Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) Program Overview

Courtney Smith-Kimble, MA
Updated October 4, 2023
Reviewed by
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Find out what licensed practical nurses (LPN) do, where they work, how much they make, how you can become one, and why you'd want to.
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average program length

average credits required

average earning potential

average earning potential$47,480SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Opportunities with a LPN/LVN

partial online offering
clinical hours required
Quicker Entry
Path to Advancement
Many LPNs and LVNs work in their field for one or two years, and then eventually return to earn their bachelor’s degree.
Explore the Nursing Field
Becoming an LPN/LVN allows you to get experience and see if nursing is a good fit for you before committing to a longer program.
Skills Learned
Patient care, teamwork, and communication and organizational skills.

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Work Settings for LPN/LVN Graduates

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How Much Will I Make With an LPN/LVN Certificate or Diploma?


Mean Hourly Salary


Mean Monthly Salary


Mean Annual Salary

*SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Apply to LPN/LVN Programs

Applicants are usually required to have either a high school diploma or GED certificate. Some programs may require that applicants take the TEAS exam.

Attend LPN/LVN Classes

LPN and LVN programs feature academic, lab, and clinical components. Coursework covers the fundamentals of nursing and human anatomy, and clinical requirements can be completed at healthcare settings like hospitals and nursing homes.

Graduate from an LPN/LVN Program

Students can finish an LPN/LVN program within a year to 16 months.

Register for NCLEX-PN Exam

This exam is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), and is used to assess a candidate’s readiness to work as a practical or vocational nurse.

Pass NCLEX-PN Exam

Candidates typically wait around six weeks to receive their score. Upon passing, they are eligible to apply for licensure and begin working.

Types of Entry-Level Nursing Programs

Admission Requirements for an LPN/LVN Program

Aspiring LPNs and LVNs can pursue programs in community colleges, technical schools, hospitals, and high schools. Students should note that requirements vary by institution. However, schools typically require each applicant to hold a high school diploma or GED certificate and a minimum 2.5 GPA.

While programs do not require prerequisite coursework beyond standard high school courses, a solid background in math and science helps students excel in these programs. A vocational nursing applicant may also need to provide letters of recommendation and a resume.

Core Concepts in an LPN/LVN Program

LPN/LVN education prepares graduates to apply nursing processes in healthcare settings to promote healing. Schools also focus on creating ethically driven professionals who work within the legal boundaries of LPN/LVN professional practice. LPN and LVN programs examine nursing competencies and theories, including the following:

  • Fundamentals of nursing
  • Anatomy of the human body
  • Medications
  • Processes of disease

Students also learn to provide high quality care and examine the best strategies for developing care plans for specific populations. The following are typical courses focused on specialized care giving:

  • Mental health nursing
  • Maternal and pediatric nursing
  • Geriatric nursing

LPN and LVN nurses also need hands-on experience before entering the field. Therefore, the LPN/LVN curriculum includes multiple practicum experiences that amount to over 1,500 hours.

Clinical and Lab Components in an LPN/LVN Program

LPN and LVN requirements include clinical hours and lab components. Students should note that the amount of hours varies by state. Mandatory field experience hours usually range from 500-750 hours. However, the best programs often include practical experience to fully prepare graduates for the field.

What To Expect From an Online LPN/LVN Program

Interested students considering careers as LPNs or LVNs can earn their degrees online. Courses may follow an asynchronous format, allowing enrollees to complete coursework at any time to meet their deadline dates. Assignments may include exams, essays, and projects. Students engage with instructors and peers through online discussion boards and email.

Other online courses may use a synchronous format, which requires live attendance through students’ webcam. Synchronous learning still requires degree seekers to submit assignments digitally. While students can complete courses online, programs require in-person attendance for clinicals and other field experiences.

Is an LPN/LVN Program Right for Me?

The nursing field offers professional opportunities at multiple levels, allowing students to begin working without an extensive time commitment to their education. Aspiring professionals who need to begin working quickly often choose to complete LVN or LPN requirements, which comprise a year of education before entering the field.

Professionals who earn LPN or LVN credentials before entering RN programs gain more experience, which creates a competitive edge when applying to ADN or bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs. However, an LPN certificate comes with limitations in the field. For instance, LPNs do not qualify for leadership opportunities and cannot work in as many settings as RNs. LPNs must work under licensed professionals at all times and do not earn as much as RNs.

LPN/LVN Advantages

LPN/LVN Disadvantages

Questions About LPN and LVN Programs

Is an LPN/LVN a promising job?

BLS projections indicate that employment for LPNs/LVNs will grow by 9% from 2019 to 2029, demonstrating ample opportunities in the profession. Demand for nurses, as a whole, continues to increase. The job can be stressful, nurses spend a good part of their workday on their feet, for instance, but it is also highly rewarding.

Should I become an LPN or a certified nursing assistant (CNA)?

As entry-level healthcare positions, becoming an LPN or a CNA can open doors to nursing. Both roles focus on patient care and require a high school diploma and a state-approved education program that does not culminate in a degree. LPNs must pass a licensing exam, but CNAs do not. However, CNAs must pass their state’s competency test. In general, LPNs earn higher salaries than CNAs.

How long does it take to become an LPN/LVN?

An LPN/LVN certificate program usually takes one year to complete, including 500-750 hours of requisite clinical experience depending on state requirements. Factors affecting the timeframe include full-time or part-time enrollment, the number of clinical hours required by the school and state, and whether students need to fulfill any general education requirements.

Explore LPN/LVN Programs

Reviewed by:

Portrait of Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

Elizabeth Clarke (Poon) is a board-certified family nurse practitioner who provides primary and urgent care to pediatric populations. She earned a BSN and MSN from the University of Miami.

Clarke is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.

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