There are many different paths to becoming a nursing home administrator in California. Ultimately, though, a series of tests must be passed before you can receive a license from the Department of Public Health.
Assuming you qualify with one of the acceptable combinations of education and experience, you will have to pass 2 exams. One is the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards national exam. The other is the state test administered by the California Nursing Home Administrator Program. The passing score for a California license is 75 percent for both tests (you can’t average the tests to achieve this, as they are totally separate).
Generally speaking, there are 4 different ways to qualify for the license exams. The more education you have, the less experience you need. In some cases, you will eventually qualify by completing an AIT program, which is a nursing home administrator in training.
You don’t need separate experience if you have a master’s degree in nursing home administration. However, this program must include an internship of at least 480 hours in a skilled nursing facility or intermediate care facility.
If you only have a bachelor’s degree, then you can qualify for the tests by completing a 1000-hour AIT training program. You can also qualify via AIT training if you are a registered nurse with 10 years of full-time work experience. This does not exactly mean administrator experience, as 5 of the years can be regular nursing work. However, 5 of the 10 years must be in a supervisor or director role in nursing.
The last way to qualify is more complicated. You need to do the 1000-hour AIT training. But in addition to that, you need 10 years of work experience in a skilled nursing facility, an intermediate care facility, or an intermediate care facility for the developmentally disabled. The work can be in any department. But 5 of the 10 years must be as a department manager. Finally, to utilize this qualification route, you need at least 60 college credit hours.
If you fail either of the tests 3 times, you must receive training from a preceptor before you can try to test again for a California nursing home administrator license.
Be aware that you must pass a criminal background check to participate in an AIT program. There is a separate application for these training programs.
The Department of Public Health has a forms page for nursing home administrators. You can find both AIT and regular administrator license application forms on this page, as well as registration forms for both the national and state exams.