You’re looking forward to embarking on your new nursing career not only because you will be positively impacting other people’s lives on a daily basis, but because being a nurse boasts steady job growth. However, there’s still one crucial decision you must make: Will you become an LPN or RN?
Your career depends on which degree you choose. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) typically provide basic nursing care, like checking blood pressure, dressing a patient’s wounds or helping them get dressed. Registered nurses (RNs) have a heavier hand in a patient’s medical care. They may administer medication, run diagnostic tests or help educate a patient about his or her illness.
The decision between becoming an LPN or RN is difficult, and the right answer depends on your skills, interests and career aspirations. There are some definite advantages of becoming an RN, but some prefer the perks associated with an LPN career.
4 benefits of becoming an LPN
A professional nursing degree takes up to four years to complete. By comparison, a practical nursing degree—which leads to the LPN career path after passing the NCLEX—takes as little as 12 months.1 That means, depending on your course of study, you’ll have the opportunity to build exposure and experience in the workforce for an extra three years.
“Most LPNs I have spoken with agree that it is the course length that attracted them,” says Tina Johnson, president of the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses and a 24-year veteran LPN.
The availability of LPN jobs is expected to grow by 16 percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is more than twice the average growth rate of all occupations, which is 7 percent.
Some have projected that employment opportunities for LPN’s will begin decreasing due to initiatives like BSN in 10, which calls for nurses to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree within 10 years of entering the field. However, as the baby boom population ages, more LPNs will be needed in residential care facilities and in home health environments for older patients, according to the BLS.
3. Entry-level jobs are abundant
Before pursuing any educational track, you want to be sure you can land a job in the field upon graduating. The good news for aspiring LPNs is that there are plenty of entry-level positions open for candidates with little-to-no experience.
We used real-time job analysis software to examine nearly 100,000 LPN jobs posted over the past year.2 The data revealed that 84 percent of the positions were available to candidates with just 0-2 years of experience. This suggests there is ample opportunity to land your dream job immediately after earning your practical nursing diploma and passing the NCLEX.
You can earn your professional nursing associate degree in as few as 12 months with our mobility bridge entrance option.1 This can be completed in tandem with your job as an LPN and helps bridge the gap between the two career paths. Most programs are offered online or during evenings and weekends, so you’ll be able to fit classes in with your busy schedule.
Finances are usually a compelling reason people make the leap from LPN to RN later in their careers. The BLS reports the median annual salary for RNs in 2015 was $67,490, compared to $43,170 for LPNs.3 Both are above the national average for all occupations, but that extra $24,000 becomes more and more appealing after a few years in the field.
Luckily, your LPN career will make the perfect springboard for your leap to an RN career if you decide you’d like to go that direction.
When you have to make the decision between becoming and LPN or RN, there are some clear advantages of being an LPN. If the benefits above have you convinced that this is your best option, check out our article: How to Become an LPN: 5 Steps to Earning Your Scrubs.
But there is two sides to every story! If you’re curious about what you can expect on the RN side, check out our article: The Advantages of Being a Registered Nurse.
1Time to complete is dependent on accepted transfer credits and courses completed each quarter.
2Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 92,761 LPN job postings, Aug. 01, 2015 – Jul. 31, 2016.)
3Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in March 2013. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2016. Some insight remains from the original article.