How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a licensed practical nurse. Learn about job duties, education, and licensure requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Licensed Practical Nurse Do?

As a licensed practical nurse (LPN), or licensed vocational nurse (LVN), you'll work with doctors and registered nurses to care for patients. Your main duties will be monitoring your patient's general condition, attending to their needs (changing bandages, dressing, bathing, etc.), and conversing with patients about their care and concerns they may have. You will need to keep thorough and accurate records of their condition and recovery, reporting your findings to doctors and registered nurses with any concerns you might have.

The following chart provides an overview about becoming a licensed practical nurse.

Degree Required Postsecondary diploma or certificate
Education Field of Study Nursing
Key Responsibilities Provide basic nursing care for patients, including changing dressings and inserting catheters; make patients comfortable and assist them with hygiene; take patients' vital signs and record them; report patient status to registered nurse
Licensure or Certification All states require practical and vocational nurses to be licensed
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% (for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses)*
Median Salary (2015) $43,170 (for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is a Licensed Practical Nurse?

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) provide basic care to patients and monitor their vital signs. As an LPN, you'll administer medications and injections, gather samples for lab tests, and perform standard tests. You might also have to monitor medical equipment and keep an eye on patients' habits, eating, and drinking. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), LPNs bathe, dress, and feed patients (www.bls.gov). Usually, you'll also clean patients' rooms and change linens.

Step 1: Finish High School

While in high school, you should take extra courses in biology, chemistry, and psychology to become an LPN. Take courses in first aid, foods, nutrition, or emergency medical technology if these are available at your high school. Outside of school, you can earn your cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification through classes offered by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.

Step 2: Complete a Practical Nursing Program

You'll need to take a licensed practical nursing certificate or associate degree program to become an LPN. These are offered at community colleges and some hospitals. The BLS reports that an LPN program takes approximately one year to complete.

Step 3: Complete a Clinical

LPNs need to be physically strong, caring, and tactful. These skills can be developed through clinicals. Completion of one or more clinicals is typically part of the graduation requirements of your certificate or associate degree program. It allows you to learn beside manner and gain hands-on experience caring for patients and performing tasks such as taking vitals.

Step 4: Get Licensed

To work with patients, you'll need to be licensed. You'll have to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN), which is offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (www.ncsbn.org). Administered at Pearson VUE testing sites, this exam is used by many state licensing boards.

Step 5: Consider Advancement

By pursuing a bachelor's degree in nursing, you can seek certification as a registered nurse (RN). Being an RN includes more responsibility and higher pay. According to the BLS, in 2015 LPNs made a median annual salary of $43,170, while RNs earned a median of $67,490 per year. You can also sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, which is specific for registered nurses.

What Are Some Related Careers?

Surgical technologists work in hospitals assisting in operations by prepping operation rooms, sterilizing equipment, and providing the doctor with tools during the procedure. Psychiatric technicians and aides assist people with mental illness and disabilities in their daily lives, monitoring their condition on a day-to-day basis and providing therapeutic care when necessary. Nursing assistants take care of patients at nursing facilities and hospitals, providing for their basic needs and transporting them to different places, as well as perform basic maintenance duties, such as cleaning equipment and replenishing supplies.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • The George Washington University

    The George Washington University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The George Washington University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Independence University

    Independence University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Independence University:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Purdue University Global

    Purdue University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Purdue University Global:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Walden University

    Walden University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Walden University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Fortis College

    Fortis College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Fortis College:

    • Associate Programs
    • Certificates

    Campus-Based Programs Available:

    View All Locations
    • Arizona: Phoenix
    • Florida: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie
    • Indiana: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis
    • Ohio: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls
    • Pennsylvania: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton
    • South Carolina: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton, Columbia
    • Tennessee: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton, Columbia, Nashville
    • Utah: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton, Columbia, Nashville, Salt Lake City
    • Virginia: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton, Columbia, Nashville, Salt Lake City, Norfolk
  • Colorado Technical University

    Colorado Technical University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Colorado Technical University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Regent University

    Regent University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Regent University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Herzing University

    Herzing University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Herzing University:

    Online Programs Available

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next »