LPNs and RNs care for patients in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other medical facilities. Both types of nurses can bring home respectable salaries: annually, RNs average $70,000, and LPNs average $45,030. As suggested by their higher wages, RNs find more opportunities than LPNs to specialize and to put additional skills and knowledge into practice in their everyday work.
The majority of LPNs work in long-term residential care, while most RNs work in private general hospitals. An LPN might administer medication or take vital signs, while an RN provides active and specialized patient care. In some states, regulations limit an LPN’s duties, and in all states, RNs enjoy more responsibilities.
Job openings for RNs are increasing at a faster pace than those for LPNs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job openings for RNs will grow by 15% between 2016 and 2026, while LPN jobs will grow by 12%, meaning moving from LPN-to-RN through an online program might benefit you.
1. Indiana State University
The Indiana State University online LPN-to-RN program allows licensed practical nurses to advance their education with a bachelor of science in nursing degree and gain licensure as a registered nurse. The accredited program prepares graduates to take the national licensing exam and meet the requirements of Indiana and other state nursing boards. Equivalency exams allow students to earn credit for knowledge gained while working as LPNs and accelerate their completion of the degree, graduating in as few as three years.
Students complete all courses online and coordinate with local healthcare facilities to complete required clinical education. Though ISU’s program lacks on-campus requirements, students must complete prerequisite courses in psychology, microbiology, English, and communication before enrolling in nursing classes. The 39 credits in nursing include leadership, community health nursing, and a licensure preparation course. A BSN degree not only qualifies students to work as registered nurses, but also continue their education at the graduate level.
2. Allegany College of Maryland
Allegany College of Maryland designed its LPN-to-RN online bridge program for licensed practical or vocational nurses looking to take the next step in their careers. The school offers credit for nurses’ on-the-job training, allowing them to enter the program in the second year. The year-round program leads to an associate degree in nursing in just 18 months, with no on-campus requirements.
Applicants must have two years of full-time nursing experience and complete prerequisite courses in general education and anatomy and physiology before enrollment. Most classes use an asynchronous format with students responsible for completing assignments and clinical rotations by the stated due date. Students may work with healthcare agencies in their community to complete clinical requirements. Courses include caring for different populations, pharmacology, and transitioning from an LPN-to-RN role.
3. Hutchinson Community College
Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas, boasts a 100% job placement rate for registered nurses completing its associate degree program and a national licensure exam. The school maintains recognition with the Kansas State Board of Nursing and accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Hutchinson’s program welcomes applicants who hold active licenses as LPNs or EMT-paramedics.
The curriculum includes health and medical courses and leadership development. The online LPN to RN program utilizes an online learning zone for seminar and lectures. Students work with their instructors to schedule clinical rotations and meet Kansas State Board of Nursing educational requirements. The school also collaborates with numerous healthcare facilities in the Hutchinson area, and prospective online students can also research sites in their home area that could host clinical education. Applicants must take the Kaplan Entrance Exam but can qualify for advanced standing in the program with up to 12 credits for prior learning.
LPN-to-RN Online Programs: An Overview
Today, many schools make their LPN-to-RN programs, including coursework and clinicals, accessible for working adults. Admission and curriculum requirements vary by school, but the information below gives a brief introduction to LPN-to-RN bridge programs online.
Admission Requirements for an Online LPN-to-RN Program
Applicants to an LPN-to-RN program typically have nursing experience. For admission into an RN program, prospective students must submit proof of completion of an accredited nursing program or a state-issued nursing license along with a current BLS/CPR certification. Programs generally administer an entry test into the program to ensure their students meet minimum standards of math and science proficiency. While specific GPA requirements may differ between schools, applicants almost always need to demonstrate a GPA of 2.0 or higher. If necessary, prospective students may need to fulfill prerequisite courses, such as pediatric nursing, psychiatric nursing, maternal-child nursing, or adult medical-surgical nursing.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online LPN-to-RN Program?
Working adults typically appreciate an online nursing program’s approach because of its flexibility. Depending on their needs, students may take more or fewer courses at a time, and they typically do not need to join their class for synchronized meeting times. Most schools also offer a self-paced option to work with students’ schedules, as opposed to cohort learning which keeps a specific group of students together through the program.
A learner’s progress, transcript transfers, and/or clinical hours may impact the length of an online LPN-to-RN program. But students can graduate in as few as 18 months. A few LPN-to-RN bridge programs also allow credit by exam, which can fast-track students to earning more credit in a shorter amount of time.
Example Courses for Online LPN-to-RN Students
All LPN-to-RN bridge programs online cover the same fundamental curriculum: a mix of general education, biology, and nursing practice courses, along with clinicals. While details of the required courses differ by school, the list below represents common classes students take in these programs.
- Microbiology for Health Professionals: Microbiology, a branch of biology, considers the study of microorganisms. This course resides within that scientific discipline but focuses on how microorganisms interact to cause diseases in humans. Course assignments and topics address the function of microbiology in health for nurses and allied health professionals.
- Human Anatomy & Physiology I: This laboratory-based course introduces future health professionals to the function and structure of the human body. Topics include the body’s organization, basic body systems, and the effects of disease on specific systems. The first course in this two-part sequence looks at cellular structure and function, tissues, and the integumentary, skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems.
- Human Anatomy & Physiology II: Building on the preceding course, this class introduces students to the cardiovascular, endocrine, respiratory, lymphatic, digestive, reproductive, and urinary systems. Students look at the interrelationships of these systems and explore the effects of disease on the body. The course includes a lab component, which online students complete at home.
- Principles of Pharmacology: Using tutorials, lectures, and labs, students in this course learn about the fundamentals of pharmacology, the branch of medicine concerned with the uses and effects of drugs. Topics include pharmacokinetics, receptor mechanisms, and drug distribution and metabolism. Students also learn about how drugs interact with various human body systems.
- Concepts of Professional Nursing: This course investigates the development of nurses’ professional roles by blending liberal arts knowledge with practical skill in a nursing practice setting. Topics in the course include multidimensional care and inquiry and analytical skills; it also looks at factors that inform clinical decision-making, professional judgment, and lifelong learning.
Clinical internships, referred to as “clinics” or “clinical hours,” form part of the requirements students need to graduate from an LPN-to-RN online program. These hours — completed outside the classroom — offer students a chance to apply theory and practice to the workplace. Most schools require 200-500 clinical hours.
Even in LPN-to-RN online programs, students must complete clinical hours in person. The school may assign clinical sites, or students may locate their own. Some online LPN-to-RN programs allow students who are not located close to the school to complete clinical hours in their own towns. Program advisers and faculty work with students to identify proper sites and ensure students meet all hourly clinical obligations.
Certifications and Licenses This Program Prepares For
- Certified Correctional Health Professional: Registered nurses who wish to work in correctional facilities can earn this credential through the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare. The first level of correctional nursing requires RNs to pass an exam consisting of 80-100 questions. After meeting other eligibility requirements, such as hours of work in the field, nurses can earn advanced certifications.
- Registered Nurse: A Registered Nurse must complete an approved nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination) to begin work. The exam tests for competency and knowledge in nursing. RNs work in multiple healthcare settings along with schools, prisons, and the military.
- AIDS Certified Registered Nurse: The Association of Nurses in AIDS Care and the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board endorse this voluntary nursing certification for healthcare professionals who serve patients with AIDS. RNs with two years of nursing experience relevant to HIV/AIDS must pass the 250-question multiple-choice exam to receive certification.
Accreditation for Online LPN-to-RN Programs
Accreditation for nursing programs proves to future employers that students have completed a degree other schools and government bodies recognize. In order to receive accreditation, programs must adhere to a widely accepted curriculum that teaches students modern and applicable practices. Schools earn either national or regional accreditation. National accreditation is generally associated with for-profit or trade schools, while regional accreditation is usually relegated to academic institutions. Normally, regional accreditation receives preference over national accreditation.
The Department of Education serves as the federal agency that handles policies and regulations for educational institutions including accreditation. Prospective students should check Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to find their accredited institutional options.
Two important accreditors for nursing programs you should look for include the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Each of these entities exists to ensure educational quality in the field of nursing education.
Job and Salary Outlook
What Types of Jobs Can RNs Get?
What Types of Jobs Can RNs Get?
A diverse and rewarding profession, nursing allows members to focus on a specific disease, treatment, patient type, or daily activity. Geriatric nurses serve in residential facilities, correctional nurses in prisons, and pediatric nurses in children’s hospitals. The BLS projects nursing job openings to grow by 15% between 2016-2026, more than twice the average for all occupations. The nation’s growing senior population means nursing should remain a high-demand, high-growth job for decades to come.
Median Annual Salary: $70,000
Working in a variety of settings, RNs coordinate patient care, provide support to patients and their family members, and help educate the general public about health and wellness.
Median Annual Salary: $110,930
A nurse anesthetist administers anesthesia to people undergoing surgery or other treatments. These nurses evaluate and monitor patients, and educate them on their care.
Median Annual Salary: $110,930
Working with obstetricians and gynecologists, a nurse midwife provides a variety of care services to female patients, including family planning, gynecological care, and infant delivery.
Median Annual Salary: $110,930
Highly trained and educated, nurse practitioners can perform many of the same services as physicians. They can conduct physical exams, assist in surgeries, and prescribe medication.
Median Annual Salary: $104,860
After serving at least two years as a nurse, an RN can return to school for master’s degree to become a physician assistant, a role similar to that of a nurse practitioner.
Source: PayScale, Nov. 2018
How Much Do RNs Make?
In the nursing profession, practitioners can begin earning a good living almost from day one. Once established as an RN, nurses can earn even higher salaries by obtaining graduate degrees to become nurse practitioners or nurse anesthetists — that is, if they remain in the profession for five years or more.
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As with many professions, joining a professional association can provide a serious boost to any nurse’s career. These organizations offer nurses a chance to read up on the latest research in peer-reviewed journals, take continuing education courses, and earn certificates that advance nursing skills. Professional associations also function as places to network at conferences and look for jobs through online job boards. Taking a leadership role in a professional organization can increase a nurse’s visibility in the professional community.
International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care: A worldwide organization dedicated to expanding nursing’s benefits to cancer care, ISNCC hosts an annual conference and publishes numerous white papers and peer-reviewed articles.
Emergency Nurses Association: The ENA delivers continuing education, awards, practical resources, and government relations services to members. The organization consists of more than 42,000 members around the world.
American Nurses Association: The ANA serves as the flagship member association for the four million nurses in the U.S. The organization offers an array of resources and opportunities for beginning nurses and seasoned professionals.
Financing Your Online LPN-to-RN Program
Nursing students may secure many forms of financial aid, including federal grants, subsidized and unsubsidized student loans, and private scholarships. Veterans and members of the military can take advantage of additional federal monies. Some nursing students receive tuition reimbursements through their employer, and others qualify for loan forgiveness programs sponsored by their states. Nurses working in a critical shortage area should contact the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program about loan forgiveness opportunities.
Scholarships for LPN-to-RN Students
Who Can Apply: The Foundation of the National Student Nurses Association offers to nursing students this undergraduate scholarship sponsored by Johnson & Johnson. Applicants need to reside in eligible states and attend a state-approved school of nursing.
Amount: $1,000-$7,500 per year.
Who Can Apply: Sponsored by Cherokee Uniforms, this scholarship began 12 years ago as a way to encourage new nurses to enter the profession. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, watch a one-hour documentary, and write a 750-word essay in accordance with set regulations.
Who Can Apply: The NBNA exists to serve nurses and health professionals, and scholarship applicants must be members of NBNA. To apply, current students in accredited nursing programs write a two-page essay and attach copies of their academic transcripts and recommendation letters.
Amount: $1,000 to $6,000
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be AACN members. The scholarship gives priority to graduate nurses who intend to become nurse educators, but students in other nursing programs may apply. The applicant must reside in the U.S. legally.
Who Can Apply: The ACLS scholarship seeks to improve the individual careers of health officers. Applicants must submit a grammatically correct essay in accordance with the published guidelines. The organization will publish winning essays on its website.
Who Can Apply: The Florida Nurses Association seeks to promote nursing and healthcare through research. Scholarship applicants must submit the application and all required supporting documents, which the organization publishes on its website on January 1. Deadline for application is June 1.
Who Can Apply: The American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA), a membership organization of nurses who believe in and practice illuminant holism, offers grants and scholarships to qualified applicants. Applicants must show an interest in holistic nursing and be AHNA members.
Who Can Apply: Members of the Emergency Nursing Association can apply for numerous scholarships their organization offers. This particular scholarship goes to an emergency nurse pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing.