Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Vs Registered Nurse (RN) – Education, Duties, Salary

This article will discuss two nursing specialties: the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and Registered Nurse (RN).

If you have questions about these specialties, keep reading to find all the necessary answers.


Nursing is a broad field with many unique specialties, either by the job description or academic qualification needed.

Different approaches need to be taken to become qualified in any nursing specialty.

So, if you aspire to become a nurse, knowing which direction you’re heading is essential. However, this may prove not accessible without proper guidance and knowledge.

Difference Between RN and LPN

Duties And Scope Of Practice

The main difference between a licensed practical nurse and a registered nurse lies in their duties.

Licensed practical nurses are responsible for the general well-being of the patient. They perform essential duties that are critical to the patient’s recovery.

These include; following up on the patient’s medication, checking vitals, tracking the patient’s progress, and keeping a tab of the patient’s records.

The limit to what care they offer the patient is often determined by law. Also, the LPN must be supervised by a senior nurse while performing their duties.

On the other hand, registered nurses are mostly independent nursing staff whose primary duties are administrative or supervisory.

RNs have a broader scope of work, including admitting and discharging patients, carrying our Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).

They work alongside doctors and other health practitioners to discharge their duties which involves supervising the LPNs.


To become qualified nursing personnel, the LPN and RN must pass a licensing exam.

The National Council Licensure Examination for LPNs tests and licenses the LPNS. In comparison, the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses is responsible for the testing and licensure of RNs.

Another critical difference between the LPN and the RN is the program they each need to undertake. LPNs undergo a one-year vocational nurse training program that embodies clinical work, physical education, biology, and emergency nursing care.

The LPN will gain the practical skills to carry out their duties effectively.

On the other hand, RNs require either a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree in nursing. Depending on the degree, these ADN programs require two to four years of coursework.

However, many states now require RNs to have a bachelor of science degree. With this becoming the standard, a nursing associate must take a BSN or MSN program to become an RN.

Career Prospects

Regarding employability, RNs and LPNs have a good chance of getting jobs immediately after their education. Both nursing specialties have a 9% increase in employment opportunities over the next decade.

This prospect translates to about 60,700 jobs for LPNS and 194,500 job openings for RNs.

The vast difference between the job vacancies for the two specialties proves how much RNs will be in demand within the next decade.


LPNs earned about $48,000 on average as of May 2020.

The highest-paid LPNs took home an annual salary of about $65,000, and the lowest-paid ones had a yearly income of about $35,000.

This pay is a fraction of what the average RN made within the same period.

The highest-paid RNs earned up to $116,000, whereas the lowest-paid ones earned nearly $53,000 yearly. On average, RNs made close to $75,000 in a year.

This pay is about $27,000 more than what the LPNs took home.

Licensed Practical Nurse Vs. Registered Nurse: Where They Work

Another difference between LPNs and RNs is in their working environment.

Both nursing specialties are in demand across several workplaces, including; residential facilities, outpatient nursing facilities, hospitals, healthcare services, the educational environment, and the government.

A higher percentage (38%) of LPNs worked in nursing and residential care facilities which handle patients and the elderly. At the same time, about 61% of these professionals work in state, local, and private hospitals as of 2020.

Despite this, employment opportunities for both nursing specialties are expected to increase in outpatient facilities and residential homes.

Guide to Becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse or a Registered Nurse

Nursing students who aspire to join the ranks of the LPNs have to take a route quite different from those who want to become RNs.

This section will outline the steps involved in becoming an LPN and what each step entails to prepare yourself adequately in advance.

Guide to Becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse


  • Enroll in an accredited LPN training and certification program

Getting into an accredited certification program is the first step to becoming a licensed practical nurse.

The LPN certification program usually takes one year to complete, and within this period, the students get enough clinical experiences that are fundamental to their field.

In addition, relevant courses are part of the educational requirement for LPNs.

Interested applicants can find Licensed practical nursing certification programs in community colleges, technical schools, high schools, and hospitals.

  • Take the NCLEX-PN examination.

After completing the one-year vocational training, the next step is to sit for The National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses.

This exam is one of two types of licensing examinations taken by nurses. If the candidate passes the exams, the examination board issues an official license that permits the nurse to practice as an LPN.

  • Start Applying for Jobs

Once you have successfully passed your licensing exams and have become a licensed practical nurse, it’s time to begin your career. We have mentioned a few places where LPNs work; you can start your job applications there.

Guide to Becoming a Registered Nurse


  • Get a degree from an accredited nursing school.

Enrolling in an accredited nursing program is the first step to becoming a registered nurse. Unlike the LPNs, RNs need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, an Associate degree in Nursing, or a Diploma in Nursing.

The duration of studies varies depending on the degree.

A nursing diploma is the least among all three and takes 1 – 2 academic years. An associate degree in nursing takes 2 – 4 years, while a bachelor’s degree typically lasts four years.

Nursing students pursuing bachelor’s degrees are exposed to leadership, critical thinking, communication, and science courses.

This training helps to prepare them for their supervisory roles in the field.

  • Pass the certification exams.

To become a fully licensed registered nurse, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination. However, passing the exams alone is not the only criterion for becoming an RN.

Some states also require that the candidate undergo a background check.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing provides a complete requirement list. Specialization is another way to become a certified registered nurse.

The nurse will undergo specialized training by a professional association in oncology, gerontology, and ambulatory care.

  • Start Applying for Jobs               

Once licensed to practice, you can start applying for jobs. Registered nurses have a much broader scope of work, giving them flexibility regarding where to work.

However, a more significant percentage of these specialists are found in state, local, or private hospitals.

The pay varies depending on where you work, but if you want to increase your chances of landing a better job and a bigger paycheck, here is what you must do.

Advancing Your Career – LPN VS RN.

Whether you are an LPN or RN, you can further your career.

Advancing your career comes with perks depending on your prior qualifications: a bigger paycheck, more job opportunities, and supervisory and managerial roles.

Here is what to do if you want to;

Advancing Your Career as an LPN

One of the ways to advance your career as an LPN is by gaining enough relevant experience in your field. When this happens, an LPN can be allowed to supervise other LPNs. Another way to advance your career is to specialize.

Becoming a specialized LPN means you are certified to carry out specific procedures.

A third option is to enroll in an LPN to RN program. The program is of two types; LPN to ADN and LPN to BSN. LPN to ADN programs take about two years, whereas PN to BSN programs can take up to 4 years as online courses.

Completing any of these programs prepares you for the NCLEX-RN exams, the final step to becoming a licensed RN.

Compared to the other options, LPN to RN programs is the best approach if you completely change your career prospects as an LPN. On the other hand, if you are already a licensed registered nurse, here is what to do if you wish;

Advancing Your Career as an RN

Being an RN can feel like you’ve reached the apex of your career, but don’t let that feeling fool you. As an RN, you can continue to access more prominent roles and even bigger paychecks on experience and performance alone.

But if you want to break into new grounds and take on higher roles in your field, you should consider getting a master’s or even a doctorate.

Some programs can accelerate your rise from a registered nurse to an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). These are referred to as bridge programs. The RN to BSN program is the recommended bridge program for an RN with an ADN degree.

And for an RN with a BSN degree, the next step is the RN to MSN degree. These programs take only a few months compared to pursuing a BSN or MSN degree.


The nursing field is ambiguous, but you can seamlessly navigate it with the proper guidance. This article examines two typical nursing specialties, the licensed nursing practitioner and the registered nurse.

One question we hoped to answer in this article is this; Should you go for an LPN or an RN program?

While the answer to this question ultimately lies in your hands, we hope this article will provide enough information to help you decide.

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