An LPN, or licensed practical nurse, works under the direct supervision of registered nurses and doctors in providing basic care to patients in healthcare settings. The education required to become an LPN is typically a 12- to 18-month certificate program offered through community colleges or vocational schools. They must also pass a licensing exam before they can obtain employment in the field.
Education Required Before Entering an LPN Program
Most LPN programs require a high school diploma or GED to be admitted. High school courses in chemistry and biology can be helpful, but they are not necessarily required. There are also some LPN programs that are offered through high school dual-enrollment agreements. This means that high school students who are eligible can continue taking their high school courses while simultaneously enrolling in an LPN program. Usually these dual enrollment programs take 18 months or longer to complete since the students are taking high school courses at the same time.
LPN Certificate Courses
Most LPN certificate programs require a few general education courses during the program. Courses in anatomy, physiology and basic math or algebra are common requirements. There may also be requirements in communications, English or information literacy. Most of the certificate program’s study involves medical and nursing courses, such as medical terminology, pharmacology, foundations of nursing, geriatrics, maternal child nursing and nutrition.
Associate Degree Courses
Associate degrees in nursing generally lead to a career as a registered nurse, which is a step above the LPN in terms of responsibility and pay. However, there are some associate degree options that offer a path for the student to become an LPN after the first year and then continue on to become an RN after the second year. In these programs, the first year of courses are the same as most LPN certificate programs. After completing the first year, the student can take the Practical Nursing National Council Licensure Examination and start working as an LPN. In the 2nd year, the LPN continues with additional nursing courses, psychology, microbiology, clinical care, management and advanced clinical practice courses. After completing this second year, students can take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.
Clinical practice is a requirement in all LPN programs. LPN students are placed in a variety of medical settings, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and physician offices, where they get hands-on experience taking vital signs, assisting with personal care, administering medication and dressing wounds.
2016 Salary Information for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses earned a median annual salary of $44,090 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses earned a 25th percentile salary of $37,040, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $51,220, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 724,500 people were employed in the U.S. as licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses.