Are there LNHA Certification Programs?

In 2018, there were more than 15,600 nursing homes in the US, which housed 1.3 million residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 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 $101,340 per year, and projects a 28 percent increase in the need for such managers between 2021 and 2031-a significantly higher rate than the projected 5 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.

Featured Nursing Home Administration Programs
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota Master of Arts in Health & Human Services Administration (MN LNHA Prep) View Full Profile

THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN Southern New Hampshire University Online MS - Construction Management

How to Get an LNHA Certification

Depending on one’s state of residence, the requirements of officially registered LNHAs differ in several ways. First, some states require a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree. Second, some require candidates to sit for national or state-specific exams, while others do not.

In September 2023, thirty-eight states required at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify to be a state-licensed nursing home administrator. As of September 2023, the NAB shows that seven states require only an associate’s degree for LNHA licensure:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee

By comparison, four states require only a high school diploma to qualify to sit for the national exam:

  • Colorado
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Utah
  • Pennsylvania

Next, there is the question of whether or not a state requires prospective LNHAs to pass a separate exam to work legally. According to NAB in September 2023, the following states do not require candidates to complete a state-specific exam, in addition to the NAB exam, to obtain official LNHA licensure:

  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

The remainder of states require candidates to sit for national and state-specific exams. Candidates who pass these exams become officially licensed to work as LNHAs. In some cases, such as Maine, NAB is the state exam administrating body.

Make sure to recognize the distinction between the above when researching state-specific requirements. For instance, in Wyoming, an aspiring LNHA needs at least a bachelor’s degree and must pass the NAB NHA exam; there is no separate state-specific exam in Wyoming. However, in South Dakota, candidates must have at least an associate’s degree and pass the NAB NHA and South Dakota state-specific licensing exam.

You can refer to the how to become a nursing home administrator page to determine 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.

In addition to licensure requirements, each state has unique continuing education (CE) hours requirements, which vary in number and frequency, to retain their LNHA certification. 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: $690 per credit
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

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.

  • Location: Winona, MN
  • Duration: Two years or more
  • Tuition Cost: $25,200 total
  • Accreditation: MN Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators (BENHA)

Purdue Global (Related Program)

Purdue Global’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: $485 per credit
  • 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: Approximately $12,000
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

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 Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Nina Chamlou
Nina Chamlou

Nina Chamlou is an avid writer and multimedia content creator from Portland, OR. She writes about aviation, travel, business, technology, healthcare, and education. You can find her floating around the Pacific Northwest in diners and coffee shops, studying the locale from behind her MacBook.