The pathway you choose depends on your goals. Things like education, duties, certifications and salaries are all things that may help you decide on one pathway or another.
One question that often comes up when someone decides to pursue nursing as a career is: what’s the difference between a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and a registered nurse (RN)? At first glance, both appear to be similar, so what exactly is the difference?
To become a nurse, you can earn your diploma in practical nursing or you can work toward your RN degree. The pathway you choose depends on your goals. Things like education, duties, certifications and salaries are all things that may help you decide on one pathway or another. Here’s what you need to know about each and how to decide which is best for you:
If you don’t have nursing experience, earning your diploma in practical nursing is a great first step to start your nursing career. LPNs usually work under the supervision of an RN in a variety of settings ranging from doctor’s offices and hospitals to nursing homes and hospice care. LPNs provide basic care to patients, with responsibilities such as recording vital signs, changing bandages, maintaining and updating patient records, and assisting patients with bathing.
To become an LPN, you must receive your diploma in practical nursing. At Herzing University, you can earn your LPN diploma in as few as 12 months. You must have a high school diploma (or equivalent) while meeting at least one of the following requirements:
At least a 2.0 cumulative GPA and pass the TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills)
Have at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA while scoring at least 19 on your ACT
Obtain a cumulative GPA of 2.3 or higher
Once you meet one of those requirements, you can begin attending classes to develop skills relevant to LPNs. You’ll practice in simulation labs, receive hands-on clinical experience and learn from nursing instructors with real-life experience.
To become an LPN, you must earn your diploma and follow your state’s licensing process from the state’s board of nursing. Additionally, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), or for LPNs, the NCLEX-PN. Before taking this exam, you must be approved through an Authorization To Test, or an ATT letter, through your nursing regulatory body.
Job Outlook and Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for LPNs is expected to grow 9% from 2020-2030, adding as many as 63,800 new jobs. While salary depends on experience and the state you work in, the median annual wage according to the BLS was $47,480 in May 2019.
If you’re an LPN and want to advance your career, becoming an RN is a great next step. RNs work in similar settings as LPNs while also performing many of the same duties. However, RNs have a greater scope of responsibilities, which include performing diagnostic tests, setting up patient care plans, informing families about patient care after treatment, collaborating with doctors and other health professionals, and operating and monitoring medical equipment.
Becoming an RN requires either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, and the pathway you choose depends on your career goals and level of education. Here are a few options for becoming an RN:
LPN to ASN Bridge Program: To become an RN fast, this bridge program can have students prepared to take the NCLEX-RN in as few as 16 months.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): Earning your BSN can help accelerate you to leadership roles. Students in this program can also earn dual credit toward a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to advance their careers. The BSN degree can be completed in as little as 3 years.
Herzing University is transfer-friendly, so you have the option to use some of your approved credits towards your degree.
In addition to earning your degree, you must be licensed by the state in which you plan to work to become an RN. Specific requirements for licensing depend on the state. You’ll also have to pass the NCLEX for RNs — the NCLEX-RN. Just like LPNs, before the NCLEX-RN, you’ll have to be authorized through an ATT letter.
Salary and Job Outlook
According to the BLS, employment for RNs is expected to grow. As an RN, you have more responsibilities than LPNs, which is reflected in your salary. The BLS reports that the median annual wage for RNs in May 2019 was $73,300.
Both LPNs and RNs are rewarding careers. If you want to learn more about all of the opportunities available to you, so be sure to do your research before choosing a school and a program. Learn about all of Herzing’s nursing programs to start your career today!
* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2020. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.