LPN Educational Degree Programs and Training
Student who want a career in the nursing profession and relatively quick entry into the health care workforce may wish to enroll in Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) programs at community colleges or vocational schools.
Becoming an LPN typically takes at least one year of full-time study and should culminate in a certificate of achievement or a diploma, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) reports. Most programs include study in standard nursing methodologies, basic medical terminology, biology and pharmacology with a mix of hands-on clinical experience.
LPN certificate and diploma programs
Practical nursing programs vary in length depending on where you choose to study. Most schools that offer LPN training have one-year programs, while schools that offer associate-level degrees that take two years to complete typically are for students who may eventually seek the RN designation.
There's no difference between programs that culminate in a certificate or a diploma; the key is that the LPN program in which you enroll is approved by your state's board of nursing. Students who complete a state-approved LPN educational program can sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses. Passing the NCLEX-PN is required by each state to work as a licensed practical nurse.
According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, from January through June of 2014, there were 25,286 people who took the NCLEX exam, with an 82 percent pass rate for first-time test takers educated in the United States.
Practical nursing programs prepare students to provide care in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and residential-care facilities. LPN educational programs contain a mix of classroom and laboratory courses and clinical field experience -- and admission to clinical side of LPN training programs can be quite competitive since placement opportunities can lag behind the number of applicants. Students who perform well academically can have an increased advantage of landing a clinical placement over students with weaker grades.
LPN training also includes study in core subjects such as biology, psychology, mathematics and English composition since communication with RNs, medical staff and patients plays such a crucial role in success in the field. Some community colleges require students interested in enrolling in their LPN certificate programs to complete two or more semesters of general education studies prior to enrollment. LPN coursework varies between institutions but usually takes a minimum of two semesters of full-time study.
Coursework typically includes study in the following areas:
- Foundations of practical nursing
- Nursing care and adult theory
- Nursing care for infants and women
- Practical nursing leadership
- Introductory and advanced clinical lab
LPN career outlook and salary
The primary difference between LPNs and registered nurses (RNs) is scope of duties and education. Licensed practical nurses typically work under the supervision of doctors or registered nurses and provide basic nursing care, such as monitoring patients, changing wound dressings, keeping records or helping patients bathe or dress. LPNs also assist doctors and RNs with disseminating information about care programs to patients and their families.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), there were 705,200 licensed practical nurses working in the U.S. in May of 2013 at national median annual wages of $41,920, or $20.15 an hour. The top 10 percent of LPNs earned $27.90 an hour while the bottom 10 percent took home $15.05 an hour.
About 13 percent of all licensed practical nurses work in skilled care facilities, the BLS reports. The second-largest group works in hospitals, followed by physician's offices. Job growth in the field is expected to be strong from 2012 through 2022, the BLS notes. More than 182,000 new jobs in the field are expected to be created in that time. Job prospects should be best in rural areas and other medically underserved parts of the country.
States with large populations -- Texas, California, New York and Florida -- are the top employers of LPNs. Mean annual wages are highest in Connecticut ($54,690), Alaska ($54,010), Nevada ($53,490) and Massachusetts ($53,020), the BLS reports. The greater New York City and greater Los Angeles areas are the two largest metropolitan employment regions, and both areas pay nearly $4 an hour higher than the national median salary for the profession.
Integrated Bridge to Licensed Practical Nursing Program, LaGuardia Community College, http://www.laguardia.edu/uploadedFiles/T2/pcap/docs/LPN11.3.pdf
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm#tab-1
Number of Candidates Taking NCLEX Examination and Percent Passing, by Type of Candidate, 2014, National Council of State Boards of Nursing, www.ncsbn.org/Table_of_Pass_Rates_2014.pdf