LPN to RN: A Comprehensive Outlook

Many nurses begin their careers as an LPN. It takes less time to finish the required education. This makes it easier for nurses to gain employment faster. Those interested in a long term nursing career or who want higher salaries can continue their education. The next step for many is an LPN to RN program.

What's the Difference Between RN and LPN?

There are a variety of differences between RNs and LPNs. The most common differences for an RN include:

  • Increased salary potential
  • Professional versus practical nursing degree
  • Longer education
  • Must pass NCLEX-RN exam
  • Different set of responsibilities
  • Increased job options

One of the main reasons people advance from LPN to RN is the salary increase. RNs earn over $20,000 per year more than LPNs. This increase does require additional coursework to prepare for the role. The length of time varies based on the educational path students take. LPNs are required to pass the NCLEX-PN exam instead of the NCLEX-RN exam.

LPNs are only licensed to provide basic medical care such as bathing patients or applying bandages. Those in a position that advanced from LPN to RN provide more advanced care such as administering medicines and performing diagnostic tests. They may even oversee some LPNs depending on the specific job they have.

What's the Difference Between RN and BSN?

RNs can choose to expand their career options by pursuing a BSN. A BSN is not required to become an RN, but it may increase potential job opportunities. The biggest difference between the two is RN is a job title. A BSN is a degree and may be associated with a variety of nursing titles.

There are many similarities between the two. When choosing to go from LPN to RN, a nurse may opt for an RN program or BSN program. Either program is acceptable as long as the NCLEX-RN exam is passed. Some nursing careers do require a BSN such as working as an educator. Depending on experience, an RN with a BSN could earn just under $9,000 more per year.

LPN to RN Education Requirements

LPNs have three main options for becoming an RN. They can choose a:

  • Diploma program – 2 to 3 years for completion
  • Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) – 2 to 3 years for completion
  • Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN) – Up to 4 years for completion

Each option requires LPN to RN students to take classes in chemistry, microbiology, anatomy, behavioral sciences and more. Students must also have a set number of hours of supervised clinical experience.Some schools offer LPN to RN programs which provide credit for previous coursework and job experience. These programs are usually more accelerated for those who want to get into the position faster. Both diploma and ADN programs vary in length based on whether a student attends classes part time or full time and the type of program offered.

All of the options prepare students for the RN licensing exam which is required to advance from LPN to RN. The main differences between the three is length of time and types of positions offered. For instance, an ADN program may allow an RN to become a staff nurse, but not a research nurse. That title would require a BSN. Many aspiring RNs begin with a diploma or ADN program. This allows them to enter the position quicker. They can then continue their education and earn a BSN to further their career.

RN Job Responsibilities

An RN’s job responsibilities vary based on their employer. They often work as part of a team including other healthcare workers. Some RNs work as supervisors to home health aides, nursing assistants and LPNs. Others work directly with patients and consult with the patient’s doctors to provide the care they need. Some of their common responsibilities include:

  • Establish or alter patient care plans
  • Administer medications and treatments to patients
  • Record any observations while treating patients
  • Monitor and use a variety of medical equipment
  • Guide patients through treatment before being discharged
  • Aid in diagnostic testing
  • Analyze some test results
  • Guide patients and their loved ones through managing their injuries and illnesses

LPN to RN helping sick patient

Some RNs choose to specialize in specific areas such as geriatrics or dermatology. This can change their daily job responsibilities and the types of patients they work with.

RN Salary Information

Those who advance from LPN to RN, have the potential to earn over $94,720 per year with experience, education, the right employer and the right location. This is the higher end of salary scale with the average annual salary being $65,470 as of 2012. Some areas and employers may be far less. The lower end of the yearly average is approximately $45,000. Some industries pay better than others. The top five industries include:

  • Government
  • Standard hospitals
  • Home health care
  • Nursing home facilities
  • Physician’s offices

The average pay varies by over $10,000 per year between government and physician’s offices. Employers may also offer benefits such as tuition reimbursement, childcare and annual bonuses. These can increase the average salary. The longer an RN remains in a position, the more likely the salary is to increase. The combination of experience and possible promotions boost salary potential.

RN Job Outlook And Security

The BLS predicts a 19% growth rate in employment between 2012 and 2022. This is considered a faster than average rate compared to other types of occupations. This is an increase of 526,800 available positions within a decade. The total projected employment by 2022 is 3,238,400.

The aging population and wider availability of healthcare are the primary causes of the increased demand. RNs working in long term care facilities or home healthcare may see more availability of positions to help care of older patients. Outpatient centers are also expected to want more RNs. Many patients are opting for physician’s offices and outpatient facilities versus hospitals.

The outlook is best for RNs with a BSN. Employers do prefer RNs with some job experience. Advancing from LPN to RN gives you a better chance than those who have no prior nursing experience. The variety of facilities and industries requiring RNs means the career is a secure one. Many RNs remain in the industry until retirement and advance to different positions or facilities throughout their career.