The Key Differences Between an LPN and an RN

Interested in changing careers? Learn more about why Nursing is an excellent career choice!

If you’re deciding on an nursing program, there really isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ option when choosing between a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and a Registered Nurse (RN). You can weigh your options and decide on what you’re comfortable with in terms of responsibilities, pay, and the amount of education it will take to attain each position. Either choice can be an excellent career path, depending on your individual situation. However, understanding the key differences between each role is important when considering your future in the healthcare industry. Here’s a few of the major distinctions between these two positions.

Education For LPN vs RN

In order to become an LPN, you need a high school diploma or GED. From there, you must attend and complete an accredited practical nursing program. This usually takes about a year to complete, and these courses are typically available at a technical or community college. These courses often cover nursing along with biology and pharmacology, and may be accompanied by supervised clinical experiences.

Becoming an RN usually requires a little more schooling. In order to go this route, you need an associate’s degree in nursing or a diploma from an approved nursing program (such as our Advanced Placement Program). These typically take about 2 to 3 years to complete. Alternatively, you can also acquire a bachelor’s of science in nursing, which will take about 4 years to complete. Each of these programs will include courses that revolve around behavioral science and physical science, while also providing you with clinical experiences in a variety of workplaces.

Nursing Job Duties

As an LPN, your typical job activities are focused around providing basic, routine care to patients. This can include checking blood pressure, monitoring vitals, changing dressings and catheters, and updating medical charts. A large part of the job is also making certain that the patients you’re assisting are comfortable. Because many of them may have physical disabilities, this may consist of escorting patients to their rooms, helping them bathe, eat, and clothe themselves, and simply talking to them on a day to day basis. Speaking with your patients will help you observe and understand their physical and mental state, and provide them with emotional support.

The duties of an RN are far more prescriptive. These involve administering medication and injections, operating medical equipment, and performing diagnostic tests. As an RN, you would also typically assist with patient rehabilitation and help patients understand how to manage their conditions after they’ve been treated. Additionally, the role of an RN is somewhat supervisory, and the management of certain personnel, such as nursing and home care aids can be expected.

Nursing Salary

Money is always a major consideration when choosing a career path, and while higher pay isn’t and end-all when choosing an entry-level nursing position, it’s still an important factor when making your decision. As an LPN, you’ll typically be making somewhere around $43,000 to $45,000 yearly. However, this number can go up with years of experience, a promotion to a supervisory position, or if you gain any special certifications that can help you provide better healthcare in certain situations such as hospice or geriatric care.

Due to the added responsibilities, the median salary for an RN is a bit higher at around $67,000 to $70,000 per year. Like LPNs, RNs can also increase their salary over time by gaining experience, earning promotions, or by pursuing a specialization such as pediatric oncology, dermatology, or diabetes management.

Nursing Career Advancement

If you’re an LPN with experience, you can expect to move on to a supervisory role at some point. Additionally, you can acquire specialized certifications in the areas of long-term care, IV administration, advanced life support, and hospice care.

However, if you decide to make the jump to become an RN, the available paths toward career advancement begin to multiply. With the appropriate experience and education, you can go on to become a chief nursing officer (CNO), advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), or move on to the business or technological side of the healthcare industry.

Get Started on Your Nursing Career

If you’re an LPN that’s interested in taking the next step in your nursing career, consider our Advanced Placement Program today. At the American Institute of Alternative medicine, we’ll guide you through the skills you need to become an RN, while also educating you about ethics and emotional care, both in classrooms and alongside professionals. The program is only 15 months divided into 12-week quarters for a total of 1226 program hours, earning you 90 credit hours.