Choosing which licensed practical nurse job to apply for doesn't just involve checking out the salary, duties and employer. Many employers market LPN jobs with sign-on bonuses to encourage you to work for them. Getting a bonus for just taking a job may look good on paper, but you should understand how this kind of payment works before you make a deal.
Using Sign-On Bonuses as Incentives
Employers use sign-on bonuses as incentives to encourage LPNs to apply for their jobs. You'll usually find this happens when an employer has trouble hiring qualified nurses -- there may be a shortage of LPNs compared to the number of available jobs in the area, or the employer may need to hire in hard-to-find skills. In some cases, employers use a bonus to top up income if a job's salary pays less than you currently earn. Some employers also use these bonuses as an alternative to paying relocation costs.
How LPN Sign-On Bonuses Work
Typically, a sign-on bonus is a one-time cash sum paid in addition to your salary. You qualify for the bonus when you accept the job; however, you may not get it immediately. It's common for employers to split a bonus into staged payments made over time. For example, you may receive some of the cash in your first paycheck and the rest in a series of payments or in a lump sum at future dates. Expect the bonus to come with conditions. You may have to repay all or some of it if you leave the job within a set period, and you may only qualify for the bonus if you take on specific shifts or roles.
The Value of Sign-On Bonuses
There's no set level for LPN sign-on bonuses -- it's up to the employer to decide how much it offers, and bonuses range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. You may find that bonuses increase in value according to how hard an employer finds it to hire LPNs to meet its staffing, skills and shift requirements. Some employers let you choose between a cash sum bonus or an increased hourly wage rate.
Advantages of an LPN Sign-On Bonus
If you're considering moving jobs, a sign-on bonus can look like a good deal. It could simply give you a useful extra cash boost in the short-term for making the decision to take a job with a particular employer. This may be particularly useful if you want to find an LPN job in a different state; moving can be expensive, and the extra money could help you cover your relocation costs.
Disadvantages of an LPN Sign-On Bonus
You don't get all the bonus cash in your paycheck; the IRS counts this as a salary payment, and you'll pay standard taxes on it. It's also important to look behind the bonus at its conditions and the job's salary itself. You probably won't appreciate the extra cash if it means you have to commit to working shifts that don't suit you, and the bonus may not be worth as much as you think if the job's hourly rate is lower than you could earn somewhere else.
Carol Finch has been writing technology, careers, business and finance articles since 2000, tapping into her experience in sales, marketing and technology consulting. She has a bachelor's degree in Modern Languages, a Chartered Institute of Marketing.certificate and unofficial tech and gaming geek status with her long-suffering friends and family.