There are many reasons why an LPN may want to advance their career and become a RN. The pay can be quite a bit more substantial. There is often much more responsibility as an RN. Career options for RNs are plentiful. An increased personal satisfaction with furthering your education may be a driving force. For the LPN looking to advance to a higher degree, below is an explanation of the different education options, current job outlook of RNs, employment options of RNs and a pay comparison between LPNs and RNs.
An LPN typically obtains a one year certification. After completing the education and clinical requirements to receive the certification, the LPN candidate must take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nursing, or NCLEX-PN. Once the NCLEX-PN has been passed, the LPN candidate officially becomes an LPN and holds a license to practice nursing. Similarly, an RN looking to obtain their Associates Degree of Nursing (ADN) must complete certain education and clinical requirements. Once these requirements are obtained, they graduate with their ADN and are eligible for the NCLEX-RN. Licensure is obtained once this examination is passed.
LPNs earn your ASN or BSN degree online in ½ the time and cost of traditional programs. With No Waiting List to get started, Instructor Led Program Online or Local Classrooms, 92% Pass Rate on Exams, and Low Cost financing options available, this is the great way for LPNs and LVNs to earn your Associates or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and your RN license.
There are many programs across the U.S. that allows an LPN to obtain their ADN degree, subsequently receiving an RN license. These programs are competitive; often an LPN will be competing for space in the program with other LPNs, college students that have skipped the process of becoming an LPN and are seeking to become an RN, and students from other medical disciplines that are also seeking to become an RN. LPNs must apply for RN school just like all other students.
ADN programs are offered all over the U.S. in community colleges and universities. The amount of credits necessary for graduation depends on the school’s requirements, but the typical program is between 60 and 72 credits. The ADN program is designed to prepare its students to pass the NCLEX-RN examination and obtain an entry-level job as an RN. A typical ADN program is about half as long as a BSN program and can be as much as half the price. Both ADN and BSN degree holders are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN examination, but the BSN education prepares the nurse for management, leadership, research and public health positions.
Entering an ADN program as an LPN may allow the student to skip out of certain nursing classes, due to prior education and clinical experience. The LPN often may not be required to take Fundamentals of Nursing or Med/Surg 1. Some ADN programs, depending on the curriculum, may allow the LPN to graduate quicker than other students.
LVN stands for “licensed vocational nurse”, whereas LPN stands for “licensed practical nurse. An LPN and an LVN is the same thing; the acronyms may be different but they both refer to a nurse who has passed the NCLEX-PN examination and are practicing with a one year certification. The job title is interchangeable and is dependent on which state the nurse resides.
LVNs are employed in California and Texas, whereas LPNs are employed in all other states in the US. As stated previously, the job is the same, the education is the same, and the final examination, the NCLEX-PN is the same. The term “licensed vocational nurse” had different origins in both states. In Texas, the term may have originated in the 1950s with the Vocational Nurse Act. In California, legislators termed these nurses as “vocational”, due to “…performing the technical skills that one acquires ‘by means of a course in an accredited school of vocational nursing.’”
As there is no difference between the practice of an LPN and an LVN, there is no difference between an LVN to ADN program and an LPN to ADN program. Although the title of the program may differ, the same education is provided – to prepare the student for the NCLEX-RN.
There are quite a few LPN to ADN-RN program options available to students. The variety of programs available allows the LPN to select a program that works best for their lives.
- Traditional students can find programs in local community colleges and universities. These programs typically are open to all types of students, from LPNs, to other medical professionals, to students who have just graduated high school, to adults going back to school.
- Fast-track programs are specifically designed for LPNs and are designed to allow the LPN to attend school while working. These programs are typically three semesters without a summer break – they often begin over the summer and commence the following summer.
- Online schools allow an LPN to attend school without leaving their homes. Depending on the specific school, the LPN may opt to attend part-time or follow a specific curriculum, just as they would in a traditional school. A typical LPN to RN program is a “bridge” program that is designed to prepare the LPN to take the NCLEX-RN
examination while taking into account their past education and clinical experience. Clinical portions for online programs may allow the nurse to practice their skills at a local hospital or travel to a hospital of their choice to “test out” of clinical skills.
Students learn in a variety of ways. The abundance of programs available to LPNs (and all nursing students in general) allows the student to select the experience that best matches their needs. As a lot of LPNs continuing their education to become RNs have families, work off-shifts, or are adult “non-traditional” learners, the types of programs can literally be tailored to fit their current lifestyle.
Diploma programs are the oldest type of nursing school in the history of the U.S. It is a traditional type of school that may be hospital-based or college-based that allows the student to become an RN without receiving a college degree; once completed, the student will have a diploma to practice nursing and will be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN. This type of RN is similar to an RN who has graduated with their ADN; they have the basic skills necessary for an entry-level RN job.
Diploma programs do not have an “LPN to RN” option. Students that enter a diploma program must take all of the classwork, and an LPN who enters will continue through the program with all of the other students, regardless of their past education and clinical experience.
Diploma schools have been evolving since their conception in the 1800s. Initial diploma schools didn’t have standardized curriculums and often had very little coursework. By the 1900s, curriculums became standardized and became the primary type of education for RNs. In fact, in the 1950s and 1960s, there were over 1,300 diploma schools in the U.S. In the 1970s, university-based programs became the primary type of nursing education. Today, less than 10 percent of RNs have graduated from an RN diploma program. While there are still hospital-based diploma programs, often the diploma programs are affiliated with a university. Even the hospital-based programs are often affiliated with a university; although at the completion of the program the nurse will have a diploma as opposed to an associate’s degree, the student may be awarded credits towards a university degree based on their coursework and clinical experience.
A diploma program graduate will have received an education strong in social sciences and biology, but will be heavy in clinical experience and patient care. The typical diploma program graduate will have much more bedside nursing experience than a graduate from an ADN program. The larger amount of clinical hours will allow the diploma RN to find a job in a variety of settings with ease.
Diploma programs are not tailored to LPNs furthering their education as an RN. However, they may be a great option for the learner who leans heavily on “doing” as opposed to a traditional classroom setting.
The length of the average Plan to RN program depends on the type of education the LPN selects.
- Traditional programs allow the LPN to finish their ADN. The length of time is dependent on the actual school curriculum. The typical program will allow the LPN to graduate in about one to two years.
- Fast-track programs allow the LPN to finish their ADN in about three semesters. Often the three semesters are back-to-back without a summer break, so it typically takes the LPN about one year to complete.
- Online LPN to RN programs allow the LPN to follow a specific program, such as a traditional program, or go part-time. The length of time depends on the actual program that is selected. A traditional program may take one to two years, while a part-time program could take a few years, depending on how the many classes the LPN takes at a time.
- Diploma programs are not specific for LPNs advancing to complete their RN. They do not take into consideration past coursework or experience. The LPN deciding to go through a diploma program must follow the same requirements as all of the other students enrolled, so all students graduating from a diploma program will graduate in about three years.
These options allow the LPN to pick a school based on not only their learning needs, but their timing needs.
Costs for LPN to RN programs are highly variable. For example, a community college will be much cheaper than a public university. A public university will be cheaper than a private university. Online schools also have a high variability in education costs.
When looking at the cost of a program, you must also take into consideration the cost of textbooks, nursing supplies and other school fees. Use nursing school net price calculator to help you estimate the typical costs for your nursing education.
Nursing school is not cheap. As you can see, the costs can become astronomical. When enrolling, it is a good idea to see what types of scholarships and grants are available, and to apply for financial aid. An advantage of having an LPN certification before attending school RN is that often the LPN is already employed. Employers may have tuition reimbursement opportunities to help fund education. In addition, areas that are underprivileged and have a shortage of nurses may have federal programs available to fund the education of nurses.
Waiting lists for nursing schools occur when there are a large number of students seeking to become an RN, but not enough spots in that particular school to accommodate. In addition, the highly publicized nursing shortage may inspire all types of students to apply for backgrounds. With the growing nursing shortage, there are still not enough nursing instructors to accommodate the needs of prospective nurses. Waiting lists tend to occur in traditional programs, such as ADN programs at community colleges and universities. They may also occur in fast-track programs, where there are a large number of LPNs seeking to become an RN.
That being said, there are a number of options of nursing schools that do NOT use wait lists. If you’ve applied to a nursing school and get placed on the dreaded “list”, there are other options out there. Online nursing schools are abundant and very few utilize a wait list.
When seeking out a nursing school without a waitlist, there are a number of things to consider and research. An accredited school may be ideal. According to Johnson & Johnson, an accredited school may not be necessary to obtain licensure. However, if the plan is to continue education for a higher nursing degree, or to apply for scholarships, applying at an accredited nursing school may be in your best interest. When seeking an accredited school, look for either the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Most schools allow the user to research the faculty on their website. Perhaps even reach out to a faculty member to ask any questions regarding attending nursing school online. Compare curriculums to the desired school and the online nursing school – most nursing school curriculums are very similar, although the names of the courses may vary. Seek out current or former students and speak with them about concerns. And for many students – make sure that financial aid is available.
In the past, online schools for any discipline or degree have had a reputation as being easy, not reputable, and degrees that are not as coveted as “in person” schools. However, the face of online schools is changing as many public schools are offering online programs. Online schools may be desirable for students with families, full-time jobs, or working off-shifts because they offer flexibility, which is important in today’s world.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nursing is the fastest growing profession. This is due to a number of reasons. Nurses are aging and will be retiring. The elderly are growing older. Baby boomers are requiring more medical attention. That being said, unfortunately more and more employers are seeking nurses with a bachelor’s degree. In fact, “In 2013, 44 percent of hospitals and other health care settings required new nurses to have BSNs, up almost 5 percent since 2012.”
However, there is definitely a place in the healthcare system for RNs with an ADN. Although half of employers require a BSN, half of employers do not. It is also important to look at your career goals when deciding to continue as an RN from an LPN. If your goal is to work at the bedside and make a difference in your patients’ lives, and if you don’t seek to teach or work in management, an ADN is sufficient. Nursing is often a second career, especially for the adult learner. For these students, an ADN is also sufficient. It is also helpful as a stepping stone; often an LPN will continue for his or her ADN and then continue on for the BSN at some point in the future. This enables the nurse to advance their career, gain more experience, and have a bigger income before continuing for a bachelor’s degree.
There are reports that state that the nursing shortage will continue for many years. There are also reports that state that the nursing shortage is over. According to Vignesh Ramachandran of USA Today, “The demand for health care is only expected to increase here. With baby boomers aging, 2-3 million additional patients will enter Medicare each year.” The misconception of the nursing shortage lies in that in certain parts of the country, entry-level nurses have had a difficult time obtaining jobs. This is due to a number of reasons. While most areas of the country do indeed need nurses, other areas are flush with nurses. Also, due to the current economic situation, many nurses are remaining employed past the “normal” retirement age, which leaves fewer positions available to entry-level nurses.
RNs with an ADN can work in a variety of settings and can do most of the same jobs that an RN with a BSN can do. For example, both degree-holders can work in a hospital setting – taking care of patients at the bedside, starting IVs, giving medications, and taking orders from doctors. They can work in all types of units in a hospital, from a Med-Surg unit to the ICU. Both types of nurses can work in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). In fact, most states allow nurses with an ADN to be in a supervisory role in a SNF. Both degree-holders can find work in home health agencies or hospice facilities. However, an RN with a BSN typically will have a better chance of obtaining jobs in supervisory roles, school settings, and case management settings. Nursing educators require a BSN as the minimum.
|State||LPN / LVN Average Annual Wage||RN Average Annual Wage||Percentage Difference|
|District of Columbia||$51,320||$79,640||36%|
Source: http://www.dol.gov/, 2014 Data
According to PayScale.com, the average LPN makes $18.00 per hour, although this number varies from about $14.00 per hour to $24.00 per hour. These variances make an average salary of $29,586 to $50,990 per year. The variances in pay may be attributed to experience and the state the nurse resides.
Variances in RN pay are noticeable as well. According to PayScale.com, the average RN makes $26.00 per hour, although this ranges from about $20.00 per hour to $38.00 per hour. The average salary ranges from $42,951 to $82,575 per year.
The variances in the RN salary can be attributed to both nursing discipline and the state the nurse is employed. For example, nurses working in an oncology office may make $57,000 per year, while a nurse working as a cardiovascular operating room nurse may make $64,000 per year. This numbers can be staggeringly higher depending on the state the nurse is employed; the average nurse employed in California makes $96,980. According to Mighty Nurse, the lowest paid RNs work in Iowa, with an average salary of $51,648. It is also worth noting that there are variances depending on if the nurse is employed in a hospital or a clinic. The average hospital-based RN makes $69,880 per year, or $33.23 per hour. The average clinic-based RN makes $72,220 per year, or $34.72 per hour.
Although nursing school is not easy, it is very possible for the LPN to continue for their RN. There are numerous types of schools to attend, the jobs waiting are abundant, and the salary is desirable. In addition, the nursing shortage will continue; although this is unfortunate, it does mean that there will be a want for nursing jobs.
How Does an LPN Become an RN
What Do I Need to Know About LPN to RN Program Education?
What is the Difference Between LPN to ADN and LVN to ADN Programs?
LPN to RN Education Options
LPN to RN Diploma Programs
How Long is the Average LPN to RN Program?
How Much Does an LPN to RN Program Cost?
What About Nursing School Waiting Lists?
What is the Job Outlook for LPNs to RNs? Is There Still a Nursing Shortage?
Employment Options for RNs with an ADN
LPN to RN Salary Comparison