs of care delivery to improve health outcomes.
  • Synthesize and translate evidence for implementation and dissemination to improve healthcare outcomes

* This program is only offered in select states. See the Admissions section for more information.

The baccalaureate degree program in nursing, master’s degree program in nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and post-graduate APRN certificate program at Kent State University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, 655 K Street, NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20001, 202-887-6791.

Is the GRE required? Yes for BSN-to-DNP applicants. No for MSN and Post-graduate Certificate applicants.

International applicants: Under most student visas, international applicants are not eligible to complete online-based programs. We strongly encourage international applicants to discuss their eligibility with the Office of Global Education at +1-330-672-7980 or prior to applying.

Priority Application Deadlines
Fall 2022: Apply now!
March 2023: October 1, 2022

Materials to Submit with Application

Applicants should upload all required documents in your application portal:

  • Transcripts
    Copies of official transcripts (front and back) are required at the time of application from all universities where 8 or more credit hours were earned. Admitted students are required to submit official transcripts after they have accepted an offer of admission.
  • Admission Essay
    • MSN: A two to three-page admission essay describing reasons for seeking the master's degree in the identified specialty and professional goals.
    • DNP: A 300-word essay describing professional goals and reasons for seeking the professional practice doctorate.
    • Certificate: A goal statement (no more than 250 words) describing reasons for seeking the certificate in the identified specialty and professional goals.
  • A resume or curriculum vitae.
  • Proof of RN licensure.
    1. Search for your license on Quick Confirm License Verification. Find and review the information to ensure that it is you.
    2. Click on “View Report”
    3. Click on "Download Report"
    4. Upload the document to your application portal.
    If your state does not participate in NURSYS, please contact your state’s Board of Nursing to send licensure verification to Kent State University.
  • References
    Three letters of reference from health care professionals or academic faculty who can speak to the applicant's professional and academic abilities
  • GRE (only BSN-to-DNP applicants)
    Scores will only be accepted when sent directly from the test provider to the Division of Graduate Studies as an official test report. Scores reported by applicants will not be accepted.
    Kent State University's GRE code is 1367.
  • Portfolio (for MSN applicants without a BSN)
    If you are an RN with a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field, you will be considered based on a review of a portfolio submitted with the application. Please contact the Office of Student Services for additional information prior to applying.
    Download Portfolio Requirements (PDF)

Required Courses

Courses are 100% online – students are never required to come to campus.

Approved States for Online Learning

Kent State University is authorized to offer the Adult-Gerontology CNS program in the following states:*

West Virginia

* In order to be compliant with federal and state laws related to online education and consumer protection, as well as State professional licensure/certification regulations, Kent State University may not be able to offer online programs to students residing in certain states. In addition, some state laws may impose limitations that could affect a program of study, including inability to offer clinical practicum courses. Since these regulations undergo continuous updates (1) non-Ohio residents interested in pursuing any College of Nursing online program are advised to consult with their State licensing/certification agency and official Kent State information on state authorization before applying to this program (2) any student that is planning to move or practice in a different state after having been admitted to either the RN BSN, MSN, Certificate, or DNP programs must immediately inform the Office of Student Services at 330-672-7911 to determine whether or not he/she can continue in the program.

Tuition & Aid

A top-tier education at an affordable price.

As a public institution, we see it as our duty to offer the highest-quality education at a cost that is within the reach of students from all backgrounds.
Please visit to learn more about tuition details.  

Financial Aid

At Kent State University, we try to make the financial aid process as simple as possible. Our financial aid services and scholarship programs help a wide range of students make their goals affordable. Financial aid options for Adult Gerontology CNS students include:

  • Tuition Reimbursement: Many employers will pay some or all of the cost of a graduate degree program. Talk with your human resources department to find out if you qualify.
  • Scholarships: Kent State University, the College of Nursing, and many nursing and health care organizations provide scholarship support for nursing students. See our Financial Aid & Scholarships page for more information.
  • Federal Loans and Grants: You may be eligible for federal and/or private loans and federal/state grants. Contact the One Stop for Student Services at 330-672-6000 for more information.

Payment Options

  • Tuition can be paid online using a credit card or check, by mail with a check, or in-person with a check.
  • Monthly payment plan options are available.* Tuition can be spread out over 3, 4, or 5 monthly payments.
  • Students who are receiving tuition reimbursement through their employer can apply to defer tuition payment to after the semester ends.*

* Fall and spring semester only

Online Learning at Kent State

E-learning is unparalleled at Kent State University.

A laptop sitting on a desk near a bookshelf with the Kent State University logo overlayed on the screenKent State online students have access to the same resources as on-campus students, without ever stepping foot on campus. From applying to the program to applying for graduation, Kent State provides the tools to complete these tasks online.

Although there are no on-campus requirements, online students are more than welcome to visit our campus in Kent, Ohio (or take a virtual tour online). You will be invited to various events throughout your time at Kent State, including our pinning (Convocation) and graduation (Commencement) ceremonies.

Some of the benefits to earning your graduate degree online from Kent State include:

  • Courses developed by expert faculty and delivered via Canvas, industry-leading learning management systems (LMSs).
  • Small class sizes and individualized attention from nurse educators with decades of practical experience.
  • Innovative learning activities tailored to the online environment.
  • 24/7 technical support through Kent State’s TechHelp.
  • Tests and exams proctored virtually – no need to go to a testing center.
  • FlashLine, the university’s centralized portal system, will allow you to schedule classes, track your degree progress, schedule advising appointments, pay your tuition, and more right from your computer.
What is the difference between a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) and a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are both Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). Many people – including nurses – do not understand the differences between these roles. This confusion may be in part due to the similarities between CNSs and NPs; by comparison, the functions of the other two APRN roles, nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives, are more obvious.

Despite the seeming similarities between CNSs and NPs, each role is unique in its approach to practice, specialization, and patient care philosophy.





May specialize and subspecialize in many combinations of populations, settings, diseases or medical subspecialties, types of care, and types of problem.

For example, all Adult-Gerontology CNSs specialize in the adult-gerontological population, but some CNSs also specialize in critical care (setting) and cardiology (medical subspeciality) while some other CNSs specialize in primary care (setting) and pain (type of problem).

Typically specialize in one of three ways:

  • Primary care for a population (family, adult-gerontology, pediatrics, or women)
  • Acute care for a population (adult-gerontology or pediatrics)
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health care for the family population

Some NPs also get certified in subspecialities, such as Emergency NP certification (for Family NPs) or Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse certification.

Approach to Patient Care

A CNSs approach to patient care is both direct and indirect. They work within the three spheres of influence to ensure the highest quality of care:

  • Patients
    CNSs provide direct specialized care to patients and assist other nurses with direct patient care.
  • Nurses and Nursing Practice
    CNSs are go-to experts for other nurses in the practice area and serve as teachers and mentors, which raises the standards of patient care.
  • Organization and System
    CNSs work make improvements within their organizations, such as implementing new evidence-based practice guidelines.

NPs provide direct patient care. Their approach to care is holistic, focusing on not only treating and preventing disease, but also promoting overall wellbeing in the patient through means such as health counseling.

Typical Practice Environment(s)

While you will find CNS practicing in a wide variety of environments, the majority practice in acute care settings.

Additionally, a large minority of CNSs (10%) are primarily employed in academic settings.

Nearly 3/4 of NPs practice in primary care settings. Most of the remainder practice in either acute care, psychiatric care, or long-term care settings.

Prescriptive Authority

In a majority of states, including Ohio.

In all 50 states

Median Pay

$109,518, according to (as of Mar. 24, 2020)

$107,030, as of 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Is your CNS program online? Which courses are online?

The Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist program is 100% online. Every course is delivered online using the latest distance learning technology.

Will I have to come to campus?

No. Kent State does not require online students to come to campus for orientation, intensives, etc. However, you will need to complete your clinical practicums with preceptors in-person at a location near you.

Will I complete my practicum courses where I live?

Yes, you will be completing your practicum courses in the state in which you reside and in which you have a valid RN license.

Will I need to find my own preceptors?

Yes, it is primarily the student's responsibility to locate a preceptor. However, your concentration coordinator and faculty will work closely with you to help you secure a preceptor.

Can I complete the degree part time? Can I work and go to school at the same time?

Yes. In fact, many students attend part-time (4-6 hours) and also work.

However, your concentration may require at least one full-time semester (8 or more hours). Also, intent for full-time study will be considered in the selection process for applicants who meet all admission criteria.

Do I need to take the GRE for admission?

No for the MSN and Post-graduate Certificate programs. Yes for the BSN-to-DNP program.

Scores will only be accepted when sent directly from the test provider to the Division of Graduate Studies as an official test report. Scores reported by applicants will not be accepted.

Kent State University's GRE code is 1367.

Will I be required to attend online lectures at a specific time, or can I complete the course on my own schedule?

Online courses in the Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist MSN, Certificate, and DNP concentrations are asynchronous, meaning that you are not required to log in at a certain time.