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Also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are entry-level professionals who provide basic nursing care in many different settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and physicians' offices. LPN salary potential depends on a nurse's specialty area, geographic location, and workplace. Educational background and experience are also factors.
How much do LPNs make? Read on to learn more about the average LPN salary, or check out our LPN and LVN program overview.
Fast Facts About Licensed Practical Nurses
- LPNs are known as licensed vocational nurses in California and Texas.
- Certifications in specialty areas such as gerontology or intravenous therapy may increase employment options.
- LPN is one of the most popular nursing roles, with more than 996,000 active licenses in the U.S. as of 2020.
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Average Salary for Licensed Practical Nurses
An LPN's average salary depends on their education. While most hold a vocational/practical nurse certificate, completing an associate or bachelor's degree can lead to better salaries and nursing positions outside of the LPN field. The following table lists median salaries for LPNs based on education level. As the table demonstrates, nurses with advanced degrees enjoy higher salaries.
COVID-19 Effects on Licensed Practical Nurse Salary and Employment
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many professions on all levels, and the nursing profession is no exception. Over the last year, the number of LPNs has declined as nurses leave the field, voluntarily and involuntarily, due to COVID-19.
In a recent Medscape survey, nurses who identified as unemployed were asked a follow up question to determine if their employment status was related to COVID-19. The survey found that 23% of unemployed registered nurses (RNs) and 26% of LPNs pinpointed COVID-19 as the reason for their unemployment.
Licensed Practical Nurse Salaries by Specialization
An LPN's specialization may also influence earning potential. LPNs who earn credentials in one or more specialty areas typically enjoy higher wages and better employment opportunities. The following table lists some common specializations and their median salaries.
What Kind of Salary Growth Can Licensed Practical Nurses Expect?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 9% job growth rate for LPNS from 2019-2029, but many factors impact LPN salary potential. Changing workplaces, continued education, and experience all influence professional growth. Generally, LPNs can expect their salary to increase throughout their career as they gain more experience.
0-5 Years Experience
11-15 Years Experience
20+ Years Experience
PayScale, May 2021
Highest- and Lowest-Paying States for Licensed Practical Nurses in 2020
LPN/LVN salary rates vary from state to state, with an approximate $20,000 gap between the lowest- and highest-paying regions. Wage disparities exist primarily due to geographic location, local demand for healthcare professionals, and regional demographics. LPNs who work in coastal states generally earn the most, thanks to these regions' high population density.
Top-Paying States for Licensed Practical Nurses
Lowest-Paying States for Licensed Practical Nurses
Highest-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Licensed Practical Nurses
The following five metropolitan areas offer LPNs the highest average salaries. Nine out of the 10 highest-paying areas are located in California, mainly in the state's central and western regions. In contrast, the metropolitan areas that employ the most LPNs are scattered across the country, with New York City, Newark, Los Angeles, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Houston boasting the highest employment levels.
|Highest-Paying Cities||Average Salary|
|San Jose — Sunnyvale — Santa Clara, CA||$75,950|
|Santa Rosa, CA||$74,820|
|San Francisco — Oakland — Hayward, CA||$74,520|
|Vallejo — Fairfield, CA||$72,350|
Highest-Paying Workplaces for Licensed Practical Nurses
LPNs find employment both in and out of the healthcare industry. Most LPNs work in healthcare facilities like hospitals or nursing homes. However, for the average LPN, salary potential is highest in the following settings.
|Workplace Setting||Average Salary|
|Outpatient Care Centers||$56,320|
|Scientific Research and Development Services||$54,490|
How Do Licensed Practical Nurse Salaries Compare to Other Nurses?
Certifications, educational history, and specializations all influence a nurse's career possibilities and salary potential. Due to their relatively brief training, LPNs typically earn less than many other professionals in the field. Compare the average LPN salary to other nursing roles in the table below.
Four Ways to Increase Pay as a Licensed Practical Nurse
According to 2020 data from the BLS, the top 10% of LPNs enjoy a median annual wage of $65,520, while the lowest 10% earn $35,570 a year, making the median annual wage $48,820. LPNs can increase their earning potential by focusing on important variables like education, work setting, geographic location, and specialization.
- 1. Consider pursuing certifications
- Certification programs offer specialized training in areas like gerontology or intravenous therapy. LPNs who are certified in a specialization hold advanced knowledge and skills that allow them to work in more lucrative settings.
- 2. Increase education level
- LPNs can also increase their salary by earning an associate degree or a bachelor's degree in nursing. While it takes less time to earn a practical certificate or a nursing diploma, degree-holders enjoy higher salaries and more professional opportunities.
- 3. Gain experience
- According to the Journal of Nursing Regulation, LPN salary potential grows with professional experience. The two largest salary increases typically occur during a nurse's first five years on the job, with another significant increase after 10 years. LPNs who enter the field earlier also boast higher wages, with nurses under the age of 29 seeing the largest pay increase.
- 4. Switch practice settings
- An LPN's work setting directly influences their salary. Nurses employed at nursing homes or other long-term care facilities and outpatient centers tend to earn the most. LPNs who wish to increase their earning potential should look for jobs at skilled nursing facilities, hospital-based outpatient settings, or home health/visiting nurse companies.
Frequently Asked Questions: Licensed Practical Nurse Salaries
Who makes more: LPNs or RNs?
On average, RNs earn higher annual salaries than LPNs. RNs receive more education and training than LPNs, and they are qualified to perform tasks that LPNs cannot. According to Medscape, RNs enjoy an average annual salary of around $81,000, while LPNs make about $50,000 each year.
Does an LPN hold a degree or a certificate?
Prospective LPNs can hold either a vocational/practical certification, or an associate or bachelor's degree. According to the Journal of Nursing Regulation, a growing number of LPNs hold an undergraduate degree, while fewer individuals hold only a vocational/practical certificate.
Can LPNs make good money?
LPNs can earn a decent living, especially those willing to pursue higher education and become certified in a specialization. Many top earners also prioritize finding jobs in certain work settings, states, or regions that offer higher salaries.
Is it worth it to become an LPN?
LPN salary figures have consistently risen in recent years, increasing from $46,000 in 2017 to $50,000 in 2019 and outpacing RN salary growth. This data suggests a continuing need for LPNs. The entry-level LPN role also allows nurses to pursue additional certifications or education, providing many opportunities for continued professional growth. Both aspects demonstrate that it is financially and professionally advantageous to become an LPN.
Learn More About Licensed Practical Nurses
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