How to Become an LPN in 3 Steps
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 or master’s 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. 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.”
2. 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.
3. 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 LPN program may be able to choose between several flexible learning options, including an LPN to BSN pathway.
Frequently asked questions about becoming an LPN
Most BSN programs take a few years to complete, but it can take as little as 12 months to earn your diploma in practical nursing.
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.
Licensed Practical Nurses earn an average annual salary of $47,050 per year ($22.62 per hour), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10% of LPN’s earn on average $62,160 and higher annually. Salary is dependent on the state of employment, place of employment and relative demand in your area. Learn more about how much an LPN makes on average and find the closest estimate in your state.
In just over a year you can become educated and earn a position as an LPN, find a job with a good annual salary and build the foundation for a career in patient care.
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 or bachelor’s degree. However, any claim they are being “phased out” isn’t accurate. LPN’s remain in demand in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home care and many other environments. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job opportunities for LPN’s will rise approximately 12% from 2016 to 2026.
The landscape is changing, but LPN’s remain a vital contributor in the nursing community.
No, there are no accredited LPN 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 LPN 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.
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.
There is no prerequisite to be a CNA before enrolling in the Herzing University LPN program.
You may find some programs offering 6 month or 9 month paths to a PN diploma. 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.
Become Possible with Herzing University.
The biggest step to take towards becoming a new you is enrolling in a diploma program so you can become licensed to practice in your state. Herzing University offers an LPN diploma program at 5 of our ground campuses: