LPN vs CNA Salary + Core Differences

NurseJournal Staff
Updated May 3, 2023
Both CNAs and LPNs are important healthcare providers. There is a huge overlap between the two roles, but there are also a number of core differences.
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Both licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) play vital roles in nursing care. The difference between CNA and LPN roles is generally in the type of care they provide.

CNAs help patients with daily functions, such as eating and bathing. LPNs perform basic nursing functions, such as administering medication, updating patient health records, and assisting nurses. While both CNAs and LPNs must pass certification examinations, only LPNs are licensed nurses.

If you are trying to decide between an LPN or CNA, this guide can help you understand both roles and the differences between them.

LPN vs. CNA Salary Differences

Because of their more extensive education and training, LPNs earn higher salaries than CNAs. The median CNA salary is lower than the U.S. median salary of $41,950, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while the median LPN salary is higher. Salaries vary based on experience, type of workplace, and geographic location and demand.

Salary Differences
Median Annual WageMedian Hourly Wage
Source: BLS

LPN vs. CNA Core Differences

Most LPN and CNA differences involve training and scope of practice—the tasks they are educated in and considered competent to perform.

While nursing homes and hospitals are the most common workplaces for both types of health professionals, LPN work settings often include physician offices, unlike CNAs. The table below outlines other differences, which explain much of the CNA and LPN salary differences as well.

Please note that each state varies by requirements. Some states also use different terminology, with Texas and California referencing LPNs as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), though the work is the same.

Core Differences
Requirements to Become (training, coursework, etc.)License/CertificationScope of PracticeDuties and ResponsibilitiesWork Environments
LPNMinimum one yearNCLEX-PNLimited and directed
  • Includes some medical tasks
  • Taking vital signs
  • Administering medications
  • Assisting nurses and physicians
  • Updating medical records
  • Nursing homes
  • Hospitals
  • Assisted living and other nursing facilities
  • Home healthcare
  • Physicians offices
CNAMinimum four weeksState certification examinationAssisting with daily living
  • Primarily assisting patients
  • Helping with eating, dressing, bathing
  • Nursing homes
  • Hospitals
  • Assisted living
  • Home healthcare
  • Government facilities
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FAQs: LPN vs. CNA Salary

Who gets paid more, LPNs or CNAs?

LPNs get paid more than CNAs. The median annual salary for an LPN is $48,820, compared to $32,050 for a CNA. However, experience, local demand, workplace type, and geographic settings make a difference. The highest-paid CNAs can make more than some LPNs. Still comparing most LPN vs. CNA (or LVN vs. CNA, in Texas or California) salaries, LPNs generally earn more.

Is an LPN like a CNA?

An LPN is like a CNA in that they both work in most healthcare settings and homes and perform basic healthcare tasks. However, an LPN focuses on assisting nurses and physicians, and most of their work is medical. A CNA focuses on assisting patients with daily living activities, such as eating, bathing, and dressing.

How much does an LPN make an hour?

The median LPN hourly salary is $23.00. The salary you would expect to earn as an LPN will depend on experience, local cost of living, and your workplace.

Are CNAs considered nurses?

CNAs are not considered nurses. The term nurse refers to somebody with a nursing license, either a registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). However, many CNAs become nurses by taking additional training, passing the certification examination, and becoming licensed.

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