Adult Health Programs

To advance from a registered nurse (RN) to a nurse practitioner (NP), you must enroll in and graduate from a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program, as well as complete any additional certification/licensing exams required by your state. Once you begin comparing the online and traditional MSN degree programs, you’ll notice that most colleges and universities require that the MSN students focus their degree on a specific area of nursing. One of the more commonly offered specializations is an MSN in Adult Health Nursing. It is important to note that some educational institutions will combine adult health and gerontology programs into one MSN degree program. However in this guide, we will focus solely on the adult health nursing degree programs.

What to Expect in an MSN Adult Health Program

As the title suggests, adult health NPs are trained to prevent and manage basic and commonly occurring health needs found in adults. They also work to educate their patients as well as coordinate with other professionals who can improve their patients’ overall health. Many schools provide the option to choose a specialized track within the adult health degree program. The two most frequently offered tracks are adult primary care and adult acute care. By concentrating in adult primary care, you can learn how to interact with your patients on a long-term basis, similar to that of a primary care physician. This track can teach you how to work in community health clinics, correctional facilities, private medical practices, and other healthcare organizations.

Adult acute care degree programs are designed to teach you how to help adults with complex, critical, and/or chronic health needs. Many acute care programs can teach you how to work in a fast-paced environment like a hospital’s intensive care ward or a medical transportation unit. If you’re interested in an adult health program that does not offer the previously mentioned tracks, they may provide the following concentrations:

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) – This concentration can teach you many of the same skills that you would learn in both a primary and acute adult health program. It may also prepare you to take a board certification exam upon graduation if your state requires it in order to work as a CNS.
  • Nurse Administrator – You will be taught organizational and leadership skills that will prepare you to work as a nurse executive, manager, or administrator. This specialization will also cover financial management and law as it pertains to the healthcare industry.
  • Nurse Educator – Here you can learn about various teaching and evaluating methods, learning styles, and how to develop a curriculum. You may need to also obtain a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with an adult health nursing education focus if you want to teach the graduate level.

It is okay if the school you are interested in does not offer any type of concentrations in their adult health nursing program. You can always choose to take a separate set of courses from a legitimate nursing school or organization after graduation in order to become certified in the area of your choosing. However, it is imperative that your degree and certification programs are accredited/nationally recognized and prepare you to pass any additional exams required by your state and to work as a professional adult health NP.


A master’s level degree program takes between two – four years to complete, but may take up to six years if you are in a program that allows you to earn your bachelor’s at the same time as your master’s degree. The amount of time it takes for you to complete your MSN depends upon the structure of the individual program and how much time you are able to dedicate to your studies.

The subjects that you may be required to take in an adult health program will provide a more in-depth and advanced understanding of what you learned during your undergraduate nursing studies. Some courses students can expect to take include:

  • Pharmacology
  • Lifespan Human Development
  • Physiology
  • Research Methodology
  • Research Application
  • Pathophysiology
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Ethics
  • Diagnosis and Illness Management
  • Clinical Work

If you do decide to pursue a specialized track in your adult health degree program, your clinical hours and additional courses will be tailored to that area of focus.

My Earning Potential

As reported by The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse practitioners earned an average salary of $101,260 per year in the U.S. in 2015. These numbers are based on reported wages for all NPs with a graduate degree. If you choose to pursue education beyond a MSN, like a DNP or additional certification courses, you may be able to earn a higher salary than the average NP salary. Be sure to check out our guide, Average Salary for an FNP to learn more about your career and salary potential as an NP.

Online Practitioner Degrees in Adult Health

Adult health nurse practitioners have a plethora of options to choose from during their education. No matter which path you pick, you can have the opportunity to help countless adults with their healthcare needs throughout your NP career. Explore the rest of our website to find out what other opportunities you can pursue in the nurse practitioner field.