Practical Nursing

Comprehensive Career Info and Resources for LPNs and LVNs

With jobs expected to grow 16 percent between 2014 and 2024, practical nursing is a wise career choice for anyone looking to enter the healthcare field and help others. As medical professionals, licensed practical and vocational nurses work under the direction of registered nurses or physicians, and are responsible for both nursing and administrative tasks. This guide provides detailed information on the field, from responsibilities to specialties to information on salary and employment. Prospective students can also find several other resources to help them start a career in practical nursing.

Best Practical Nursing Programs

Top five states Methodology
ASO’s Best On-Campus Nursing Schools

The top nursing schools listed in this ranking were determined by comparison of three primary, equally weighted, criteria including,

  • Student-to-faculty ratio
  • In-state tuition
  • Graduation rate
  • Public and private not-for-profit schools only.
  • All schools compared against each other in three primary categories: in-state tuition, graduation rate and student-teacher ratio. All categories weighted equally.

A successful practical nursing career begins with quality education. Whether you’re looking for a certificate/diploma program or an associate degree in nursing, there are several excellent schools and colleges across the US from which to choose. Start reviewing the top-rated options below. AccreditedSchoolsOnline analyzed and compared three major factors – in-state tuition, graduation rate, and student-teacher ratio – to create a list of the best public and private not-for-profit schools for aspiring practical nursing students. Find out if your target school made the list and see what other top schools have to offer.

Score Tuition Student/teacher ratioGraduation Rate
1 Dodge City Community College 100 12:152%
2 Eastern Idaho Technical College 99.63 8:151%
3 Charlotte Technical Center 97.73 8:174%
4 D G Erwin Technical Center 96.63 9:163%
5 Traviss Career Center 96.33 8:175%
6 Central Louisiana Technical Community College 95.47 17:172%
7 Southeastern Technical College 94.83 11:137%
8 Northwest College 94.5 12:137%
9 East Mississippi Community College 94.47 12:133%
10 Colorado Mountain College 94.33 13:126%
11 College of the Siskiyous 94.13 15:128%
12 Garden City Community College 93.97 13:137%
13 Southwest Georgia Technical College 93.93 12:132%
14 Western Texas College 93.93 17:146%
15 Mid-Plains Community College 93.8 9:133%
16 Western Wyoming Community College 93.8 16:153%
17 Lee College 93.07 13:124%
18 South Georgia Technical College 92.93 14:138%
19 Augusta Technical College 92.7 14:134%
20 Seward County Community College and Area Technical School 92.5 15:136%
21 University of Arkansas Community College-Hope 92.5 15:131%
22 Casper College 92.23 12:128%
23 Florida Gateway College 92.2 14:148%
24 Mayland Community College 92.1 14:131%
25 Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas 91.7 12:127%
26 Moultrie Technical College 91.63 14:131%
27 Rend Lake College 91.6 15:152%
28 Central Community College 91.13 14:133%
29 Oconee Fall Line Technical College 90.97 11:125%
30 Turtle Mountain Community College 90.83 10:121%
31 Arkansas Northeastern College 90.43 14:123%
32 Colby Community College 90.23 14:135%
33 Montgomery Community College 90.2 8:121%
34 South Central Louisiana Technical College-Young Memorial Campus 90.07 18:159%
35 Wayne Community College 90.03 11:122%
36 Athens Technical College 90.03 13:127%
37 Bismarck State College 89.83 14:142%
38 Arkansas State University-Newport 89.33 16:132%
39 Galveston College 88.97 15:123%
40 North Florida Community College 88.77 16:142%
41 Western Nebraska Community College 88.77 15:127%
42 Bladen Community College 88.5 12:120%
43 Ogeechee Technical College 88.4 16:135%
44 Pickens Technical College 88.33 20:177%
45 West Kentucky Community and Technical College 88.3 14:137%
46 Cleveland Community College 88.2 10:119%
47 Southwest Wisconsin Technical College 88.1 13:153%
48 Lakeshore Technical College 88.1 13:145%
49 Arkansas State University-Beebe 87.93 17:139%
50 Northeast Community College 87.8 17:146%
51 Maysville Community and Technical College 87.67 11:129%
52 Cochise College 87.63 16:123%
53 Vance-Granville Community College 87.6 16:123%
54 Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College 87.6 9:151%
55 Glen Oaks Community College 87.47 13:126%
56 Pasadena City College 87.43 20:132%
57 North Arkansas College 87.37 16:123%
58 McDowell Technical Community College 87.17 8:113%
59 Owensboro Community and Technical College 87.17 13:131%
60 Hutchinson Community College 87.13 15:127%
61 West Shore Community College 87.07 13:120%
62 Eastern Arizona College 86.97 20:136%
63 Coastal Carolina Community College 86.97 14:120%
64 North Central Kansas Technical College 86.93 10:171%
65 Carteret Community College 86.87 8:119%
66 Kansas City Kansas Community College 86.87 13:122%
67 College of the Albemarle 86.83 13:118%
68 College of the Mainland 86.83 14:118%
69 Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas 86.77 16:124%
70 Gateway Community and Technical College 86.73 12:130%
71 Clarendon College 86.63 18:130%
72 Odessa College 86.57 17:130%
73 New Mexico Junior College 86.53 18:125%
74 Rockingham Community College 86.53 11:114%
75 Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College 86.47 18:128%
76 Cape Fear Community College 86.47 13:120%
77 Alpena Community College 86.33 13:135%
78 Howard College 86.33 15:121%
79 GateWay Community College 86.27 13:117%
80 South Florida State College 86.2 17:139%
81 Copper Mountain Community College 86.13 15:117%
82 Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing 86.13 5:1100%
83 Chippewa Valley Technical College 86.1 12:132%
84 Lake Region State College 86.07 14:141%
85 United Tribes Technical College 86 8:144%
86 Henderson Community College 85.87 10:125%
87 Atlanta Technical College 85.8 16:128%
88 Wiregrass Georgia Technical College 85.73 13:120%
89 Savannah Technical College 85.7 17:129%
90 Vernon College 85.63 16:130%
91 University of Arkansas Community College-Batesville 85.6 17:124%
92 John Wood Community College 85.53 12:135%
93 Georgia Piedmont Technical College 85.5 17:132%
94 Lake Area Technical Institute 85.5 13:173%
95 Sheridan College 85.43 16:129%
96 Sauk Valley Community College 85.4 17:135%
97 North Dakota State College of Science 85.4 12:139%
98 Napa Valley College 85.4 21:131%
99 Rich Mountain Community College 85.23 17:124%
100 Fox Valley Technical College 85.17 12:135%

Practical Nursing Programs

Practical nursing is a varied and dynamic profession that offers multiple entry points and career advancement opportunities. Prospective students interested in the field can learn more about the assortment of academic programs and career opportunities on the following pages.

  • LPN Programs and Schools

    An essential part of the healthcare team, licensed practical nurses care for patients in hospitals, clinics, and private practices under the supervision of registered nurses. Discover the educational pathways that put students on the fast-track to this in-demand career.

    Read More
  • Online LPN Programs and Schools

    For many, a campus-based LPN program isn’t doable. Online LPN programs offer flexibility and convenience, allowing aspiring practical nurses to earn a degree and still balance work, family, and other non-academic responsibilities. Find out how online LPN programs and schools work and what to look for when evaluating your options.

    Read More
  • CNA to LPN

    Certified nursing assistants looking for move up the career ladder can do so by enrolling in a CNA to LPN bridge program. Learn more about the differences between CNAs and LPNs and the steps required to move into a practical nursing role.

    Read More
  • LPN to RN

    Resulting in either an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing, LPN to RN programs are a great way for practical nurses to further their education while still working. Read about program options and start working towards a registered nursing career.

    Read More
  • LPN to BSN

    The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is becoming the new minimum education requirement for registered nurses. Practical nurses looking to become RNs can enroll in an LPN to BSN bridge program and earn their bachelor’s degree in one to two years, rather than four.

    Read More

Practical Nursing Resource Center

Although an important step, completing an accredited nursing program is just one part of the process. The following resources offer additional step-by-step information on how to become a successful practical nurse.

How to Become an LPN

An in-depth guide on steps to becoming an LPN, including practical nursing programs and information on careers and licensure.

How to Ace the NCLEX-PN

Taking and passing the NCLEX is a requirement for all practical nurses. Find resources and strategies for studying and preparing, and get detailed information about the test so you’re well prepared and ready to ace the exam!

Practical Nursing Programs and Licensing by State

Licenses for practical nurses are issued at the state level. To qualify for licensure, applicants must graduate from an accredited nursing program, pass the National Council Licensure Examination for practical nurses (NCLEX-PN), and meet other state requirements. Learn more about what’s involved in practical nursing programs, as well as individual state licensing requirements, using the map below.

Practical Nursing Responsibilities

Licensed practical and vocational nurses provide basic medical and patient care under the supervision of registered nurses. Practical nurses touch every aspect of patient care, from basic patient assistance such as bathing and dressing, to direct, hands-on care such as treating wounds and inserting catheters.

Overall, the duties of an LPN are established and regulated by individual state boards of nursing. Each state has a scope of practice that outlines the boundaries in which practical nurses are allowed to work. This scope of practice varies widely from state to state – some allow practical nurses to administer intravenous medications, for example, while others limit LPNs to bedside care only. Across the board, however, LPNs are not allowed to make independent nursing decisions, change a patient’s plan of care, perform triage over the telephone, analyze test results, or take verbal orders from a physician.

The graphic below outlines the differences in the roles and responsibilities of practical nurses and registered nurses.

Registered Nurse Practical Nurse
Licensing examination

NCLEX-RN

Level of nursing autonomy

Acts independently in the nursing role as defined by state’s scope of practice

Assessment

Gathers data and applies nursing knowledge to assess a patient’s physical and psychological conditions

Nursing diagnosis

Makes independent nursing decisions and develops nursing diagnoses based on the signs and symptoms of the patient

Care planning

Identifies patient treatment goals, formulates appropriate strategies, and prioritizes based on patient needs

Care implementation

Independently administers prescribed elements of care, including therapies, treatments and medications

Task delegation

May assign nursing care tasks to other RNs, LPNs and assistive professionals, as defined by state’s scope of nursing practice

Licensing examination

NCLEX-PN

Level of nursing autonomy

Works in a dependent nursing position under the direction and supervision of an RN, APN or licensed physician

Assessment

Observes, monitors and reports a patient’s signs and symptoms and reports regularly to supervising physician or RN

Nursing diagnosis

Not allowed to make nursing diagnoses

Care planning

Assists physician or registered nurse to identify patient needs and treatment goals

Care implementation

Follows orders from a physician or supervising nurse to administer medications or provide treatments

Task delegation

May delegate certain tasks as defined by state’s scope of practice to individuals in assistive positions

Career Paths & Specialties for Practical Nurses

More than 700,000 licensed practical nurses work in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with 55 percent employed by nursing and residential care facilities and hospitals. Yet the LPN field is not restricted to only a few career avenues. The expansive and diverse nature of the healthcare system provides opportunities for LPNs to work across healthcare specialties—from cardiology to nephrology, and home health care to hospice care. Below are some examples of career specialty tracks available to practical nurses.

Long-Term Care

LPNs may work in long-term care facilities, which include assisted-living, rehabilitation centers, adult day care centers, retirement communities, and skilled nursing facilities such as nursing homes. In these positions, they provide a range of medical and personal services to individuals who are unable to live independently. The type of services varies by facility. In a nursing home, for example, they may assist elderly patients with day-to-day tasks such as bathing, monitor the patient’s health, check vital signs, or handle prescription medication administration.

Hospice and Palliative Care

LPNs working in hospice and palliative care assist registered nurses and physicians to provide end-of-life care to patients, either in their homes or at a hospital. Under the direction of a registered nurse, LPNs provide a range of skilled nursing care duties. They may administer medication, maintain patient records, educate and support the patient and family members, conduct patient assessments, monitor vital signs, and collaborate with the caregiving team on an appropriate plan of care.

Emergency Room

In the emergency room, LPNs assume an extensive list of responsibilities under the direction of a registered nurse or physician. For instance, they may assist in the admission and discharge processes, observe and report on patient conditions, conduct patient assessments, and administer prescribed medications and treatment. In some cases, certified LPNs may also manage intravenous therapies, starting and discontinuing treatment accordingly. Accurate documentation of treatment is a major responsibility to ensure that patient care is coordinated and performed correctly.

Labor and Delivery

Labor and delivery LPNs work as part of an interdisciplinary team of healthcare providers who manage not only the labor and delivery process itself, but also the prenatal and postpartum care of mothers and their children. Labor and delivery is a highly regulated field of nursing, and LPNs are limited in their scope of nursing practice. Some hospitals may only allow LPNs to monitor the newborn nursery, while others may expand their duties to assist with admission, delivery preparation, and recovery.

Home Healthcare

Working under the supervision of a registered nurse or licensed physician, practical nurses provide services to patients in their homes. Those services include standard bedside care such as monitoring vital signs or taking blood pressure readings, as well as more intensive tasks such as giving injections or dressing wounds. They may also help patients walk or move around, and assist them with personal hygiene. In these positions, LPNs may also supervise the work of related professionals, including nursing assistants and home health aides.

Managed Care

In managed care, the role of an LPN shifts away from hands-on care to one of administrative support. Working in managed care, LPNs serve as patient advocates, helping to administer health benefits, implement wellness programs, and assist in care coordination. They may work in rehabilitation centers, manage patient intake in nursing homes, or serve as a transition coordinator at a hospital, helping patients move into long-term care facilities.

Ambulatory Care

One of the fastest growing specialties in healthcare, ambulatory care provides patient services outside of a hospital. This broad field of practice offers opportunities in diverse settings, such as physicians’ offices, rehabilitation centers, and pain management clinics. Responsibilities of LPNs in these positions vary, but may include providing health education to patients, acting as case managers, scheduling appointments, and assisting with medical procedures.

Mental Health Care

In mental health care, LPNs work on multidisciplinary teams to plan, coordinate, and provide services and treatments to patients dealing with mental, emotional and behavioral issues. The responsibilities of a psychiatric LPN span both administrative and patient care – they may assist in developing treatment plans, help provide psychological evaluations on patients, coordinate medical interventions with psychiatrists, and manage insurance billing.

Practical Nursing Salary, Employment, and Other Stats

LPN/LVN
Annual Wage (10th Percentile) $31,640
Median Annual Wage $42,490
Annual Wage (90th percentile) $58,710
Occupational Outlook (2014 – 24) 16%

Practical nursing is one of the largest healthcare occupations in the US, and is projected to experience continued growth over the next decade. Some sectors, such as home healthcare, are expected to see more than 60 percent growth between 2014 and 2024. Even so, research by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that there will be a shortage of nurses in the next decade, with some 22 states facing a lack of qualified LPNs by 2025. In some cases the scenario is severe. California and Ohio, for example, are both anticipated to have a shortfall of LPNs in excess of 20,000 to 25,000 professionals.

Faced with an aging population and nursing workforce, the need for qualified practical nurses will only increase. For professionals in the field, this will likely mean positive occupational opportunities across healthcare specialties, and solid career earning potential.

Largest occupational growth by healthcare industry for LPNs/LVNs (2014 – 2024)
  • 41.8% Ambulatory Healthcare Services
  • 60.7% Home Healthcare Services
  • 57.9% Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy
  • 39.2% Mental Health Services
  • 33.5% Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, OOH

Top paying healthcare industries for LPNs/LVNs (Annual mean salary 2014)
Home Health Care Services
$45,370
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals – State government owned
$45,360
Specialty Hospitals – Privately owned
$45,350
Specialty
$45,100
Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories
$44,930
Outpatient Care Centers
$44,810
Nursing Care Facilities
$44,500
Nursing and Residential Care Facilities
$44,370
Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly
$44,310
Offices of Physical Occupational and Speech Therapists and Audiologists
$43,850
$35,000 $40,000 $45,000

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, OES

Top ten states with highest occupational outlook for LPNs (2012 – 2022)
  • 34.5%
    Utah
  • 30.1%
    Arizona
  • 27.6%
    Texas
  • 26.7%
    Virginia
  • 25.7%
    California
  • 25.3%
    North Carolina
  • 24.6%
    Georgia
  • 24.6%
    New Hampshire
  • 24.2%
    Colorado
  • 23.7%
    Florida

Source: Projections Central

Top five states with the most
LPNs employed in 2014

Top five states

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, OES

Top paying states for LPNs/LVNs
(Annual mean salary 2014)

Top paying states

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, OES

Age breakout for LPNs

  • The average age of LPNs in the US is 43.6
  • Only 18.3% of LPNs are 30 years old or younger

Source: Minority Nurse

Education statistics

  • 107,234 practical nursing degrees were awarded nationally in 2013-2014
  • 12% of practical nursing degrees in 2013-2014 were awarded to men (12,772)
  • 88% of practical nursing degrees in 2013-2014 were awarded to women (94,462)

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDS