Not everyone has the time or money to earn a bachelor’s degree, but that doesn’t mean you can’t step into a rewarding healthcare career with above-average wages and plenty of benefits. If you’re considering becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN), knowing what to expect regarding LPN salary and credentialing requirements is essential. Learn more about this exciting career opportunity and how you can increase your earnings below.
How Much Does an LPN Make?
According to Vivian Health’s salary data for the week ending February 25, 2023, the average salary for LPNs in permanent positions was $23.32 per hour. Assuming an LPN works 40 hours per week, this wage corresponds to a weekly salary of about $933 and around $48,506 annually. However, some staff LPN jobs averaged as high as $33 hourly.
Conversely, the average travel LPN salary was much higher during this period, averaging $1,604 weekly. If an LPN completes three travel contracts annually, each lasting 13 weeks, that results in an annual salary of $62,556, working just 39 weeks of the year. Some travel LPN jobs include sign-on bonuses and other financial incentives, increasing the nurse’s total earnings.
The Impact of Location on LPN Salary
Each region of the country has different costs of living, which impacts how much of their earnings LPNs keep in permanent and travel roles. For permanent positions, employers in California and Maryland paid the most per Vivian Health’s salary data for the week ending February 25, 2023.
LPNs in California earned an average of $29 per hour, while LPNs in Maryland earned an average of $26 per hour. But some employers pay even more to attract high-quality candidates. For example, the max hourly salary for a staff LPNs was $38 in California and $32 in Maryland.
The cost of living in a city or state isn’t the only factor in determining how much a travel LPN earns. Some areas of the country are considered health professional shortage areas (HPSA), meaning they lack enough healthcare professionals to meet the local demand for medical services. Employers in designated HPSAs may offer higher salaries to attract travel LPNs to fill their contracts.
Comparing average travel wages during the same period, states on the Pacific Coast offered some of the highest travel LPN salaries. Travel LPNs in Oregon earned an average of $1,816 per week, while travel LPNs in California earned a weekly average of $1,779.
Other states had lower travel LPN salary ranges. For example, employers in Florida paid an average of $1,520 per week, about 5.2% less than the national average. Travel LPNs in Texas earned an average of $1,488 per week, while travel LPNs in Oklahoma earned a weekly average of $1,342. However, all three states have lower costs of living than places like California and Oregon, so salaries go further and can impact earning potential.
What’s the Salary Difference Between LPNs and LVNs?
The licensed vocational nurse (LVN) title is used in Texas and California, while all other states use the title licensed practical nurse. LVNs and LPNs are both second-level nurses with identical job duties. Thus, their salaries are exactly the same, only the name is different. However, since location plays a key role in salary, LVNs in California earn much higher wages than those in Texas.
LPN Employment Data
LPN/LVNs held just over 657,000 jobs in May 2021, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). About 35% of those jobs were in skilled nursing and residential care facilities. Another 15% were in private and public hospitals. Home health services, medical offices and government agencies also employ LPNs.
When the BLS publishes employment data, it distinguishes between the total number of LPN jobs and each state’s concentration of LPN jobs. These states had the highest total number of working LPNs per its May 2021 data.
|State||Number of Working LPN/LVNs|
Source: BLS (May 2021)
The concentration of LPN jobs refers to how many LPN jobs a state has per every 1,000 total jobs the state has overall. By examining concentration data, you get a more complete picture of the employment situation around the country.
For example, Louisiana only had 18,120 LPNs working in 2021, about one-fourth of California’s total, but those jobs accounted for 10.11 of every 1,000 jobs in the state. The following table outlines which states had the highest concentrations of LPNs per the BLS in May 2021.
|State||Number of LPNs per 1,000 Jobs|
Source: BLS (May 2021)
LPN Salaries vs. Compensation for Similar Healthcare Jobs
LPN salaries are lower than salaries for registered nurses (RNs) and many allied health professionals. However, they’re much higher than the salaries of certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and certain allied health professionals such as medical assistants and phlebotomists.
For the week ending February 25, 2023, the average salary of staff RNs was $37.24 per hour, according to salary data from Vivian Health. The higher salary reflects a broader scope of practice and additional education requirements for RNs compared to LPNs. Travel RN salaries are even more, averaging $2,423 per week during the same timeframe.
Per Vivian’s data, the average salary of all allied health professionals in travel roles was $2,391 per week during the last week of February 2023. Staff allied health professionals like cardiac sonographers and computed tomography (CT) technologists earned an average of $28.95 per hour in permanent roles, about 24% more than LPNs during the same period. Staff first assist technicians earned less than the national average for allied health workers but still took home more than LPNs at an average of $24.09 per hour.
LPN jobs require more education and training than CNA jobs, so LPNs earn significantly more than CNAs. For permanent roles, a staff CNA’s salary was $14.77 per hour, while travel CNA pay averaged $1,117 weekly. Certain allied health travelers also earned less, including phlebotomists at $1,139 and medical assistants/patient care technicians at $1,253, but earned more on staff.
|Discipline/Specialty||Average Hourly Staff Pay||Average Weekly Travel Pay|
|Licensed Practical Nurse||$23.32||$1,604|
|Computed Tomography Technologist||$28.95||$2,509|
|Patient Care Technician||$28.95||$1,253|
|First Assist Technician||$24.09||$2,405|
|Certified Nursing Assistant||$14.77||$1,117|
Source: Vivian (February 25, 2023)
Tips for Increasing Your Pay as an LPN
One of the most obvious ways to increase your LPN pay is to accept travel contracts. As you can see from the above salary data, travel LPN jobs provide handsome rewards for completing short-term contracts in high-need areas. Based on average wage data, in a 40-hour workweek, staff LPNs earn $23.32 hourly, while the weekly average for travel LPNs works out to $40 hourly.
Another way to increase your LPN salary is to earn a specialty certification, demonstrating your advanced knowledge and skills. Choose one that aligns with your professional interests to benefit you most. Certifications in wound care, urology and nephrology are all appropriate for nurses wanting to continue using their clinical skills in hospitals, nursing facilities and medical offices. If you primarily work in nursing homes, consider obtaining one of two long-term care certifications that offer LPN-specific long-term care credentials.
If you’re looking for a new role, choose your next employer carefully. Some employers offer higher LPN salaries to attract more applicants, making it possible to increase your earnings when you don’t have time to study for a certification test or find the best LPN travel jobs.
Remember to consider the value of each employer’s total compensation package during your research. Salary is certainly an important consideration, but you may end up in a better position if you accept a job with a slightly lower salary and more comprehensive benefits.
For 2022, a single person’s average health insurance premium was $7,911, per information from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Assume you have to choose between these two offers:
- Employer A: $24 per hour with 100% of your health premium covered
- Employer B: $25 per hour with 50% of your health premium covered
At first glance, Employer B seems to be the better option because the hourly wage is higher. But if you do the math, you may end up with more money in your pocket if you accept the offer from Employer A, as you won’t pay a cent toward your health premium.
For example, paying 50% of the average premium is $3,955.50 annually. Divide that by 52 weeks, and you get about $76 weekly. Then divide that by 40 hours, and you’re insurance costs you about $1.90 an hour.
You actually lose 90 cents an hour taking the higher-paying job. However, this calculation assumes no overtime or bonuses, so you must look at the entire pay package and job description to determine which offer makes the most sense financially. Pay package and job details are among the questions you should ask your recruiter to ensure you understand the job offer. precisely.
LPN Education, Certification and Licensing Requirements
To become an LPN, you must complete a diploma program, which costs less and takes much less time than earning an associate or bachelor’s degree. Working as an LPN is extremely rewarding. You can continue doing it until you retire or use your LPN job to gain experience before enrolling in an RN-to-BSN program. These programs cost less and take less time than traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs. Some people even start as LPNs, become RNs and then go on to complete graduate degrees in nursing.
Pass the NCLEX-PN
No matter your chosen career path, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). This exam demonstrated you have the knowledge and skills needed to practice nursing without putting patients in harm’s way. State Boards of Nursing (BON) also require passing the NCLEX for licensure.
The NCLEX-PN includes questions on psychology, anatomy and physiology. It also covers the following subcategories, which relate to patient care and clinical judgment:
- Patient Communication
- Culture and Spirituality
- Problem-Solving in a Clinical Setting
- Teaching and Learning
The Next Generation NCLEX has new question types and scoring model, although some changes only impact RNs, not LPNs. Should you not pass the NCLEX-PN on your first attempt, use your Candidate Performance Report to determine which topics you need to study before your next attempt.
Don’t worry if you don’t pass the first time you take the NCLEX-PN. Standardized tests are tricky. Even the most competent nursing professionals may have difficulty answering some questions. Just keep studying and try again when you’re ready.
Each State BON issues nursing licenses and establishes professional standards for LPNs and RNs. Licensure requirements vary by state, so check with your BON to determine what you need to do to obtain your LPN license. Generally, you must complete an approved LPN education program, pass the NCLEX-PN and pay a registration fee. You may also have to take classes, give presentations or participate in other activities to earn continuing education credits to keep your license.
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