Licensed practical nurses provide many of the same services as registered nurses, just with a little less medical responsibility. LPNs have task-oriented positions in medical facilities. They execute patient care plans, whereas registered nurses assess patients and formulate these patient care plans. In fact, some states limit LPN duties, requiring RNs to administer certain medications, push IVs and even hang blood.
Salaries typically range anywhere from $30,650 to $57,080 a year, but the average LPN earned just over $42,000 in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The earning potential is much better for registered nurses, who averaged just over $69,000 for this same year. Of course, you can improve your earnings by working in certain areas of the country. For example, LPNs in Connecticut earn the most in the nation, with an average of just over $53,000 a year.
Employment opportunities for LPNs are much better than the national average. Through 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a job growth of 22 percent for licensed practical nurses, whereas the average for all U.S. occupations is closer to 14 percent. Job prospects for registered nurses, on the other hand, are even better, with an expected growth rate of 26 percent.
Most opportunities for LPNs are found in nursing care facilities. In fact, this work setting employs the highest concentration of LPNS, with almost 13 percent of the workforce found here. By comparison, only 8 percent of RNs work in this practice setting. Registered nurses are more often employed at general medical and surgical hospitals, with close to 30 percent of the workforce found in this practice setting.
The highest concentration of LPN jobs is found in Louisiana, but the highest level of employment goes to Texas. The same can’t be said for RNs. The highest concentration of jobs was found in South Dakota, while the state with the highest level of employment was California.
The length of time it takes to become an LPN is much shorter than that of an RN. For the most part, you can complete a practical nursing program in as little as one year, and then sit for the National Council Licensure Examination. RNs spend anywhere from two to four years earning a diploma or bachelor’s degree before sitting for a licensing exam — hence the reason for higher pay.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Registered Nurses
- Allied Health World: LPN vs. RN
- Jochen Sands/Digital Vision/Getty Images