How Much Do LPNs Make? And 5 Other Questions You Want Answered

LPN talking with elderly patient

You might not want to discuss salary at the dinner table, but it’s an unavoidable topic when considering potential career options. You need to know if your career is going to pay the bills. Will an LPN salary be worth the time and money you invest in education? How’s the job market looking for LPNs? We know these questions are important to consider, so we’ve rounded up the data to help provide the answers you’re looking for.

This career path is a popular option for those looking for an accessible path into nursing, but new challenges will always have an element of risk. We want you to have as much confidence making this decision as possible. So, let’s roll those sleeves up and get started.

How much do LPNs make?

Let’s start with the (not quite) million-dollar question—how much can I make in this role? The 2018 median annual salary for licensed practical nurses is $46,240, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1 Remember, that’s a median figure, so in other words, half of working LPNs earned more than that figure and half earned less.

As you’re trying to weigh your options, remember that your location, employer, and years of experience will all have an influence on your potential salary in this role.

Conveniently, the BLS reports the settings where LPNs earn the most based on their 2018 median annual salaries:1

  • Government: $48,050
  • Nursing and residential care facilities: $47,470
  • Home healthcare services: $46,510
  • Hospitals: state, local, and private: $44,630
  • Offices of physicians: $42,520

Are LPNs in demand?

Another critical factor to consider is the potential job market for LPNs. One way to gauge that is to take a look at the BLS’ employment projections. For LPNs, the BLS projects an 11 percent increase in employment by 2028, a rate of growth well above the national average.1 In raw numbers, that equates to a projected growth of 78,100 LPN jobs nationwide.1

Like with many healthcare careers, much of this strong demand-projection is influenced by shifting demographics. The BLS explains that as the large baby boom population ages, the overall need for healthcare services is expected to increase. LPNs in particular play a key role in residential care facilities and home health care environments that care for older populations with chronic ailments.

Where do LPNs work?

LPNs can work practically anywhere that medical care is provided. Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and home healthcare services are all common locations. Within hospitals, there are many potential specialization options to choose from such as labor and delivery, pediatric, oncology, rehabilitative, and even the emergency room.

Some settings may require you to perform IV drips or administer medication but only in states that allow it. According to the BLS, nursing and residential care facilities employed the most LPNs nationwide.1

What are some common LPN job duties?

Licensed practical nurses—unsurprisingly—provide “practical” care. If you were assigned to a patient after surgery, for example, you might change their bandages, check their vitals, and bathe, feed, or turn them as necessary. You would also chart their status and communicate a patient’s condition to other medical staff.

For a more specific idea of what LPNs do, we analyzed over 180,000 LPN job postings from the past year and came up with a list of the top technical skills employers are looking for.

Top technical skills:2

  • Patient care
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • Treatment planning
  • Teaching
  • Home health
  • Medication administration
  • Scheduling
  • Long-term care
  • Care planning
  • Vital signs measurement

What are some important qualities of an LPN?

You might know what LPNs do, but what does it take to be a good LPN? According to our analysis of job postings, here are a few of the most important transferable and non-technical skills an LPN should have to be successful.

  • Communication: Whether you’re relaying a sudden drop in blood pressure to an RN or doctor, coaching family members on proper care, or soothing the patient, you will need to communicate with confidence.
  • Physical ability: You’ll likely be on your feet for several hours at a time and may have to turn or lift patients. This will require both strength and stamina.
  • Teamwork: RNs and physicians may seem like a league of their own, but together you make up the caregiving team. Every role is important and must work together.
  • Organization: Just as any medical professional, it is crucial to keep track of the care you provide. By accurately charting all vital signs, medications and treatments, you ensure that future care is appropriate and insurance billing is accurate.
  • Relationship building: One of the most important things you do as an LPN may have nothing to do with IVs or bandages. Being present and compassionate to your patients and coworkers is key to maintaining an effective workplace.

What education do LPNs need?

Enrolling in a Practical Nursing Diploma program is the fastest way to start working as a nurse. While Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs can take anywhere between two and four years, Practical Nursing programs can be completed in as few as 12 months.3 Like with an RN program, you will likely need to take an entrance exam and meet certain qualifications—for example, passing a background check—before starting courses. Additionally, after completing an academic program, would-be LPNs will need to sit for and pass the NCLEX-PN licensure exam to work as an LPN.

Join the front lines of care

Money is important. We need it to pay rent, buy groceries and maybe go out every once in a while. But it isn’t everything. Being passionate about your work is what will keep you going back, what will bring you fulfillment and direct you forward.

A Practical Nursing Diploma program may be a good financial decision for you, but if caring for the vulnerable is something you’re passionate about, it could turn into a lot more than just a job—it can be a fulfilling career. 

Check out our article, “How to Become an LPN: 5 Steps to Earning Your Scrubs,” and find out how to make a living doing what you love.

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed January, 2020] Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary. (analysis of 186,076 LPN job postings, Jan. 01, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2019).
3Completion time is dependent on the number of transfer credits accepted and the number of courses completed each term.

About the author

Hannah Meinke

Hannah Meinke is a writer at Collegis Education. She enjoys helping people discover their purpose and passion by crafting education and career-related content on behalf of Rasmussen University.

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