How to Become a LPN/LVN: Salary, Jobs, Program Path

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care to patients under the direction of registered nurses and doctors. LPNs and LVNs care for ill, injured or recovering patients or persons with disabilities in hospitals, nursing homes, private homes, clinics and other healthcare facilities.

Table of Contents
How to Become a LPN/LVN
Education Requirements
LPN/LVN Job Description
Personality Traits
Career Options
LPN/LVN Certification
Professional Organizations

Nurse Salary and Employment Data

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Source: BLS Wage Data by Area and Occupation. * or ** indicate insignificant or unavailable data.

 Level of Education Required Approved educational program
Board Examinations needed NCLEX-PN, LPN/LVN
Average Salary $41,540
# of Jobs (2012) 738,400
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 25% growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to become an LPN/LVN

To become an LPN or LVN, an individual:

  • Must complete a state-approved educational program
  • Must pass National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN)
  • May pursue additional education in nursing care
  • May pursue voluntary certification in specific areas of nursing

Education requirements

LPNs and LVNs must complete a state-approved educational program commonly found in technical schools, community colleges and hospitals. These programs combine coursework in nursing, biology and pharmacology with supervised clinical experience.

Job description

Duties of LPNs and LVNs vary according to the work setting and the state in which they work. LPNs and LVNs administer medications, observe and chart changes in patients’ conditions and provide other basic nursing functions, such as measuring vital signs, changing dressings, collecting samples for laboratory testing and creating care plans. These nurses also help patients bathe, dress, walk and perform other activities of daily living.

States may limit the tasks LPNs and LVNs may perform. Some states allow LPNs to give medication or start intravenous (IV) drips, for example, while other states do not.

Personality traits:

  • Compassion
  • Detail-oriented
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Patience
  • Physical stamina
  • Communication skills

LPNs and LVNs report to nursing supervisors at hospitals and healthcare facilities. States set regulations governing the extent of supervision over LPNs and LVNs. Some states allow LPNs and LVNs to perform certain tasks only with instruction and direct supervision from a registered nurse.

Career options

An LPN/LVN may work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Nursing care facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Physician offices
  • Home health care services
  • Residential care facilities

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses to grow 25 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations.

The need for healthcare services will likely rise while the Baby Boom population ages. Many of these individuals will require care from residential care facilities and in-home health services. The number of people needing health care for chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, will also increase. The number and variety of healthcare facilities will also rise as medical technologies allow doctors to perform procedures outside hospitals, creating new jobs for healthcare workers. To fill these needs, many healthcare facilities will hire LPNs and LVNs.

Many LPNs and LVNs will retire within the next decade, creating new job openings. LPNs and LVNs may find a large number of job prospects in rural and other medically underserved areas.

Certification information

Certification is available for LPNs and LVNs to demonstrate an advanced level of knowledge about a specific nursing subject. National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service, Inc. (NAPNES) offers certification in pharmacology, long-term care and IV therapy.

The National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses (NFLPN) offers IV therapy and gerontology certification for LPNs and LVNs. This certification is valid for two years and recertification is available.

Professional organizations

National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service, Inc. (NAPNES):

National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses: