Nursing Home Administrators


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Managing a nursing home is similar to managing a business. Classes such as accounting, business management, and computer science will help prepare you for the business side of this job. Quantitative skills are needed to excel in this career, so make sure you take as many math classes as possible. Science and health classes are important to take and will prepare you for college.  Classes in sociology, psychology, and social studies provide a background for understanding a variety of people. And, because you will be working with so many different people and must give directions, take English, speech, and foreign language classes to hone your communication and leadership skills.

Postsecondary Training

Most nursing home administrators have a college degree in health administration, business, human resources, or another related field. A few states do allow licensing for administrators who hold an associate's degree and have a certain amount of experience. It is recommended, however, that you get a bachelor's degree. One reason for this is that requirements for professional certification stipulate that anyone licensed after 1996 must also hold a bachelor's degree to be eligible for certification. In addition, most employers insist on hiring only those with at least a bachelor's degree.

Many colleges and universities across the United States offer bachelor's degrees in health care administration, health service administration, or long-term care administration with concentrations or minors in nursing home management. The Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) certifies undergraduate programs that meet the organization's standards; the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB) grants academic approval to undergraduate programs in long-term care administration. For information on certified and approved programs, contact these organizations.  The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) is the accrediting body for graduate programs in health administration education. Information on these graduate programs is also available from the AUPHA. Graduates of advanced-degree programs usually have a master's of science in health administration or a master's in business administration in health care management.

Courses you are likely to take as an undergraduate cover subjects such as health law, gerontology, medical terminology, and health care financial management. In addition, expect to take classes such as accounting, marketing, computer science, and organizational theory. Some programs also require students to complete an internship, also called an administrator-in-training program.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Professional certification is available from the American College of Health Care Administrators. Requirements for becoming certified include a bachelor's degree, two years of professional experience as a nursing home administrator, a certain amount of continuing education, and passing the certification exam. Candidates who meet all requirements receive the designation certified nursing home administrator (CNHA). Certification demonstrates an administrator's level of experience and professionalism and is recommended.

All nursing home administrators must be licensed. All states and the District of Columbia require candidates to pass a national licensing exam given by the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards. In addition, many states require candidates to pass a state exam as well as to fulfill certain requirements, such as having completed an administrator-in-training program of a certain length and completing a certain number of continuing education hours. Since these state requirements vary, you will need to check with the licensing board of the state in which you hope to work for specific information.

Other Requirements

Employees must have a clean criminal record since the Affordable Care Act requires criminal background checks of applicants for positions in nursing homes.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

A bachelor's and master's degree are usually required to work as a nursing home administrator, but some facilities may hire those with work experience in the field instead of formal education. Important skills include budget planning and accounting; directing and evaluating the work of nursing home personnel; interpersonal skills to maintain communication among the governing board, staff, and department heads; planning, implementing and administering programs; recruitment, hiring, and training personnel; monitoring use of resources to ensure their effective use; and developing and maintaining computerized record management systems to store and process data and produce reports. Well-qualified nursing home administrators initiate and carry out projects, are comfortable with leading people and enjoy working with them. Such administrators are honest, reliable, can deal with stress and criticism, are flexible and cooperative in their dealings with others, show self-control, even in difficult situations, establish challenging goals and exert effort in achieving them, and use logic and analysis to solve problems in their work.

Nursing home administrators must have a keen sense for business and enjoy managing people, budgets, and resources. They should be able to work well with a wide variety of people, from government officials to residents' families. But just as important as having a feel for business, nursing home administrators must have a special interest in helping people, especially the elderly. Administrators need to be aware of the emotional and physical challenges their residents face and be able to figure out ways to make their facilities accommodating. Administrators need to have a positive attitude and be committed to lifelong learning, since continuing education is an essential part of this work.