So you’ve decided to become a nurse. It’s a good career choice because nursing is a life-saving profession that boasts steady job growth. The only question left to answer is: LPN or RN?
Your career depends on which degree you choose. You can become an LPN with a practical nursing degree, but being an RN requires a professional nursing degree. Regardless of which career you choose, just remember that both require you to pass the NCLEX.
There is plenty of information out there comparing practical nursing versus professional nursing, so let’s put that aside. Instead, let’s focus on the advantages of becoming an LPN.
1. Becoming an LPN takes less than time than becoming an RN.
A professional nursing degree takes at least four years to complete. By comparison, a practical nursing degree – which leads to the LPN career path after passing the NCLEX – takes 12-18 months. That means, depending on your course of study, you’d 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.
2. LPN job outlook is high – and entry-level jobs are available.
The availability of LPN jobs is expected to grow by 22 percent through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The field is growing faster than the national average despite BSN in 10, an initiative in several states that, if passed, will require all nurses to hold Bachelor’s degrees by 2020.
“I believe that the skill levels do matter in critical care areas and RNs should be BSN or higher in those areas,” Johnson says. “Clinical skills are acquired and I know that degree level doesn’t make an LPN or RN a better nurse.”
In addition to job growth, employers are looking for entry-level candidates. More than 80 percent of LPN job postings between Nov. 28, 2012 and Feb. 25, 2013* sought candidates with less than four years’ experience.
3. You can study to be an RN while you’re an LPN.
Your nursing skills and qualifications will naturally evolve throughout your career. So will your career goals. If you decide you’d rather be an RN than an LPN, you have options.
A professional nursing mobility program can help bridge the gap between the two career paths, and it’s possible to become an RN once you pass the appropriate NCLEX exam. Most programs are offered online or during evenings and weekends, so you’ll likely still be able to work while you earn your next degree.
Finances are usually a compelling reason people make the leap from LPN to RN later in their careers. It’s an indisputable fact that RNs earn more than LPNs, $64,690 per year for RNs versus $40,380 per year for LPNs, so that’s a likely draw.
The decision: When you have to make the LPN or RN career choice, the advantages of being an LPN are clear. Becoming an LPN means you can enter the workforce quickly, enter a field with high job growth, and become an RN if your career goals change.
If those advantages have lured you in, be sure to research to find the best nursing school for you.
And remember, “Becoming an LPN is a great accomplishment and LPNs should stand proud together,” Johnson says.
*Burning Glass is a comprehensive database providing statistics and insights about the current job market