Healthcare Administration

Is a Master’s Degree in Long-Term Care Administration Worth It?

Is a Master’s Degree in Long-Term Care Administration Worth It?
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Paige Cerulli May 6, 2019

Will you be able to pay back school loans while getting established in the field? Signs (and statistics) point to yes.

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If you’ve cared for an aging loved one, you know the importance of helping the elderly complete simple activities that the rest of us take for granted as part of daily life. Perhaps you’ve volunteered at a local nursing home, or simply have a desire to make a difference in the lives of seniors. If you think working at a long-term care facility might be your calling—but first want to know what you degree(s) you need to pursue such a career path, you’re in the right place.

Earning a master’s degree in long-term care administration is often the first step to fulfilling your career. If you have business administration skills and love working with people, you can make an impact on the lives of patients, their families, caregivers, staff, and more through an administrative healthcare position.

That said, it’s important to understand that your master’s degree isn’t the only hurdle between you and an administrative position in long-term care services. You’ll need to get your state license in order to hold the position—and well before that, start considering some universal pros and cons of this master’s program.

Here’s what you’ll learn

According to Healthcare Administration EDU, your program will focus on long-term care, health administration, and gerontology.

Expect your program’s curriculum to include coursework in:

  • Healthcare organization
  • Healthcare ethics
  • Service delivery to the elderly
  • Long-term care delivery

In addition to your master’s degree, you’ll also need to gain state licensure to work as a long-term care administrator. Most state licenses require the following:

  1. Complete an accredited, state-approved training program (usually your bachelor’s or master’s degree)
  2. Complete an AIT practicum internship (this is commonly fulfilled by the practicum component of your master’s programs)
  3. A state/national licensing examination

State licensing requirements do vary—such as the number of AIT practicum hours from state to state—so you’ll want to look into your region’s specific requirements before you graduate. While many states use the National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards Nursing Home Administrator Exam as their licensing examination, others may require you to pass both that exam and their own state exam.

Once you have your license, you’ll also need to complete continuing education in order to keep your license up-to-date. But, your license is that final piece to landing a long-term care administration position.

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“I’m Interested in Healthcare Administration!”

Health administration undergraduates sometimes start out in admissions, marketing, risk management, managed-care analysis, or other non-clinical staff positions and work their way into higher-level administrative roles. While it’s possible to work in healthcare administration without an MHA, it can take a lot longer to climb the managerial ladder without a master’s degree. (source)

According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2018, the median wage for health service managers was $99,730 per year, with the highest 10 percent in the field earning over $182,600 in base pay. Employment opportunities for health services managers is expected to grow by 20 percent by 2026. This growth is much faster than growth for other occupations. (source)

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Let’s dig into career opportunities

Your master of long-term care administration degree will prepare you to hold an administrative position in a nursing home or assisted living facility. According to Healthcare Administration EDU, the main objective of your job will be to ensure that residents have a high quality of life while also making sure that the facility operates smoothly. You’ll be responsible not only for the healthcare side of the operation, but also for business management practices. This means you’ll need to be flexible, quick-thinking, and well-educated in both healthcare and business.

From government to nonprofit organizations to private practice, your master’s degree can prepare you for success in many different settings. While your exact responsibilities will depend on the size and type of facility where you work, generally speaking, you’ll be fulfilling a head of operations or chief executive officer position.

You can expect to be responsible for some or all of the following:

  • Staff hiring and training
  • Patient care and oversight of care quality
  • Facility promotion
  • Budget creation and monitoring
  • Policy design and enforcement
  • Adherence to federal, state, and local regulations
  • Staff supervision

What about earning potential?

Earning your master’s degree requires a financial investment, and many students need to take out student loans to finance their education. If you’re in the same boat, you’ll probably want to know whether you’ll be able to pay back those loans and live comfortably while getting established in your field.

According to PayScale, long-term care administrator salaries range from $49,483 to $105,437, with the average salary being $75,255. Your salary will depend on the facility where you work, your experience level, and even your location. Of course, your education will impact your salary too—and pursuing a master’s degree in a long-term care facility or in a managerial capacity can help boost your earnings.

When it comes to job security and future job prospects, the long-term care field is promising.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that, as baby boomers age, medical and health service manager positions should grow by 20 percent from 2016 to 2026.

So, is a master’s in long-term care administration worth it?

While a career as a long-term care administrator can offer plenty of career opportunities, a comfortable salary, and overall career enjoyment, qualifying for a position in this field requires a significant investment of time and energy.

At the end of the day, you’re the only one who can decide whether pursuing your masters is worth it. You’ll need to think about many different factors, such as:

  • The skills and character traits that would make you a strong administrator
  • Your desire to hold an administrative role in a long-term care facility
  • How much time you can devote to your education
  • How you’ll finance your education and the level of salary you’ll need upon graduating
  • How your master’s degree can contribute to your career goals

Working as an administrator in a long-term care facility takes someone who is dedicated, passionate about their work, and has excellent business knowledge. If you fit the bill, then earning your master’s can be the first step to your carer—and helping the elderly retain their dignity and independence during the later stages of life.

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle. He has been managing editor of the Noodle.com website for over four years.

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