How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse:
The Definitive Guide

Have you always seen yourself working in the nursing profession?

Do you want to be up close and personal with your patients to make them feel as good as they possibly can?

Have you worked as a certified nurse assistant and are looking for something to further your career?

Then a career as a Licensed Practical Nurse might be just what you are looking for.

What is a Licensed Practical Nurse

As a Licensed Practical Nurse, it is likely that you’ll do the same types of things as a CNA, like taking vitals, giving IVs and cleaning rooms, but as a Licensed Practical Nurse you’ll also have bigger responsibilities.

It’s possible to perform diagnostic tests, analyze the results, and even determine treatment plans in this career.

With the role of a Licensed Practical Nurse, you may be in charge of some of the CNAs as well.

Some states may have regulations on the types of duties a Licensed Practical Nurse can perform.


The role of a Licensed Practical Nurse can vary depending on where you work, but some of the major duties for this career include:

  • Maintaining patient records
  • Assisting doctors and nurses with procedures
  • Administering and maintain medication
  • Helping with eating, bathing, dressing
  • Updating doctors and nurses on the status of the patient
  • Feeding infants (if working on the maternity ward)
  • Coaching women through childbirth


In the United States, it is likely that you will make around $48,000 a year as a Licensed Practical Nurse.

When just started out in the career, it is more likely that you will earn around $44,000 a year.

After years of experience, certifications, and specializations, it is possible for you to make around $54,000 a year.

If you are looking for employment as a Licensed Practical Nurse, it’s important to think about the location of the facility that you want to work in.

Those that work in higher populations typically make more than people who work in smaller offices or clinics.

This is due to the funding for that facility, as well as the number of patients seen daily.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $51,850


Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$57,250
New Hampshire$59,140
New Jersey$58,590
New Mexico$56,040
New York$53,750
North Carolina$49,210
North Dakota$50,130
Rhode Island$59,800
South Carolina$46,470
South Dakota$41,830
West Virginia$41,310
Puerto Rico$23,590
Virgin Islands$48,920

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $65,140.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $65,140
Alaska - $63,650
Washington - $63,250
Massachusetts - $61,820
Nevada - $60,490
*Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse

Step 1Earn a Degree

Depending on your preference, you can earn an Associates degree in Nursing or a Bachelors’s degree in Nursing.

Most Licensed Practical Nurses have an Associates degree.

Some of the coursework that your program will likely cover include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Nursing Care
  • Nutrition
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychology
  • Human Growth and Development

Most Associates degrees take around two years to complete.

Admissions vary by state, but most programs require at least a high school diploma in order to enroll.

Other schools may require you to pass an entrance exam.

If you decide to go for a Bachelors’s degree, you can expect to be in school for around four years.

You even have the option to enroll in an LPN-BSN program, which is geared specifically for those that want to be Licensed Practical Nurses.

This typically takes around three years to complete.

Step 2Pass the NCLEX-PN Exam

After you achieve your goal of earning a degree, you’ll need to become a registered nurse.

After that, it’s time to think about taking the NCLEX-PN exam.

NCLEX-PN stands for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses and is given through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

The exam is taken on a computer and consists of around 85 to 205 questions.

The test must be taken within five hours.

If you do not pass the exam, you will have to wait 90 days to retake it.

There are several focus areas for this exam, including:

  • Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • Physiological Integrity
  • Psychosocial Integrity
  • Safe and Effective Care Environments

Step 3Get Certified

Now that you are a registered nurse, it’s time to think about earning some other certifications.

As a Licensed Practical Nurse, you have many choices when it comes to the types of credentials you can earn.

Most of the certifications are sponsored by the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service.

Some of the certifications you can earn as a Licensed Practical Nurse include:

  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support
  • Basic Life Support
  • Case Management
  • Certified Clinical Research Associate
  • Gerontology
  • Healthcare Quality
  • IV Certification

There are over 20 certifications available in this field, so take your time and work toward the ones that will open the most doors for you.

Step 4Gain Work Experience

Having experience as a nurse is the most important part of the career.

It’s not fun having a nurse who doesn’t know what they are doing.

So that means that it is important to get as much experience as you can.

This can start while you are still in school, by doing internships or clinicals so that you work with patients in a medical setting.

Many programs offer career support so that you won’t be stuck all on your own after graduation.

The National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses even has a job board on their website that is updated constantly.

Job opportunities in this field are expected to grow exponentially, especially when due to a shortage of registered nurses, many Licensed Practical Nurses step in to do those duties as well.

This can give you a leg up with your employer, as it shows that you are multifaceted.


There are so many different paths to take when deciding to become a nurse.

It’s important to figure out what is right for you.

This might mean working toward an Associates degree, or it could mean earning a Bachelors degree.

Either way, a nursing career can be in your future.

For those that decide they want to earn an Associates degree in Nursing, they will typically spend about two years in school.

Some of the courses you can expect to take in this program include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Nursing
  • Nutrition

Consider having an Associates degree to be the stepping stone into the world of nursing.

It is not required to earn a Bachelors degree in order to sit for the NLEX-PN exam, however, many employers do think that having a Bachelors degree better enables you to do a great job.

Earning a Bachelors degree in Nursing can take around four years, sometimes it can take three if you work with an LPN-BSN program.

These are only available in some areas, and you should contact your school to find out more information.

There may be more courses geared toward your specific area of nursing, but the typical nursing program will have courses like:

  • Women’s Healthcare
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Nursing the Infant, Child, and Adolescent Patient
  • Leadership and Professional Practice
  • Management Theory

It is possible to earn a Bachelors’s degree in nursing from an online school.

However, some schools may not be accredited to the state in which you want to work.

An important thing to keep in mind when attending a nursing program is whether or not you’ll have to do an internship and clinicals.

Programs that do not provide clinicals or hands-on experience may not be the right choice.

It’s important to gain as much experience in this field as possible, especially before beginning your career.

Video About The Career


One of the great things about working as a Licensed Practical Nurse is that there is an abundance of certifications for you to choose from.

Currently, there are around twenty certifications that you can work toward as a Licensed Practical Nurse.

The Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support certifications are given by the American Red Cross.

These certifications will help you to know when a patient is in a life-threatening situation.

You’ll typically learn CPR, and how to use AEDs for both of these certifications.

Those that have one of these certifications will typically have the other, as they go hand in hand.

You can also earn certifications in Pediatric Life Support, Pharmacology, Transplant Coordinator, IV Certification, and Urology.

One of the most popular certifications is the Wound Care Certification.

It’s also possible to earn credentials in research with the Certified Clinical Research Associate and the Certified Clinical Research Coordinator certifications.

Someone interested in working with the elderly may want to earn the Gerontology certification or the Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurse certification.

This allows you to participate in the cleaning and treatment of all types of wounds.

With a certification in Long Term Care, will allow you to work with the elderly and disabled people in long term care facilities.

Even though certifications are not necessary, they do make you more desirable to employers.

They also allow you to work in several different areas or focus on one particular area that you really enjoy.

When thinking about certifications, make sure that you know who puts on the certification.

Some companies to look for are the National Association of Practical Nurse Education and Service, the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses, the American Red Cross, and the Commission for Case Management.

It’s possible to increase your salary with certifications as well.

Certification Example:

Licensed Practical Nurse Certification

Average Training Program Duration: 2-4 Years

There is no specific training program duration when it comes to earning certifications as a Licensed Practical Nurse.

Most certifications require between a 4-12 weeks training program, however, this can vary, and it also depends on the type of certification.

Some other certifications only require that you take a test.

It is important to find out what you need to do for the specific certification you want to earn.

Popular Programs

Job Outlook

In the next ten years, the role of a Licensed Practical Nurse will grow around 11 percent.

There will always be a need for nurses, which means the career will likely be around forever.

The aging baby boomer population will help to increase the need for Licensed Practice Nurses as well, as they are requiring more hospitalization and medical assistance.

The use of medicine to combat diabetes and other illnesses will also provide more job openings for people in the nursing profession.

Employment Growth Projection: 9%


That's a higher than average projected growth of 63,800 jobs.

Licensed Practical Nurse: Interest Over Time

Should You Become a Licensed Practical Nurse?

Overall Satisfaction: High

Overall Satisfaction

Many Licensed Practical Nurses love their jobs and are happy in their careers.

However, there are many nurses who feel that they work too long and too hard for the career.

Most nurses work 12-16 hour shifts, which can be hard physically and mentally.

Having a love for helping people will also give you much joy in this career, as you will be helping many people in their most serious times of need.

There’s quite a lot of paperwork that comes along with this career as well, another downside to the job.

Average Salary: Medium

Average Salary

On average in the United States, a Licensed Practical Nurse will make around $48,000 a year.

As you progress throughout this career, it is likely that you can make around $54,000 a. year.

When just starting out, however, you’ll make around $44,000 a year typically.

It’s possible to make more when you earn certifications, have specializations, and have been in the field for a while.

Another reason for the range of salary is the population in which you work.

Those that work in larger populations will usually make more money than those who live in smaller cities.

Job Growth Outlook: High

Job Growth Outlook

There will continue to be a rise in the need for Licensed Practical Nurses.

In the next decade, the career will grow by around eleven percent.

This is higher than many other careers within the medical field.

The baby boomer population is growing older, which means there is a higher need for medical assistance and hospitalization in the United States.

Also, diabetes and heart disease have become more prevalent throughout the years, resulting in the need for more medical attention as well.

Education Duration: 2-4 Years

Education Duration

In order to work as a Licensed Practical Nurse, you must go through a nursing program.

Most nurses earn an Associates degree in Nursing, which can take around two years to complete.

Others decide to earn a Bachelors degree, which can take from 3-4 years depending on the program and where you go to school.

One thing to look into is an LPN-RN path or LPN-BSN path, which can help you work while in school.

All in all, it can take anywhere from 2 years to 4 years to become a Licensed Practical Nurse.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Because the job duties of a Licensed Practical Nurse can vary from place to place, there are several different skills needed for this career.

These skills are:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Time management skills
  • Computer skills
  • Clinical skills
  • Supervisor skills or experience

As a Licensed Practical Nurse, it is likely that you will be the face that patients see most often.

It’s important to treat people with respect and give them the attention that you would want someone to give you if you were sick.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much does a Licensed Practical Nurse make?

On average in the United States, a Licensed Practical Nurse can make around $48,000 a year.

Since this career is seen as a sort of stepping stone into nursing, it’s likely that you will not make as much money in this career as you would in other roles within the field.

Those that are just starting out in the job can expect to make $44,000 a year.

After some experience, it’s likely that you can make up to $54,000 a year.

Q. What does a Licensed Practical Nurse do?

When working in this type of role, it is likely that you will deal closely with patients of all types.

You’ll also work with a variety of medical staff to make sure that the patients have what they need.

It will also likely be a requirement that you learn how to do IVs, changing bedding, and dispensing medication.

The roles of a Licensed Practical Nurse can vary depending on where you work.

Q. How long does it take to become a Licensed Practical Nurse?

There are a couple of different choices you have when you decide you want to be a Licensed Practical Nurse.

You can earn an Associates degree or a Bachelors degree in nursing, both will help you gain employment as a Licensed Practical Nurse.

If you have plans to continue a career and work up the ladder, it can take around four years to earn a Bachelors degree.

If you decide that you’d rather work sooner, you can earn an Associates degree in about two years.

Q. Is there a demand for Licensed Practical Nurses?

Many hospitals and care facilities around the country are searching for incredible Licensed Practical Nurses to join their teams.

The rise in the baby boomer population and the use of medical technology on more illnesses have created more jobs and will continue to do so.

There doesn’t seem to be any stopping the demand for Licensed Practical Nurses any time in the near future.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Licensed Practical Nurse?

It costs around $10,000-$13,000 to earn an Associates degree nowadays.

Depending on where you go to school, whether it’s a community college or university, the cost can vary.

A Bachelors degree can cost anywhere from $15,000-$35,000, again depending on where you decide to get your degree.

There are many opportunities to go to online school and trade schools as well, but it will likely cost between $10,000 and $35,000 to become a Licensed Practical Nurse.

Licensed Practical Nurse Information by State

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One Comment
  1. Avatar for Abigail peterson Abigail peterson

    Am a nurse in Nigeria who have worked and still working with different NGOs health related, guaranty trust bank as a sickbay nurse. Want to make an enquiry if I can come over to complete my nursing studies, I have my transcript form a university in Benin republic up to 400level and also have series of certificate on CPR, BLS, ECG , women in hepatitis B prevention and awareness also Health &safety. Thanks as I await your favourable response.

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