Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist Program


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?

  • Expert faculty.
  • Excellent online courses.
  • Maximum flexibility. Choose the path that is best for you – MSN or DNP.
  • Affordability.
  • Credibility. Kent State’s graduate program is recognized by employers and universities around the world for its excellence.
  • Hands-on learning. Each practicum will expose you to the variety of opportunities that you will have after graduation.
  • Top-notch preparation for certification.

Our Commitment to Online Learning

A map of the United States

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



Post-Master's Certificate

We also offer an Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist post-master's certificate for nurses who already hold a Master's degree or higher in nursing.

Learn more about the Adult-Gerontology CNS post-master's certificate

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 three-time designated Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing (2013-2017, 2017-2022, 2022-2026). We are recognized in the "Advancing the Science of Nursing Education" category for our dedication to innovative and evidence-based nursing education.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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

Most courses are asynchronous, and you can complete the coursework as time permits while meeting weekly deadlines. Some courses may meet synchronously with scheduled meeting times. 

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. Kent State University College of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.  Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) concentrations within the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program and APRN Certificates, along with the Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice (BSN-to-DNP) program qualify graduates to sit for national APRN certification and APRN licensure in Ohio.  States other than Ohio may have additional requirements to apply for or obtain an APRN license, including but not limited to specific state examinations, letters of recommendation, or proof of completion of an accredited nursing program. The College of Nursing is in the process of collecting information from all states and has not yet made a determination whether graduates from the Kent State University College of Nursing MSN, Certificate, and BSN-to-DNP programs meet the requirements for APRN licensure outside the state of Ohio.

Fulfill Your Purpose

Enrollment advisors can be reached at 330-672-7911.

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