Are there Licensed Nursing Home Administrator (LNHA) Certification Programs?


In 2016, there were more than 15,000 nursing homes in the US, which housed 1.4 million residents. That number is expected to grow quickly, as the Baby Boomer generation and following generations retire, creating an influx of jobs related to the managing nursing and retirement home facilities.

This is good news for those with a passion for hospitality and a natural propensity for organization. There is a great need for capable administrators who can coordinate the operations of US nursing homes, such as staff scheduling, patient care, equipment maintenance, and records management.

LNHA jobs come with a lot of responsibility, but the average salary for this multifaceted career makes it worth it. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that medical and health service managers earn a median annual salary of $99,730 per year, and projects a 20 percent increase in the need for such managers between 2016 and 2026—a significantly higher rate than the projected 7 percent average growth of all jobs in the US over the same timeframe.

Similar to other industries, individuals working in nursing care can graduate to higher-paying managerial roles after having spent time in lower or entry-level administration positions. Some work up to management roles by becoming registered nurses (RNs), which lends them clinical, hands-on experience, while others start in administrative roles at medical facilities and work their way up to management.

While there are varied paths to achieving a role as a medical service manager, a wise option is to gain a certification in a specified area of interest. For instance, for those interested in working with the elderly, the licensed nursing home administrator (LNHA) certification is an appropriate step. Earning a master of health administration (MHA) is one very direct step toward that goal. Specifically, MHA programs with nursing home administration, long-term care, or senior services concentrations are designed to help students deepen their knowledge in the field, and can help set candidates apart during the interview process. They also help students prepare for LNHA licensing.

Licensing is offered by the National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB), which offers a few specialized licenses: Residential Care and Assisted Living (RCAL), Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS), and of course, the LNHA.

A typical day in the life of a nursing home administrator consists of admitting new patients, showing prospective patients the facilities, managing the duties of employees, and making sure that operations in the nursing home or retirement facility run smoothly.

Here are the nuts and bolts of the LNHA qualifications, which differ from state-to-state, and some of the top programs.

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Featured Nursing Home Administration Programs
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How to Get an LNHA Certification

Depending on one’s state of residence, the requirements of officially registered LNHAs differ in a couple of ways. First, some states require an associate’s degree, while others require a bachelor’s degree. Second, some require candidates to sit for an exam, while others do not.

As of September 2019, the eight states that require only an associate’s degree for LNHA licensure are Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee. Missouri, Montana, Utah and Pennsylvania require only a high school education. The remaining 38 states require at least a bachelor’s degree.

Next, there is the question of whether or not one’s state requires an exam in order to become an official LNHA. Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming do not require candidates to complete an exam to obtain official LNHA licensure, while the remainder of states do require candidates to sit for an exam. For those with a state exam, candidates who pass become officially licensed.

Make sure to recognize the distinction between the above two requirements. For instance, in Wyoming, an aspiring LNHA needs at least a bachelor’s degree to become an LNHA, but there is no required exam. However, in South Dakota, a person does need to take an exam, but only an associate’s degree is required. You can refer to the how to become a nursing home administrator page to look up specific state requirements for education and examinations.

Depending on a student’s state of residence and desired degree, program lengths range from about one to two years, or longer, depending on the number of credits taken at one time.

Then, a certain number of continuing education (CE) hours need to be logged each year in order to retain certification. The number of hours depends on the state’s specific requirements, which ranges quite significantly. For instance, Tennessee requires only 18 hours annually, while New Jersey requires 60 biannually.

Here are some programs that offer LNHA training—many of which are administered completely online.

Featured Licensed Nursing Home Administrator (LNHA) and Related Degree Programs

Utica College

Utica’s master of healthcare administration (MHA) program focuses on teaching students how to develop and implement administrative strategies and analyze different healthcare accounting processes. Students may choose to specialize in one of three areas: acute care, service organization, or nursing home administration. They may further customize their studies by taking three-credit leadership elective courses that match their professional interests and career goals. Course topics include ethical and legal issues, quality management, healthcare accounting, public healthcare policies, and more.

  • Location: Utica, New York
  • Duration: One to two years
  • Tuition Cost: Approximately $50,000
  • Accreditation: Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools

Maryville University

Maryville University created an online master of health administration (MHA) with various concentrations, such as senior services, healthcare strategy, data management, and population management. The program does not require healthcare experience, so it’s perfect for a student trying to break into the field and differentiate themselves from more experienced competition. Maryville’s MHA is offered 100 percent online with no required campus visits. Students may begin in the fall, spring, or summer.

  • Location: St. Louis, Missouri
  • Duration: Two years
  • Tuition Cost: Approximately $32,000
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota offers a two-year online master of arts (MA) in health and human services administration with a special focus on preparing graduates for LNHA licensure in Minnesota and other states.

This 36-credit program comprises courses such as aging, illness, and the continuum of care; strategic health and human services leadership; health informatics and application; finance for health service administrators; and advanced health policy and ethics, among others.

Please note that tuition includes an iPad pre-loaded with Saint Mary’s specialized course software.

  • Location: Winona, MN
  • Duration: Two years or more
  • Tuition Cost: $23,040
  • Accreditation: MN Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators (BENHA)

Purdue University Global (Related Program)

Purdue University’s online master of public health (MPH) program offers students not only healthcare administration expertise, but also in-depth knowledge of epidemiology and behavioral and social sciences. It also includes a family and community health concentration that focuses on issues related to the family unit—ideal for the candidate looking to gain their LNHA certification.

The program culminates in a practice-focused capstone project that provides students with the opportunity to apply their learning to a relevant healthcare management issue, and graduates of this fully online MHA are prepared with the ethical, professional, and administrative skills needed to manage the diverse aspects of healthcare leadership.

  • Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
  • Duration: Two years
  • Tuition Cost: about $25,000 in-state; about $35,000 out-of-state
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Keiser University (Related Program)

Keiser University offers a master of business administration (MBA) in health services administration, meaning studies are focused more on the business aspects of the job (rather than clinical studies).

The core curriculum includes study of topics such as accounting, marketing, management, and finance. Students may opt for the fully online program or a hybrid option, which combines distance and face-to-face learning formats. Both provide graduates with training in analytical problem-solving, strategic thinking, communication and technical skills, and team approaches to business development solutions.

  • Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Duration: One to two years
  • Tuition Cost: About $12,000
  • Accreditation: Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

New York University Wagner (Related Program)

NYU Wagner’s master’s degree in health policy and management is ranked second by U.S. News and World Report. Its online program offers live discussion and online lectures that serve as a virtual classroom, making it a more interactive online option. Students also engage in in-depth case study analysis, preparing them for the real-world circumstances that health service managers face. Courses include strategic management and entrepreneurship for healthcare organizations, managerial accounting for healthcare organizations, public policy and management, and more.

While this is one of the highly rated programs in the US, not surprisingly, it’s also one of the most expensive, so bear this in mind when considering this program. Applicants are also required to have one year of full-time healthcare-related work experience and should currently be employed in a US healthcare related field.

  • Location: New York, New York
  • Duration: 28 months
  • Tuition Cost: Approximately $80,000
  • Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools