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Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist - Graduate Certificate

Kent State's Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (AGCNS) program will prepare you for a unique, multi-faceted role as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Clinical Nurse Specialists practice in 3 spheres of impact (patient, nurse, and organization) to provide advanced care to patients, improve nursing practice, streamline system processes, and cut costs. CNSs provide direct specialized care to patients and are go-to experts for other nurses by serving as teachers and mentors. CNSs work with interdisciplinary teams to implement new evidence-based practice guidelines to advance patient care and improve outcomes.

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More About This Program

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.

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Program Information


Program Requirements

Certificate Requirements

Certificate Requirements
Minimum Total Credit Hours:18-20

Graduation Requirements

Minimum Certificate GPA Minimum Overall GPA

For more information about graduate admissions, visit the graduate admission website. For more information on international admissions, visit the international admission website.

Admission Requirements

  • Master's degree in nursing or a doctorate in nursing practice from an accredited nursing program
  • Minimum 3.000 graduate GPA on a 4.000 scale
  • Official transcript(s)
  • Active, unrestricted registered nurse license in the state in which practicum hours will be completed
  • Résumé or vita
  • Goal statement (no more than 250 words) describing reasons for seeking the certificate in the identified specialty and professional goals
  • Transcript(s) of all previous graduate coursework1
  • Syllabi of all courses to considered for transfer in the gap analysis
  • Three letters of reference from health care professionals or faculty members
  • English language proficiency - all international students must provide proof of English language proficiency (unless they meet specific exceptions) by earning one of the following:
    • Minimum 560 TOEFL PBT score (paper-based version)
    • Minimum 83 TOEFL IBT score (Internet-based version)
    • Minimum 78 MELAB score
    • Minimum 6.5 IELTS score
    • Minimum 55 PTE score

For more information about graduate admission, please visit the Graduate Studies website. For more information on international admission, visit the Office of Global Education’s admission website.


Transcript(s) must indicate completion of graduate-level courses in advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology and advanced health assessment, with a minimum B grade earned in each course. Applicants who do not meet the grade requirement for advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology and advanced health assessment may be considered for a conditional admission. For applicants who have not practiced as an advanced practice registered nurse within the two-year period preceding application to the certificate, completion of graduate-level courses in advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology and advanced health assessment must not be greater than five years old at the time of the student's first semester of course registration in the certificate.

Application Deadlines

  • Fall Semester
    • Priority deadline: March 1
  • Spring Semester
    • Priority deadline: November 1
  • Summer Term
    • Priority deadline: March 1

Applications submitted by these deadlines will receive the strongest consideration for admission.

Program Delivery
  • Delivery:
    • Fully online
Why Kent State?
  • 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 2021, Kent State graduates across all advanced practice programs attained a 96.3% average board certification pass rate.
Meet the Faculty

Learn more about the Adult-Gerontology CNS instructors:

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Cindy Wilk
Concentration Coordinator

Photo of Tina Saunders

Tina Saunders
Senior Lecturer

Our Commitment to Online Learning

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



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.

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.

Accolades & Accreditation

The Kent State University College of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Education and approved by the Ohio Board of Nursing to award the Baccalaureate of Nursing Degree. Graduates of this program meet educational eligibility requirements to take the National Certification and Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). For specific state RN licensure, students should contact the states in which they are interested in working. See the National Council of State Boards website and the Kent State Professional Licensure website for specific information about each state.

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.

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