How to Become an LPN

How to Become an LPN

Nursing is often described as being one of the oldest professions in the world today, yet it’s still a profession that’s very much in demand. The healthcare industry is constantly in need of skilled nurses. If the idea of becoming a nurse appeals to you, your first question might be, what kind of nurse? The two main choices are registered nurse (RN) and licensed practical nurse (LPN). Individuals who want to work as nurses as soon as they can while spending as little time and money as possible often choose the LPN option. Learn everything you need to know about LPNs and how to become an LPN.

What is an LPN?

An LPN, also known as LVN (licensed vocational nurse), is a licensed trained person who provides patients with their essential needs, which might include dressing, bathing, and eating. These also assist physicians and RNs in working with patients and providing the best possible healthcare. LPNs also document the patient’s condition and communicate with other medical professionals regarding the patient’s care.

They also help the patient’s family understand what’s going on with the patient and the best way they can help the patient. The amount of medical care an LPN can provide depends on the state and its laws. While they may not have as many or the same responsibilities as RNs, they do have many duties and responsibilities.

Career Outlook

If people need health and medical care, there will be a need for LPNs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that LPNs can see job growth of six percent between 2021 and 2031. It appears that about 58,800 new jobs per year for LPNs should open up by 2031.

LPNs retiring, finding higher-paying jobs, and changing professions are the main reason for the expected job growth. The aging population in need of healthcare also contributes to job growth. Regardless of the various reasons, LPNs will continue to be in demand for quite a few years. Many healthcare facilities choose to hire LPNs because they earn lower wages than RNs.

There are currently about 676,440 LPNs employed in the U.S. according to Nursing Process. In fact, nurses in general make up 50 percent of the world’s workforce. Some states have more LPNs employed than others, which can be seen below with the states with the most LPNs employed.

States with the most LPNs

StateNumber of LPNs
New York38,590

Although hospitals are what typically comes to mind when we think of LPNs and where they might work, LPNs work in a variety of settings. They can be found working in home healthcare, nursing homes, physicians’ offices, rehabilitation centers, correctional facilities, and the military.

Some LPNs work as traveling nurses going wherever they’re needed. They may work during the day, evening, or on the weekends. Since nursing homes and hospitals are open 24/7, LPNs may be required to work late or night shifts.


If you’re thinking about becoming an LPN to get rich, you’re probably choosing the wrong profession. However, depending on certain factors, LPNs can make good money. The bureau reports that LPNs nationwide earn an average yearly wage of $54,620 as of May 2022. LPNs in the lowest ten percent earned about $40,490, while LPNs in the top 90 percent earned about $72,650. Factors like degree, experience, certifications, employer, and location can all affect what an LPN can or will earn. Here you will see the states where LPNs earn the top wages.

States with top LPN salaries

StatesAnnual mean salary
Rhode Island$66,770

To give you an example of how wages can vary by state, here are the states where LPNs earned the lowest yearly salaries.

States with lowest LPN salaries

StateAnnual mean salary
West Virginia$44,410

How to Become an LPN

If you’re wondering how to become an LPN, you may be surprised to discover that, despite having some tough courses, the actual process of becoming an LPN is easier than you might think. It’s a step-by-step process.

  1. Earn a high school diploma
  2. Enroll in an accredited LPN program
  3. Complete the program
  4. Apply to take the NCLEX-PN examination
  5. Schedule a date for the exam
  6. Get the results
  7. Apply for licensure

Candidates for the nursing program must have a high school diploma. The LPN program may take from one to two years to complete depending on if it’s a diploma, certificate, or associate degree program.

Students enrolling in an LPN program may be required to pass a criminal background check and a drug test prior to completing the clinical portion of the program. With more than 1,600 LPN programs in the U.S., interested parties should have little problem finding an LPN program in which to enroll.

It is important to choose a school or college that’s accredited. The Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation is an organization commonly chosen. The program requires completion of both coursework and clinical experience. Students in an LPN program take courses like biology, nursing, pharmacology, and medical terminology, among others.

The clinical portion requires the student to work in a healthcare setting under the supervision of an RN or nurse practitioner (NP). This part usually takes place in the final semester. Students are usually required to work in a few different areas of a hospital to gain hands-on training working in different departments. If the student is specializing in a certain area of nursing, the student will spend a little more time in that area.

Once you’ve completed or almost completed the program, you should register to take the NCLEX-PN exam. It’s often hard to schedule a date that doesn’t require a long wait, so it’s important to schedule the exam as soon as you possibly can. You’ll be applying for your nursing license at the same time. You’ll generally get the results of your test within 48 hours of taking the exam. They will send you the results as well as your nursing license.

Day in the Life

A day in the life of an LPN consists of the LPN providing healthcare service to patients and performing administrative duties. Their duties may vary slightly depending on the employer, but most LPNs have the following duties and responsibilities.

  • Providing basic patient care, such as assessing wounds, inserting catheters, changing dressing and bandages
  • Monitoring a patient’s overall care like checking blood pressure, taking temperature, and checking pulse and heart rate
  • Helping patients with basic care like bathing, shaving, dressing, and eating
  • Communicating with the patient regarding their health and any concerns the patient may have
  • Reporting the patient’s condition to RNs and doctors
  • Documenting all information on the patients and entering information on the system
  • Talking to the patient’s family and instructing them on how to care for the patient
  • Collecting samples for testing and ensuring samples get to the lab

While LPNs and RNs have a lot of the same duties in terms of providing patient care, there are some things an RN can do that an LPN is not allowed to do according to the laws in that state. The laws do vary from state to state.

For instance, LPNs may start IVs or give medications in some states if they have special training, but in other states, this may not be allowed. Every state also has its own regulations regarding how much supervision LPNs must have while on the job. What that means is that the LPN may only be allowed to perform certain duties if an RN is present.

However, in some states, LPNs with years of experience may supervise LPNs new on the job. LPNs are not ever allowed to supervise RNs. LPNs are not allowed to create healthcare plans in any state, but they can perform the tasks listed in the care plan. Despite what they can and cannot do in certain states, LPNs provide extensive hands-care to patients regardless of where they work.


Once aspiring nurses make the decision to become a nurse, the first question they typically ask is if they should become an LPN or an RN. There are some differences between the two. The one thing they both have in common is that they are licensed nurses and must be licensed to become the nurse of their choice.

Here are some differences and similarities between LPNs and RNs:

  • LPNs and RNs often work in the same type of facilities despite many of the settings and duties being different.
  • RNs have state authorization to triage patients, develop nursing care plans, and make health assessments, but LPNs do not.
  • RNs can dispense medications on their own, but LPNs can only do it under supervision from an RN.
  • Being an RN requires two to four years of education, while being an LPN only requires one to two years of education.
  • RNs can work independently, while LPNs may need to work with an RN under certain circumstances.
  • Unlike LPNs, RNs can treat ill or dying patients and interpret patient information with a doctor’s orders. This might include healthcare promotion, case findings, rehabilitate care, health counseling, chronic pain management, and patient teaching.
  • Most LPNs work for nursing care facilities or home healthcare services, while most RNs work in general medical and surgical hospitals.

Licensure, Certifications, and Continuing Education

LPNs and LVNs are required to be licensed in all states before they can work as licensed nurses. To get the nursing license, the individual must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN)

The NCLEX-PN is an adaptive test, which means that the difficulty level of the test depends on if the answers are correct or incorrect. If you get a question wrong, you’ll get a replacement question that might be harder. Therefore, one student may have to answer more or fewer questions than a different student would need to answer.

The questions are a combination of matrix, drop-down menus, bowtie, and multiple-choice. The least number of questions a student may need to answer is 85, while 150 is the maximum number they may need to answer. The exam is pass/fail, but students will not receive their actual scores. They will just be notified if they passed or failed

Individuals who have questions about the licensure requirements in their state can contact their State Board of Nursing or the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Once the student passes the exam, the student can apply for licensure. The nursing license is generally good for two years.

To maintain licensure, the LPN must complete some continuing education credits or whatever that state requires for re-certification. Some LPNs choose to obtain certifications in other specialized areas:

  • Advanced Life Support
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
  • IV therapy
  • Gerontology
  • Patient Counseling
  • Long-Term and Hospice Care

Next Steps

These certifications require studying and passing a certification exam in that area. The more certifications the LPN earns, the better. Multiple certifications can enhance a resume, increase wage potential, and open more positions in the field.