Geriatric Nurse Salary and Career Opportunities
Geriatric nurses typically work with patients at least 50 years old. The medical care they provide includes relieving pain, assisting with hygiene and making routine assessments of treatment required after a certain age. They also perform an important role in medical prevention among the elderly. Work settings include private homes, hospital geriatric units and nursing homes. Requirements are similar to those for a registered nurse. A geriatric nurse must have an associate or bachelor’s degree with both classroom and practical learning. This career requires passing the NCLEX-RN exam for registered nursing to become certified to work in the United States. Before starting work, graduates must finish at least 200 hours of hands-on experience within geriatrics. They must also pass a second certification exam known as the Gerontological Nursing Certification.
The salary outlook for geriatric nurses is bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growth of 19 to 26 percent in these jobs over the next decade. Geriatric nurses earn an average of $41,000 to $51,000 a year but have many opportunities to boost their income.
Paths to Increase Salary
Registered nurses can increase their salaries by pursuing continuing and/or graduate education. This includes master’s and doctoral degrees. The schedule of educational programs normally allows candidates to continue working. In many cases, employers fund at least part of the training.
It’s also possible to increase compensation by accepting assignments as a traveling geriatric nurse. In shortage areas, it’s common for employers to offer travel cost, per-diem allowances, relocation expenses or housing allowances for non-local candidates.
Geriatric nurses can transition to several specialties for career advancement. Examples:
- Orthopedic nurses treat and help prevent musculoskeletal problems and improve patient mobility. Geriatric patient demand is growing. This career path requires a specialty certification and pays between $80,000 and $90,000 a year.
- Nurse practitioners are increasingly serving as primary care providers, particularly in medically underserved areas and in senior communities. This career pays an average annual salary of $78,000. Nurse practitioners must be licensed registered nurses in their respective states and pass a national exam for certification. A master’s degree is required, though many opt for a Doctor of Nursing Practice of Ph.D. degree.
- Nurse researchers research and write on medical disorders like Alzheimer’s disease that affect seniors and on other topics for medical laboratories, non-profit organizations, universities and health-related industries. Their salary range is $75,000 to $95,000 a year. This career typically requires graduate-level education.
Further Your Career
The surging need for skilled geriatric nurses is due to a number of factors. Among the most important are the graying of the U.S. population, the Affordable Care Act and increasing regulatory and marketing pressures. The future of this career is a very rosy one.
Vonda J. Sines is a freelance writer based in the Washington, DC area. She specializes in health/medical, career, and pet topics and writes extensively about Crohn's disease. Her work has been published at EverydayHealth, Lifescript, womansday.com, Yahoo! Health, Catholic Digest, Angie's List Health, and on many more sites.