Undergraduate programs offer specific instruction in assisted living administration, while master's degree programs are more broad, focusing on advanced health management methods and research. Some associate's degree topics include administration of budgets and regulatory changes, supervision of employees and monitoring of personnel activities. Bachelor's degree programs incorporate courses and exposure to the unique care provided by senior housing and assisted living communities, relative to dignity, quality of life and autonomy for the patients. Master's degree program coursework focuses on the impact healthcare has on public, private and non-profit organizations. Most graduate-level programs are designed to be completed in two years of full-time coursework.
Some bachelor's degree programs require applicants to hold an associate's degree before admission; however, many other undergraduate programs only require a high school diploma or GED. For master's degree programs, institutes of higher learning require applicants to have a bachelor's degree prior to admission.
In most cases, individuals who hold at least a bachelor's degree in the field take the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB) certification exam. A passing score is mandatory for nursing home administrators in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Associate's Degree in Assisted Living Administration
With an associate's degree in assisted living or long term care administration, individuals are prepared to assume organizational and leadership duties involved in the operations of a long term care facility. Assisted living administration associate's degree programs are taken wholly or partially online. Course topics include the following:
- The basics of long term care and assisted living
- Death, dying, grieving, loss and hospice
- Administration and social services for long term care facilities
- Rules, regulations and standards relating to the operation of a healthcare facility
- Care management and ethics
Bachelor's Degrees Related to Assisted Living Administration
Assisted living administration is offered as a concentration for a bachelor's degree program in health science or a similar topic. Coursework in an assisted-living-focused bachelor's degree program is designed to prepare students for managerial and clinical occupations within a number of healthcare environments, including hospitals, community health care centers and managed care organizations. Some specific classes in these programs include:
- Epidemiology and community health
- Health aspects of aging
- Strategic health organization and management
- Assisted living management and philosophy
- Healthcare finance, leadership and decision-making
Master of Health Administration
Master of Health Administration programs primarily focus on teaching students how to manage the complex and rapidly changing ethical, political and technological developments related to healthcare in the United States. Prior to graduation, many master's degree students in a health administration program are required to fulfill a supervised residency program or internship, so they utilize classroom knowledge in real-world settings, including assisted living facilities. Through this part of the program, students are presented with opportunities to gain an understanding of the organizational structure of health care facilities, obtain a global view of the healthcare industry and improve their leadership and administrative abilities.
Education prerequisites include pre-health science, accounting and statistics coursework; however, these prerequisites are satisfied after the student enrolls in the program. Colleges and universities provide evening, weekend and online course delivery options for students in health administration master's degree programs. Coursework includes the following:
- Problems and issues in the healthcare field
- Human behavior in public organizations
- Financial management of health services
- Economic concepts applied to health care providers
- Legal issues in health care delivery
- Assisted living administration research project or thesis
Popular Career Options
An entry-level position in assisted living administration will be difficult to obtain for those who only hold an associate's degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nursing care facility administrators must have a bachelor's degree in addition to passing a state licensing exam; however, the BLS also states that direct work experience might be accepted as a substitute for formal education (www.bls.gov). Some specific jobs at assisted living facilities that graduates might consider applying for are:
- Resident services director
- Sales and marketing director
- Food services director
- Health care coordinator
- Assisted living property manager
Career opportunities for assisted living administration professionals with a master's degree exist not only in health care facilities, but also in a wide variety of policy, planning and development fields. Graduates might find work with governmental agencies and institutions, non-profit and philanthropy organizations or substantive urban development projects. Specific job opportunities related to assisted living administration that are available to those holding a master's degree can include:
- Medical and health services manager
- Head of corporate development and support services
- Social and community service manager
- Administrator of ambulatory and emergency services
- Health services project administrator
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The BLS estimated that medical and health services management (including nursing home administration) employment will grow 17% for the years 2014 through 2024. Workers in this field earned a median annual salary of $94,500 in 2015.
Licensure and Continuing Education Information
The National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB) supplies the national licensing examination for nursing home administrators that is used by all U.S. states. Some states may also require an additional state exam. The NAB also administers the residential care and assisted living (RC/AL) exam, which is required for RC/AL administrator licensure in a few states; however, in most states, the RC/AL exam is voluntary and used to enhance a candidate's credentials. Completion of continuing education coursework is typically required to maintain licensure.
Assisted living administration undergraduate and graduate degree programs provide students with the skills needed to enter such positions as a resident services director or medical and health service manager. However, program graduates will need to earn licensure before starting their careers.