Begin a rewarding new career path
The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is increasingly becoming the new educational standard for today’s nurses. But while many individuals aspire to earn a BSN, you don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree to begin your nursing career.
In fact, many people first become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) to gain experience in the field. LPNs are integral members of the healthcare team that work closely with registered nurses (RNs) and physicians to provide patients with basic nursing care. Becoming an LPN is a great way to start your nursing career and can often serve as a stepping stone on the pathway to an associate, bachelor's, master’s, or doctorate degree later on.
Interested in taking the first step towards a career in nursing? Here’s how you can become an LPN in a little as 12 months:
1. Know the role of a practical nurse
Practical nurses play a unique role in nursing and have a specific set of responsibilities differentiating LPN from other types of nurses, such as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) and Registered Nurses (RN).
What does an LPN do?
An LPN provides basic nursing care under the supervision of RNs or physicians. Practical nurses can be responsible for a range of duties, including taking vital signs, recording patient histories, and administering medications. Additional duties can include:
- Monitoring patients
- Completing routine assessments, such as checking blood pressure
- Changing bandages and wound care
- Helping patients bathe or dress
- Inserting IVs or catheters
- Ensure patients are comfortable
- Collaborate with RNs and doctors and report patient concerns
Duties may vary depending on the state of employment and healthcare facility (hospitals, nursing care facilities, clinics, and more). For example, some states do not permit LPNs to administer IV drips or medications.
Practical nurses contribute as key members of a healthcare team, supporting doctors and nurses in caring for patients of all ages. The first step to begin developing these skills is to enroll in a practical nursing program.
2. Enroll in a practical nursing program
In order to become an LPN, you must complete a diploma in practical nursing through an approved educational program. These programs typically only take one year to complete and help prospective nurses learn basic nursing skills through a combination of coursework and clinical experiences.
At Herzing University, practical nursing students practice applying their nursing skills in simulation labs and learn from nursing instructors with real healthcare experience. They also gain real-world experience by completing their required clinical work with a variety of local healthcare partners.
“Clinical experience is important to your nursing career because you can explore different areas in the clinical setting. Many times, you find what you like and don't like in clinical and that helps you decide what types of positions you will apply for when you graduate,” said Herzing graduate Shenese Stewart. “It also helps connect the dots between theory and practice. Reading about something and actually doing it can help solidify it in your mind.”
3. Take the NCLEX-PN exam
After graduating with your diploma in practical nursing, you will be eligible to sit for the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nurses exam (NCLEX-PN). You must pass this exam to practice as an LPN.
Your nursing courses will help prepare you for the NCLEX, but studying early and often is recommended. Michelle Metzger, Department Chair of Nursing at the Herzing University Kenosha campus, suggests reviewing past exams from class to become more familiar with the types of questions you might encounter on the NCLEX, as well as taking advantage of any test prep resources offered your school.
4. Start your career and keep learning
Once you’ve passed your NCLEX-PN, you’re ready to start your career as an LPN. It's common for nurses to gain nursing experience working as an LPN while they advance their education in an ASN or BSN program.
Herzing’s practical nursing curriculum is designed so that students who wish to advance their nursing education can enroll directly in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. Graduates of the PN program may be able to choose between several flexible learning options, including an LPN to ASN or BSN pathway.
Frequently Asked Questions
It can take as few as 12 months to earn a diploma in practical nursing, as opposed to approximately 2-3 years to earn an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing (ADN/ASN or BSN).
Potential employers may prefer a candidate with experience as a CNA, but it’s not necessarily a requirement for getting a job as an LPN (same goes for going from CNA to RN).
You aren't required to go from CNA to LPN and there is no prerequisite to be a CNA before enrolling in the Herzing University PN program.
You may find some programs offering 6 month or 9 month paths to a PN diploma to become an LPN. Be mindful that accelerated diploma/degree programs aren’t for everyone and such a fast track can be overwhelming. If you’re considering a few months’ difference in time as a tipping point in your decision, remember the quality of your education is most important!
Herzing University’s 1-year PN diploma program gets you an excellent hands-on education in a short amount of time. You’ll learn the foundational concepts and skills in nursing needed to excel in your new career as an LPN.
Because many hospitals are upping their educational requirements for nurses in general, the demand for LPNs in hospitals is falling relative to registered nurses with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
However, any claim they are being “phased out” isn’t accurate. LPNs remain in demand in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home care and many other environments. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job opportunities for LPNs will rise approximately 5% from 2022-2032.*
The landscape is changing, but LPNs remain a vital contributor in the nursing community.
Considering a career as an LPN?
Your first step is to get a hands-on education to learn the fundamentals of nursing in a career-focused program. Herzing University's practical nursing program combines classwork with clinical experiences to help you earn your diploma and prepare you to become an LPN in as few as 12 months. Our program is available at several of our ground campuses:
While practical nurses (LPN) and medical assistants often perform similar tasks, there are a few key differences to be aware of, including:
- Educational requirements
- Average salary
- Scope of practice
- Ongoing career opportunities
- Future outlook for jobs
Learn more about the difference between practical nursing and medical assisting and how to go from MA to LPN.
While Registered Nurses (RN) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) often work together in collaboration in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, their roles and responsibilities are very different. Learn more about the biggest differences between practical nurses (LPN/LVN) and registered nurses (RN).
No, there are no accredited PN programs that are 100% online. LPN programs describing themselves as “online” will offer a hybrid option where you can take some classes online to supplement your primary classroom coursework.
Students enrolled in the Herzing PN program may complete general education courses online—but the bulk of the coursework must be completed on campus.
Ultimately there is no replacement for real hands-on clinical experience, practice in simulation labs and direct in-person support from nursing instructors with real healthcare experience. Learning the skills required to become an LPN requires the live educational experience to become an excellent Licensed Practical Nurse.
After earning your high school diploma or GED, you will need to earn a diploma in practical nursing to qualify for the NCLEX-PN and become a licensed practical nurse.