Earn a nursing degree and become an RN
Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses (LPN, LVN) can advance their nursing careers by becoming a Registered Nurse (RN). Jumping from LPN to RN represents an expansion of your scope of practice, higher salary potential, and greater career prospects in the future.
Registered nurse ranks as the #8 Best Health Care Job according to the 2023 U.S. News and World Report. RNs earn an average salary of $89,010 per year, substantially more than LPNs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).* The biggest step to take to transition to RN is to earn a nursing degree—you can’t become an RN without one!
Take these steps to bridge from LPN to RN:
How long does it take to go from LPN to RN?
The time it takes to transition from LPN to RN varies based on a few factors, including:
- Your degree choice. Pursuing an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN/ADN) takes less time than a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Our degree programs range from 16-28 months when enrolled full-time.
- How quickly you move through the program. The fastest path to becoming an RN is enrolling full-time, but part-time enrollment may be a better choice depending on your circumstances.
- Transfer credit. You may be able to transfer credits earned through prior college coursework to save you both time and money.
1. Embrace an expanded scope of practice
RNs provide most of the nursing care in healthcare facilities, including many common duties LPNs are qualified to perform. In addition, RNs can be responsible for:
- Administering medication, drawing blood, and inserting IV drips
- Operating and monitoring medical equipment
- Performing diagnostic tests and collecting lab samples
- Teaching families and patients how to manage care after treatment
- Setting up or contributing to patient care plans
- Collaborating with doctors, advanced practice RNs (APRN), and other professionals to administer and improve care
Learn more about the difference between LPN versus RN roles and responsibilities, scopes of practice, salary, job outlook, and more.
Approved roles and responsibilities for both LPNs/LVNs and RNs vary by state. But generally speaking, RNs enjoy a significantly broader scope of practice than LPNs.
If you’re fully prepared to take on these advanced responsibilities, you’re ready to transition from LPN to RN. It’s time to start thinking about your education.
2. Choose a degree level
You have two basic choices when choosing the type of nursing degree you’d like to earn.
To become an RN, you are required to earn an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
While earning an ASN can take less time (and cost less), earning a BSN comes with many benefits, including:
- Job qualifications. RNs with a BSN may qualify for more types of jobs across unique specialties. Employers may prefer BSN holders for the sake of earning Magnet status.
- Salary potential. Furthering your nursing education can potentially make you eligible for higher paying jobs, especially those with managerial or leadership duties.
- Better NCLEX pass rates. Students who hold a BSN historically pass the NCLEX at higher rates.
- Future career prospects. Earning a BSN brings you closer to the highest levels of nursing. You can better qualify for jobs that don’t require an MSN—and you’re closer to earning your MSN should you decide to pursue one in the future.
Both ASN and BSN bridge programs require on-campus core nursing courses and on-site clinicals to provide practical experience preparing you to pass the NCLEX and become an RN.
LPNs considering an LPN to MSN track must first become an RN before enrolling in an MSN program to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). No matter which undergraduate nursing degree you choose now, you can discover MSN pathways build for you in the future.
Compare ASN vs. BSN and learn what degree pathway is right for you.
3. Select a bridge program
Once you’ve determined which degree you want to pursue, it’s time to begin searching for the right program.
Choosing a bridge program designed for LPNs helps you save time and money compared to traditional undergraduate nursing programs. When weighing your options be sure to seek an accredited program with a history of producing competent, successful nursing professionals.
Herzing University degree pathways for LPNs
Can I enroll in an online program? While you can complete general education courses online in a “hybrid” style format, core nursing classes and clinicals must be completed on campus. You cannot become an RN fully online/via distance learning.
Additional factors to consider:
- Enrollment requirements. Every school sets certain enrollment prerequisites, which can include a minimum GPA, completion of certain college-level courses, or achievement of benchmark scores on entrance tests such as the Wonderlic or TEAS.
- Flexible scheduling. Ensure you can complete courses at a pace you’re comfortable with. If you want to continue working while enrolled in the program, make sure to confirm with the school this is acceptable.
- Start dates, waitlists. Sometimes the program you want is in high demand! Ensure there’s a start date coming up soon and prepare for the possibility of being placed on a waitlist.
4. Graduate and pass the NCLEX-RN
In order to become a registered nurse in the U.S. and Canada, you must first pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
The NCLEX includes more than simple single-answer multiple choice questions. You’ll need to be prepared for “select all that apply” or multiple answer questions. Nursing instructors may include this style of questioning into their exams to help you prepare for the NCLEX.
Graduates who successfully pass this national examination will be eligible to practice as registered nurses in the state in which they took the examination and will also be qualified to apply for licensure in all 50 states.
5. Obtain RN licensure in your state
After graduating from an approved prelicensure RN program and passing the NCLEX, you’ll need to meet the Board of Nursing requirements in your state.
A license confirms to your state you have met the prerequisite standards to provide the public reliable care as an RN.
Every state has their own unique requirements regarding RN licensure. It’s your job to understand the requirements in the state in which you want to practice and become licensed.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) put together a guide covering what you need to know about nursing licensure and boards of nursing. You can read their full brochure here.