Difference Between a Nursing Home Administrator and an Assisted Living Administrator

The Basics

Nursing home administrators and assisted living administrators are often confused with one another, and for good reason. Both positions involve overseeing the day-to-day operations of facilities that are designed to help people that cannot live on their own to have a comfortable, safe, and healthy living environment.

Both positions are heavily involved in the areas of business, finance, and marketing, which is necessary to ensure the financial stability of the facility in which they work. But there are plenty of differences between these two occupations. The educational requirements and the specific duties required for these jobs differ. There is also a significant difference in the salary one can make in these positions.

Education Requirements

Nursing Home Administrator

To work as a nursing home administrator, one must have at least a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration or a closely related field. Bachelor’s degree programs in healthcare administration are multifaceted in that they cover a wide-range of topics, from business and management to ethics to finance and healthcare law.

Bachelor’s degree programs usually require about 120 credit hours of coursework, about half of which is in the major area. The other 60 or so credits include general education courses in the areas of math, science, social studies, and language arts.

Some nursing home administrator positions require applicants to have an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree in healthcare administration, business administration, public health, or a related area. These programs vary widely with regard to the required number of courses and the time it takes to complete the program. In some instances, master’s degrees might require around 30 credit hours that can be completed in one or two years. In other instances, these programs might require 60 or more credit hours that takes 3-4 years to complete.

All states require nursing home administrators to complete a state-approved training program/internship and also pass a state licensing exam. Continuing professional education is normally required to renew license.

Assisted Living Administrator

Careers in assisted living administration can be had with a lesser degree of formal education than jobs as a nursing home administrator. In fact, some positions in this field are open to workers that have a high school diploma and at least two years of work experience. Other positions require at least an associate’s degree, which usually includes around 60 credits of introductory coursework in business administration, finance, and healthcare administration, in addition to general courses in core areas like math, science, and so forth.

More typically, assisted living administrators must have a bachelor’s degree. The area of study doesn’t have to be as specific as it does for a nursing home administrator. For example, someone with a bachelor’s degree in biology could potentially find work as an assisted living administrator.

The key for assisted living administrators is getting relevant work experience that’s required for licensure or certification. Although all 50 states require administrators of long-term nursing care facilities to be licensed, not all states currently require assisted living administrators to obtain a license to operate as an administrator. To sit for the licensure exam, which is administered by the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards, someone with a state-approved bachelor’s degree must have at least six months of relevant work experience in an assisted living leadership position.

Job Duties

Nursing Home Administrator

Though there is a heavy emphasis on providing healthcare services in nursing homes, nursing home administrators do not have a direct hand in providing those services. Instead, they use their administrative capacity to run the business side of the nursing home.

For example, a primary duty of a nursing home administrator is to ensure that the facility is compliant with federal, state, and local regulations. This might include ensuring that all nursing staff members have the proper credentials for the position in which they work or helping the food service staff to develop menus for residents that comply with nutritional standards for older adults.

Another primary role of nursing home administrators is to delegate responsibilities to staff members to ensure that the nursing home runs as smoothly as possible. This might include meeting with other members of administration and management to set long-term goals for each department (i.e., accounting, nursing, sanitation) or gathering data to compile reports about the performance of the nursing home in meeting the needs of each resident.

Finance is an essential component of this job as well. Nursing homes must maintain occupancy rates that ensure the company remains solvent. This often means that nursing home administrators have to develop budgets, seek out new clients, and resolve financial issues as they arise.

Assisted Living Administrator

Assisted living administrators are responsible for a wide-range of job duties. Like nursing home administrators, they are deeply involved in the business side of things, such as developing marketing plans that attract new residents that fill vacancies at the facility. This might include having input on marketing materials like brochures, emails, and other advertisements used to promote the facility.

Workers in this field are also often responsible for meeting with new residents when they arrive at the facility. This usually occurs in an intake interview, in which the assisted living administrator and other management officials meet with the client and their family to determine their precise needs. For example, during an intake interview, an assisted living administrator might inquire about the client’s ability to bathe or feed themselves, that way the staff understands precisely what sort of services the client will require.

Another job duty of assisted living administrators revolves around helping clients and their families obtain any benefits due them. For example, a resident that is a veteran might be assisted with the process involved in getting the proper Veterans Affairs benefits to help offset the costs of their care.

Lastly, some assisted living administrators play a key role in the development of the atmosphere at the facility. That is, they might be involved in planning activities for residents such as game nights or movie nights. Likewise, they often participate in discussions about improvements that might be needed at the facility, from routine maintenance to adding amenities for the residents, like a pool or fitness center that assists residents in maintaining their health.

Work Environment

Nursing Home Administrator

Naturally, a nursing home administrator works in a nursing home environment. Nursing homes are round-the-clock residential care centers that provide services to elderly individuals that cannot live on their own due to age, mental illness like dementia, or physical ailments.

Nursing home administrators typically work in an office environment where they tend to the duties of their job. Though they aren’t responsible for the direct care of their residents, you’ll often see nursing home administrators conversing with residents and their families and checking in with staff members as well.

Assisted Living Administrator

Assisted living administrators can work in a variety of facilities, from residential care facilities for the elderly to assisted living centers for young adults with developmental disabilities. As an administrator, workers in this field work in a typical office environment, spending much of the day in their offices. However, given the wide scope of duties for assisted living administrators, they might also be in meetings elsewhere in the facility or at another location, meeting with staff members, or conversing with residents and their families in a common area of the facility or even in a resident’s room.

Salary

Nursing Home Administrator

According to an April 2018 report by Salary.com, the median annual salary for a nursing home administrator was $110,150. The pay range for experienced nursing home administrators ranged from $98,032-$122,677 per year. However, workers with little experience can expect to earn much less, at around $87,000 per year. Conversely, administrators with a lot of experience can command much higher wages that exceed $134,000 per year.

Even for workers that earn wages on the low end of the pay scale, this is a very lucrative occupation, especially considering that some positions only require a bachelor’s degree.

Assisted Living Administrator

As of May 2018, PayScale estimated that assisted living administrators made an average yearly wage of $54,223. The pay range for this occupation is quite narrow, at least compared to the range of salaries available to nursing home administrators. For example, an assisted living administrator with 0-5 years of experience can expect to earn around $48,000 per year. But someone with 20 or more years of experience can expect to earn around just $62,000 per year.

Nevertheless, for an occupation that in some cases requires a high school diploma and two years of work experience, the compensation is quite good. This is true of jobs in both urban and rural areas, though urban areas tend to have higher wages to account for the higher cost of living.

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