• Certifications and Licenses
  • LPN - Licensed Practical Nurse

    • Cost varies
    • valid for 2 to 3 years (depending on state)

    COURSE FORMAT

    In Person
    Blended

    About

    Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), also called Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) in California and Texas, provide basic patient care under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) or other medical professionals. Obtaining LPN certification doesn’t require extensive schooling. Therefore, licensed practical nursing certification offers a quick way to enter the medical field with the option of pursuing further education later. Additional education allows LPNs to take on greater responsibilities and gain access to more career opportunities and higher salaries. Plus, the employment of these healthcare professionals is projected to grow 9% between 2020 and 2030.

    Course Format

    Earning licensed practical nurse certification doesn’t require a college degree but does require completion of an approved education program that awards a certificate or diploma. The format of these programs typically includes classwork and hands-on clinical experience. Courses may include human biology, fundamentals of nursing care, pharmacology, nutrition and introduction to psychology. Clinical work may include medical-surgical, maternal and newborn, pediatric and mental health nursing at hospitals or outpatient clinics.

    LPN training programs are commonly found in technical and career schools and community and vocational colleges. Training programs must be accredited by the National League of Nursing Accrediting Agency (NLNAC).

    • Completion Time: The average time to complete an LPN certification program is 12 months. Accelerated programs may allow students to graduate in as little as 7 months and some students take up to two years to finish their programs due to limitations on the number of credit hours they can take at once.

    • Cost: Tuition is the highest cost and widely varies based on the location and type of school attending. The average cost of tuition for LPN programs nationwide is about $10,000 to $15,000, but it can range between $4,000 to $30,000. Textbooks aren’t included with tuition and can add $500 to $1,000 throughout the program. Additional costs include uniforms, medical equipment like stethoscopes, various nursing supplies, vaccinations and application fees. Pre-admission tests run between $65 and $140 depending on the test required and location of the school. The LPN licensure exam currently costs $200.

    LPNs are generally required to earn continuing education units (CEUs), but the number required varies by state. Required CEUs range between 12 and 30 every two years in most states, but a few states don’t require CEUs. Some states require LPNs to take specific courses to earn their CEUs, while others allow them to choose. Skilled nursing facilities and hospitals often offer special training courses LPNs can use towards CEUs and numerous websites offer CEUs for a fee, generally between $25 and $50.

    Certification

    Information on Obtaining LPN Certification

    Applicants for LP certification programs must have a high school diploma, generally with a grade point average of 2.0 or higher, or a GED. However, they don’t usually need any prior college courses for entrance. Many schools require a pre-admission test. The Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) proctored by the Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI) is a common option. It includes 170 questions covering math, science, reading and English/language use with a 209-minute time limit. Other items that may be necessary during the application process include:

    • Proof of citizenship

    • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) if English is a second language

    • Criminal background check

    • Transcripts from all schools

    • Employment history

    • Letters of recommendation from non-family members

    • Essay on topics like reasons for selecting the LPN career track and/or future plans

    • Physical exam

    • Documentation of current immunization status

    • Application interview

    Upon completion of an LPN certification program, graduates must apply for an Authorization to Test (ATT) through their local board of nursing and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). Passing the NCLEX-PN is required in all 50 states to earn licensure as a practical nurse. If students fail the exam, the NCSBN allows them to retake it every 45 days, up to eight times a year, for an additional fee for each attempt.

    Information on Renewing Licensed Practical Nurse Certification

    In most states, LPN licenses are valid for two years. A limited number of states require annual renewals or offer renewal every three years. The requirements to renew a licensed practical nurse certification vary by state. Many states have set requirements for renewal but often offer multiple options, and LPNs must fulfill just one of these requirements. Common requirements include practice hours, CEUs, specialty certification or recertification, completion of a refresher course or completion of academic coursework at or above the nurse's current licensure level. Some states require practice hours and/or CEUs without any other options available.

    Other Resources

    Next Steps

    LPNs should consider professional certifications as their next step in enhancing their careers. Numerous organizations offer LPN certifications in an array of areas, such as dialysis, IV therapy, long-term care, urology, wound care and nephrology, among others.

    Another logical step is for LPNs to gain further education and move up to being registered nurses. Then, continue to an advanced practice role with even more education.

    LPN-to-BSN programs allow practical nurses to simultaneously earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and the credentials needed to qualify for an RN license. These programs usually take 2 to 3 years. For those wanting to take smaller steps, some schools offer an LPN-to-ADN program that takes half the time and still qualifies nurse graduates to take the NCLEX for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) licensing exam and become an RN. Later, they can take an RN-to-BSN program.

    LPNs who’ve earned a BSN and passed the NCLEX-RN licensing exam may pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). An MSN allows RNs to pursue advanced practice nursing roles, such as becoming Nurse Practitioners or Clinical Nurse Specialists. Both APRN roles offer many more career opportunities and a significant jump in salary.

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    Frequently asked questions

    How much do LPNs make?

    While salaries vary by location, the average salary for LPNs nationwide was $23.32 per hour in March 2022. However, Alaska was paying LPNs an average of $31 with a max of $38 per hour and Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island were paying an average of $29 with a max between $37 and $38 per hour.

    How are LPNs different from certified nursing assistants (CNAs)?

    LPNs and CNAs are both qualified to do many of the same tasks, such as taking vital signs and assisting patients with activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, eating, etc. However, LPNs can also perform basic nursing functions, such as updating patient health records and administering medications. They can also transition into supervisory roles over CNAs.

    Can an LPN be a travel nurse?

    Yes, and there are generally numerous travel LPN jobs available. Most employers require LPN travelers to have previous experience, usually 1 to 2+ years of LPN or long-term care experience.

    Is being an LPN hard?

    The work an LPN does can be physically demanding but extremely rewarding. Shifts can also be long and require nights and weekends, depending on the facility and seniority of the LPN.