LPN vs. RN: What’s the Difference Between These Nursing Jobs?

LPNs and RNs have different education, duties, and salaries.

LPN vs. RN: What’s the Difference Between These Nursing Jobs?

A patient may not give much thought to whether they are being cared for by an LPN (licensed practical nurse) or RN (registered nurse) since both provide some of the same types of care. But one of the first decisions someone makes when they’re interested in nursing is whether to pursue an LPN vs. RN degree. The difference between LPN and RN designations has to do with the time it takes to complete school, autonomy in the workplace, and which procedures you can perform.

Here’s what to take into consideration before choosing which nursing path to pursue.

Scope of Practice

While LPNs are typically in more frequent and closer contact with patients, certain procedures and responsibilities can only be performed by RNs. Being an LPN vs. RN also involves a different level of authority.

LPN

A licensed practical nurse is often called the eyes and ears of care, since they work hands on with patients, providing comfort and helping with dressing and hygiene. They take vital signs like blood pressure, dress wounds, and administer medication. An LPN must be supervised by an RN or other healthcare practitioner, who depends on the LPN to provide valuable observations and gather information while working closely with the patient.

RN

A registered nurse’s job is more intense, their responsibilities are more complex, and they perform procedures and tasks that are more complicated or potentially dangerous. This includes invasive procedures like inserting an IV or central line. They are also entrusted to adjust medication dosages as a patient’s condition changes. Their most important responsibilities include supporting patients and their families, writing patient care plans, and updating physicians on a patient’s status.

Education

Pursuing an LPN vs. RN degree comes down to time. Pursuing your RN is a longer commitment.

LPN

Becoming an LPN is the fastest way to start your nursing career. You can attend a community college or technical school and graduate in as little as one year, including clinical training in a medical setting, before graduating with a diploma or certificate. You can also study in a two-year program and receive an associate degree to increase your chances of being hired and getting a higher starting salary. In both programs, you’ll take classes in nursing, pharmacology, and biology.

RN

Education to become an RN is longer, with more advanced classes. The fastest way to become an RN is to earn a degree or diploma from an accredited nursing school in 18 to 36 months. You can also attend a two-year program for an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or get a bachelor’s degree (BSN) from a four-year school. More jobs with higher pay are open to those with BSN degrees.

Along with basic medical training and clinical experience, all RN programs teach behavioral, social, and physical sciences. To prepare you for your supervisory role, you’ll also take classes in team leadership, pharmacology, research, legal, and ethical issues.

Licensure

The NCSBN administers licensure tests for both LPNs and RNs. From there, states take over local licensing.

LPN

Once you graduate with your diploma, certificate, or associate degree, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Exam, also known as (NCLEX PN) to become a licensed practical nurse. Each state sets its own guidelines for what continuing education is required for licensure renewal every two to three years.

RN

The same governing board administers the national exam for RNs, the NCLEX RN. After passing the national exam, RNs must take a state licensing exam, which varies by state. State licenses must be renewed every two to four years, depending on local laws. You will be required to log clinical contact hours, confirm current employment status, and complete continuing education classes.

Work Setting

While both RNs and LPNs work in traditional hospital settings, they are also needed at residential care facilities as well as many other medical facilities.

LPN

A little more than one-third of all LPNs work with older adults in residential care facilities. They also find work at hospitals, physicians’ offices, schools, and psychiatric centers. Home healthcare services and government agencies also employ LPNs.

RN

Hospitals are the No. 1 employer of RNs, accounting for about 60% of all available RNs. You can also find RNs working in ambulatory healthcare services, nursing care facilities, government agencies, and educational services.

Salary

The difference between an LPN vs. RN salary is significant—about $10 an hour different. According to Monster’s Salary Tools, the median pay for an LPN is $24.61 per hour. The median pay for an RN is $34.72 per hour.

Job Outlook

The BLS projects that job growth for both LPNs and RNs will be about 9% in the next decade, which is average for all occupations. However, where nurses work may change as the Baby Boom population ages, with even more LPNs needed in residential care facilities and home healthcare. Job opportunities in outpatient care centers may also increase, as they’re performing more procedures that used to be done at hospitals exclusively.

Choosing Between LPN vs. RN Jobs? Monster Has Healthy Job Leads for You

Whether you ultimately decided to become an LPN or an RN, Monster can help you to find a job that’s the right fit for you. While you’re looking through the nursing jobs on Monster, take a minute to complete your Monster Profile. When you do, you’ll be front and center as recruiters and employers look to fill open positions. With a profile on file, we can also send you job leads based on our preferences as well as a healthy dose of career advice from our job experts.