Can I Earn an Online Master's in Nursing Home Administration?
Yes, you can earn an online master’s degree with a specialization in nursing home administration, although the program may call itself “aging services management” or “long term care” or something else, and it may be a specialized master of arts (MA), master of health administration (MHA), or master of business administration (MBA) program.
More than 50 million seniors are living in the United States today, and with more baby boomers entering retirement every year, demand for caregivers is skyrocketing. As such, a more qualified and experienced workforce is required to provide services within hospital-based care, long-term care facilities, in-home care, chronic-condition management, and hospice.
People interested in this profession have many options available to them, both online and on-campus. There are many online master’s programs in health administration (MHA) as well as related nursing home administration programs. In fact, there has never been a better time to pursue this option.
Adults turning 65 right now may not necessarily need constant care and attention, but as they approach their 70s, 80s and beyond, their healthcare needs will be inevitable. This may place a strain on elderly care resources if there are not enough qualified professionals to meet this rising demand. The U.S. Census Bureau expects the portion of adults over the age of 80—the average age of many assisted living residents—to increase by 30 percent by 2030, which accounts to nearly three percent of the total population.
The projected salaries for nursing home positions are in line with the demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), openings for medical and health managers are expected to increase 20 percent in the decade preceding 2026—much faster than the average job growth in the U.S. The BLS estimates the annual mean salary for a medical or health manager to be $96,540.
However, the country is unfortunately currently witnessing a shortage of healthcare professionals who are trained to manage the systems and teams necessary to address the demand. As a result, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are having a hard time filling critical positions.
Experienced professionals interested in earning a master’s degree in nursing home administration or its sister degree in gerontology can expand their skills through online programs designed to accommodate the busy schedules of working professionals. As such, students can pursue managerial or leadership positions in the field with minimal disruption to their lives.
Obtaining an MHA can be immensely beneficial to young professionals looking to make a difference in the quality of life for seniors. This guide will explore distance-based programs for aspiring nursing home administrators.
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The Role of Nursing Home Administrators
There are many different kinds of nursing homes with varying levels of assistance, but one of the primary roles of a nursing home is to offer medical aid to those who do not yet need the services of a hospital but who might not be able to take care of themselves within their own homes. Nurses, aides, and other medical personnel staff these facilities to provide patients with round-the-clock care. Because of the different kinds of care and large staff of assisted living facilities, one of the most important jobs is that of the nursing home administrator.
As leaders of assisted living facilities, nursing home administrators are required to manage staff, patients, and admissions effectively, all while maintaining a budget. They interact with employees, admit new patients, organize records, give tours to prospective residents and their families, and purchase upgraded equipment and technology on a daily basis.
They must also stay up to date on the latest state and federal requirements and regulations related to the health and safety of their patients. This is a demanding job that may require working in the evenings, on weekends, and on holidays. As such, they must be able to juggle a large workload, manage stress effectively, and handle a variety of challenges that arise on a daily basis.
Online Masters Degrees for Aspiring Nursing Home Administrators
There are several types of online graduate degrees for prospective nursing home administrators.
An MS in healthcare administration prepares students for leadership opportunities across all types of healthcare facilities, from hospitals to outpatient facilities. The focus in nursing homes further defines the role of nursing home management.
Utica College offers an MS degree in healthcare administration with a focus on nursing home administration. Graduates will develop the skills necessary to pursue management and leadership positions within the field of healthcare administration, including how to design and implement administrative strategies and how to recruit and develop healthcare staff. The curriculum focuses on long-term care, gerontology, and offers concentrations in public healthcare and ethical and legal issues as they apply to the aging. In some states, such as New York, the 36-credit curriculum meets the course requirements for NHA licensure.
- Location: Utica, New York
- Accreditation: Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- Format: Online
- Tuition: $690 per credit
- Program length: Two years
This degree is designed to help graduates meet the unique needs of older people. With the aging Baby Boomer population and the demand for elderly care rising, this type of program teaches students about gerontology and how to effectively manage an assisted living or senior services organization.
Maryville University provides a 36-credit online MHA with a senior services specialization. In addition to senior services courses, it offers instruction in healthcare law, ethics, and risk management; population health management; and healthcare quality and improvement, among other foundational topics. Notably, the school ranked among U.S. News & World Report’s (2017) “best national universities” and was designated as a military-friendly school by Victory Media.
- Location: St. Louis, Missouri
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
- Format: Online
- Tuition: $714 per credit
- Program length: Two years
The University of Southern California (USC) offers a Master of Arts in Gerontology degree designed to help professionals better understand the aging process and how to assist the elderly best. Graduates will gain a formal education on gerontology as well as the executive skills necessary to complement their professional experience. Students who have experience in social work, public health, business, law, or medicine can benefit from this type of degree. Career options can include jobs within law, medicine, physical therapy and occupational therapy.
USC offers this type of program through the Davis School of Gerontology. This degree is designed for professionals across business, law, medicine, social work or public health with previous experience in the field. Students will learn about the mind-body connection, social policy, management and the aging family. This 28-credit program requires GRE scores if college-level GPA is under 3.0.
Additionally, the USC Davis School of Gerontology also offers a Master of Aging Services Management (MASM) degree designed for those interested in the management of hospice care, residential care facilities, retirement communities, or assisted living facilities.
- Location: Los Angeles, California
- Accreditation: Currently in review with the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE)
- Format: Online
- Tuition: $1,800 per credit
- Program length: As little as 18 months
This degree provides students with an advanced degree in the growing field of aging services, with topics that explore service-supported housing, community-based services, marketing to aging populations, and chronic care health services.
The University of Massachusetts, Boston has designed an online MS in the management of aging services. This track provides students with an advanced degree in long-term care so that they can work at homes for the elderly, senior centers, nursing homes and adult day care facilities. They can also find positions related to geriatric care management and state and federal agency administration and management.
- Location: Boston, Massachusetts
- Accreditation: University Continuing Education Association (UCEA)
- Format: Online
- Tuition: $739 per credit for in-state students, $1,428 for out-of-state students
- Program length: Two years
Requirements for Nursing Home Administrators
Finally, to become nursing home administrators, students must meet a variety of conditions. Below are the most common ones.
State and Federal Examinations
Students must take various exams developed by the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB) to become licensed nursing home administrators. NAB is the country’s leading authority on licensing, credentialing, and regulating administrators in the long-term care sector. The National Core of Knowledge Exam for Long Term Care Administrators (CORE) is designed as an entry-level test to ensure that NHAs have adequate training in elderly care. The National Nursing Home Administrators Line of Service Examination Program (NHA) is specifically required as a component of licensure requirements in the U.S. The NHA exam includes 150 questions on resident-centered care and quality of life, human resources, finance, environment, leadership, and management. Additional state exams vary by state. Students can learn more about these on NAB’s website.
Study materials are available on NAB’s website to help students prepare for the exams. Each state’s examination is different, with varied practice materials. For the national test, students can order the NAB Study Guide online or take advantage of many other online resources such as publications and forums to get the materials they need.
One of the most popular forms of continuing education is obtaining an online master’s degree in healthcare administration or nursing home administration. However, there are several types of online master’s degrees that can prepare students for this career track, which are explored below.