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LPN Nurse Careers and Salary Outlook

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A licensed practical nurse (LPN) delivers hands-on care to patients. They perform several responsibilities, carrying out basic nursing tasks and improving patients’ quality of life. Although LPNs do not need associate or bachelor’s degrees to work, they do need to earn licensure. This page answers important questions like “what does an LPN do,” and “how much does an LPN make,” along with exploring how to become an LPN.

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What is an LPN Nurse?

An LPN provides basic medical care to patients. These nurses do not take on as many responsibilities as registered nurses (RNs), but they perform several important tasks, such as monitoring patients, administering medications, dressing wounds, and taking vital signs. They may also assist RNs or doctors during other medical care procedures. Some LPNs use this job as an entry-level position before becoming RNs, and other nurses prefer to work as LPNs throughout their careers.

LPNs can also be referred to as LVNs, or Licensed Vocational Nurses. These titles can be used interchangeably, and both have the same educational and licensing requirements. While their roles are generally the same, the titles differ depending on where the nurse practices. The LVN title is unique to nurses practicing in California, Texas, and Vermont, while all other states use the title LPN to describe the same job.

  • What Do LPN Nurses Do?

    An LPN is not certified to handle all of the same situations as an RN, but they can administer medicine, injections, and take vital signs under the supervision of other medical staff. Many practical nurses choose to go on to become RNs through continued education, but others stay in the less stressful LPN field. LPNs work in group settings or under the supervision of RNs, making their jobs less nerve-wracking than those of other medical professionals. LPNs still perform very rewarding work, and many of these nurses go on to earn competitive wages based on long years of service.

    Specific LPN responsibilities vary, depending on the workplace and state law. For instance, some states allow LPN nurses to give patients certain medications, while other states do not. More generally speaking, LPNs keep an eye on their patients’ health. They check blood pressure and other vital signs, dress wounds and change bandages, and help with catheters and giving injections, as well.

    A large part of LPN nurses’ jobs also includes tracking patients’ health and keeping records for doctors. They may also help patients with basic quality-of-life care, like assisting with hygiene. Often LPN nurses communicate with patients and pass on any concerns to doctors.

  • Where Do LPN Nurses Work?

    LPNs can find work in several different healthcare settings, but they most commonly work in nursing homes and residential care facilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But they can also frequently find jobs at hospitals, physician’s offices, and private clinics. In these settings, they may work under the direction of doctors or RNs.

    LPNs can also find jobs in home care settings. Patients who do not want to stay in hospitals or nursing homes may hire LPNs to work in their private homes. In this case, LPNs should stay on call at all times to care for their patients in case of an emergency.

  • Skills That Could Affect LPN Nurse Salaries

    First and foremost, LPNs need basic medical skills to care for patients. These nurses need to possess interpersonal skills, as well. Their entire workday consists of interacting with people in need of medical attention, so compassion is crucial to carrying out their work. LPNs must also possess patience and observational skills, with the ability to understand when something may be wrong with a patient. LPNs need to pay attention to detail, as part of their job involves recording patient health information.

    These nurses should also listen and communicate well, particularly when a patient normally struggles to express themselves. Patients may also confide in or speak to LPNs instead of other healthcare professionals, so LPNs should relay important information to RNs or doctors.

How to Become an LPN Nurse

For those wondering how to become an LPN nurse, the path to licensure is straightforward. First, a candidate must pass an educational program approved by the state. This step usually lasts one year. Then, each aspiring LPN needs to pass a standardized exam. The sections below explore these steps in more detail.


An LPN candidate needs to earn a high school diploma and complete a post-high school educational program in nursing. Each state provides a list of approved programs, so check with your state’s licensing board to find out which program to pursue. Typically, these programs last about one year. LPN learners study foundational theory in nursing and biology.

Aspiring LPNs can also learn how to monitor patients’ health, insert catheters, change bandages, record patient information, and keep patients as comfortable as possible. Plus, students can participate in supervised work experiences while enrolled in these programs. Community colleges and technical schools typically offer this hands-on work.

Training and Certification

Each LPN nurse must possess a license to work in the field. After they complete the required educational program, they must pass the national council licensure examination (NCLEX-PN). While states approve of different educational programs, each state requires LPN candidates to pass the NCLEX-PN to gain licensure. The exam covers several areas, including health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, safety and infection control, pharmacological therapies, basic care and comfort, and physiological adaptation.

LPN nurses can also opt to earn certifications in a special skill or subject. For instance, nurses can earn advanced cardiac life support certification from the American Heart Association or the certified peritoneal dialysis nurse credential from the Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing Technology. These certifications can help nurses find jobs or advance in their careers. Other certifications can aid nurses in becoming hired in specific settings — the certified correctional health professional credential, for example, can help nurses land jobs at correctional facilities.

LPN Nurse Salaries and Job Growth

LPNs earned a median annual salary of about $46,240 in 2018, according to BLS data. Plus, the BLS projects the profession to grow by 11% from 2018-28, which is much faster than average. That said, an LPN nurse salary depends on several factors, like location. BLS data shows that the states where LPNs make the highest salaries are Alaska, Massachusetts, Californis, Rhode Island, and Nevada.

Other factors play into salary, too. The employer, type of industry, and experience level can make a difference. Data from Payscale shows that an LPN nurse salary can increase by $7,000 from entry-level to late-career-level jobs. The tables below provide more insight into LPN nurse salaries, including the cities with the highest salaries and how similar professions compare to LPN nurses.

Highest Salary Locations for LPN Nurses

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
Alaska 390 $63,850
Massachusetts 15,910 $60,340
California 67,590 $60,240
Rhode Island 980 $59,860
Nevada 2,020 $58,470

Source: PayScale

Median Salary for LPN Nurses by Career Experience

  • Entry Level: $38,792 yearly
  • Early Career: $40,456 yearly
  • Mid Career: $42,723‬ yearly
  • Experienced: $44,532 yearly
  • Late Career: $46,155 yearly

Source: PayScale

LPN Nurse Resources

  • National Association of Licensed Professional Nurses: NALPN operates as a professional association for LPNs around the country. This group offers many educational and training resources, along with an annual conference, which allows LPNs to connect with other nurses and learn about the latest developments in the industry.
  • National Student Nurses’ Association: Individuals studying to become nurses can find help through NSNA. The organization provides scholarship opportunities and award programs that can assist students in paying for their degrees. Additionally, the association’s career center features career planning guides, test help, and a directory of job opportunities.
  • Nurses who crave adventure might consider becoming travel nurses to temporarily move to different places and fill gaps in unemployment. This website offers resources about how to become a travel nurse, including a FAQs section and a tax guide. Website visitors can also find a manual for locating travel nursing companies and a directory of housing listings.
  • Job Search: LPN nurses on the job hunt can use this resource for its extensive job search directory with positions from around the United States. Students, early-career nurses, and LPNs looking for new roles can narrow their search by state, specialty, salary band, and contract type.
  • American Nurses Association: This national professional association allows all nurses to take advantage of its resources. Nurses can browse its forums and communities to ask for or offer advice. They can also explore blog posts about topics like moral resilience, becoming patient advocates, and changes in nursing technologies.
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