CNA-to-LPN Programs Online

Become an LPN with an online CNA-to-LPN bridge program. These programs teach aspiring LPNs to provide patient care effectively and ethically.

Updated April 19, 2024

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A certified nursing assistant (CNA) is a common entry-level position to become a nursing professional. CNAs provide valuable direct care for patients who need assistance with basic life tasks.

If you're a CNA looking to advance your healthcare career, a logical next step could be becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN). It is important to note that California and Texas use the title "licensed vocational nurse" (LVN), but they share the same general education and skills as LPNs. Explore available CNA-to-LPN bridge programs with this helpful guide and begin moving your nursing career forward.

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Did You Know...

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that LPNs earn a median annual salary of $59,730 and projects a job growth rate of 5%, which is faster than average.

CNAs vs. LPNs


  • Education Requirements: Each student must complete a state-approved 4-12 week CNA certificate at a nursing home, hospital, clinic, or vocational school.
  • Licensure and Exam Requirements: Each state has specific CNA certification requirements. Eighteen states use the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) National Nurse Aide Assessment Program exam. Although CNAs work under the authority of a supervising nurse's license, they still must have their own certification.
  • Scope of Practice and Responsibilities: A CNA's scope of practice and responsibilities include assisting patients with essential activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, feeding, and exercising under nurse supervision. They can also provide companionship and emotional support.
  • Median Hourly Wage: $18.33 (BLS, 2023)
  • Job Outlook: 4% (BLS, 2022)
  • Continuing Education: Each state sets continuing education standards, but CNAs do not typically need to take continuing education units.


  • Education Requirements: Each candidate must earn a high school diploma or GED certificate and complete an accredited LPN program, usually at a community college or vocational school.
  • Licensure and Exam Requirements: All LPN program graduates must pass the NCLEX-PN administered by the NCSBN and earn an LPN license, but licensure requirements may vary by state.
  • Scope of Practice and Responsibilities: An LPN's scope of practice varies by state, but almost all LPNs perform physical assessments, take vital signs, and administer medications and treatments. They also assist and follow orders from registered nurses (RNs), doctors, and advanced practice nurses while delegating tasks to nursing assistants and aides. In most states, LPNs cannot independently develop or change a patient's care plan, perform telephone triage, carry out blood transfusions, or administer other specific IV medications.
  • Median Hourly Wage: $28.72 (BLS, 2023)
  • Job Outlook: 5% (BLS, 2022)
  • Continuing Education: Each state sets its specific education standards. Most require a specific number of annual continuing education units and practice hours to maintain licensure.

CNA-to-LPN Timeline

Earning a CNA-to-LPN online includes many moving parts. Here, we break down each step and what to consider. The exact timeline for earning an online CNA-to-LPN degree may vary by person, but it typically takes 1-2 years for a CNA to become an LPN.

1. Review Specific State Licensing Requirements

Degree-seekers should research state licensing requirements. Each state sets requirements for LPN licensure, which usually include an LPN certificate, a set number of clinical hours, a passing score on the NCLEX-PN, and a clean background check.

Many states participate in reciprocity agreements, allowing nurses to transfer their licenses between jurisdictions. Most programs tailor the requirements to meet their state's licensing standards. Therefore, students should consider programs in the states where they intend to practice.

2. Select an LPN Program

When choosing an LPN program, students will want to consider cost, program length, on-campus vs. online learning options, quality of clinical rotation placements, graduation rates, and accreditation.

CNAs may qualify for financial aid such as scholarships, grants, and loans to pay for their LPN programs. Some employers may also offer tuition assistance. If you want to use employer tuition assistance to pay for your program, ensure that you are willing to work for them for the agreed-upon period before committing. You can choose an LPN program that uses online, part-time, or hybrid delivery to complete your education and remain employed at the same time.

An LPN must complete an accredited program to earn licensure. Schools with more advanced nursing programs typically seek applicants from accredited nursing schools, as well.Students can research a program's accreditation status with the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, the Council on Occupational Education, the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation, and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

3. Successfully Complete Your Accredited Nursing Program

An online CNA-to-LPN degree typically takes full-time learners about one year to complete. Students complete traditional coursework and clinical rotations. Under the supervision of a nurse preceptor, degree-seekers practice basic nursing skills, like checking vital signs or changing bandages. They also build on their CNA knowledge. Most schools feature strict GPA requirements.

4. Apply for LPN Licensure in Your State

All LPN students must apply for licensure through their state nursing boards. Requirements vary by state. When a candidate has satisfied the state's requirements, they can register for the NCLEX-PN through the NCSBN.

5. Pass the NCLEX-PN

The NCLEX-PN includes 75-265 questions. Using computer adaptive testing, the software changes the questions to the test-taker's performance. For example, questions may become more difficult as they correctly answer prompts, and the test may provide easier questions if the individual struggles.

The test ends once students demonstrate their nursing skills with at least 75 correct answers. The exam, which may take up to five hours to finish, may also end when the candidate runs out of or fails too many questions.

6. Keep Your License Active

Every few years, an LPN must meet the renewal requirements set by their state's board of nursing. This process generally includes a renewal fee and the completion of a specific number of continuing education credits, sometimes related to mandatory topics such as human trafficking or HIV/AIDS. Certain states may also require the nurse to have worked a specified number of active clinical hours since the previous renewal. Understanding your state's licensure requirements is essential.

LPN Licensure Requirements

Applying for licensure as an LPN includes several steps, and the process varies among states. All LPNs who graduate from an accredited program must apply for licensure through the nursing board in the state where they plan to practice.

Each board of nursing will likely request similar documentation, including confirmation of graduation and certification from the applicant's LPN program. The candidate should check their state board of nursing's website for the specific requirements of the application process. When the state board of nursing is satisfied that the applicant has met all requirements, the aspiring LPN will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) via email. They can then register for the NCLEX-PN with the NCSBN and schedule an exam date.

Benefits of Transitioning from a CNA to an LPN

There are many benefits of transitioning from CNA to LPN, including greater earning potential, responsibility, diversity of work settings, and career mobility.

  • Larger Scope of Practice

    A CNA's scope of practice includes assisting patients with crucial activities of daily living like using the toilet, along with bathing, eating, and dressing. However, LPNs can administer medications and treatments, supervise CNAs, and collaborate with more advanced healthcare professionals to manage patients' medical conditions and care plans.
  • More Variability in Career Opportunities

    Career opportunities for LPNs allow them to work with more types of patients. LPNs can find employment in rehab facilities and nursing homes, government facilities like the Veterans Administration, assisted living and memory care, sub-acute hospitals, physician offices, and specialized facilities like dialysis clinics. With this expanded career potential comes greater earning power and career mobility, including leadership positions.
  • Greater Earning Potential

    The BLS reports a CNA median annual wage of $38,200 as of May 2023, while LPNs earn a median annual wage of $59,730. For some CNAs, the significant pay differential may offset the cost of attending a CNA-to-LPN bridge program.
  • Further Education Opportunities

    After a CNA transitions to working as an LPN, the door to a nursing career path opens wide. The initial possibilities for further education include pursuing RN licensure with an associate or bachelor's degree program. After becoming an RN, they can consider various advanced nursing roles, including nurse practitioner.
  • Entry-Level Leadership Opportunities

    Many LPNs find leadership opportunities that include managing and supervising assistive personnel in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, physician-led practices, and clinics. Serving as a leader offers the chance to learn valuable skills, strengthen the nurse's resume, and open the door to future leadership opportunities.

Beyond the LPN

Learners can pursue their career goals around work responsibilities with convenient online and hybrid LPN programs. Students looking to advance their education beyond LPN credentials should consider becoming RNs. Some schools offer LPN-to-RN or LPN-to-BSN programs entirely online. The transitional program generally takes 2-4 years to finish.

RNs work with physicians and other healthcare professionals to create and carry out care plans. These healthcare professionals supervise LPNs and CNAs, educate patients, and give medications. They earn a median annual income of $86,070. The BLS projects the need for RNs to grow 6% in 2022-2032, which is a faster-than-average rate.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online CNA-to-LPN Programs

Can a CNA become an LPN?

A CNA can become an LPN. The skills of a CNA are a strong foundation for building a career as a nurse. CNAs work closely with patients and learn the basics of assisting with activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, and grooming. They can also observe nurses in action and gain an understanding of the profession.

Is CNA or LPN better?

CNAs and LPNs work in rewarding healthcare roles with the possibility of career advancement. The benefits of transitioning from CNA to LPN include earning more, taking on more responsibility, serving as a leader, and collaborating with doctors and nurses. CNAs work closely with patients but do not have a liability of supervising the work of others or bearing the responsibility of being a licensed nurse.

What can an LPN do that a CNA Can Not?

LPNs can perform many tasks outside of the CNA's scope of practice. LPNs can administer medications and treatments, take vital signs, and perform physical assessments. They also collaborate closely with doctors, RNs, and other healthcare professionals on patient care management. LPNs can serve in leadership positions and supervise other LPNs, CNAs, and assistive personnel.

What is the hardest part of LPN school?

The hardest part of LPN school varies among students. Some LPN students may find the academic aspects challenging, including learning concepts of anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, or pharmacology. Other LPNs may find learning practical clinical skills like physical assessment more difficult to master.

How hard is it to pass the LPN exam?

The LPN exam can be challenging, but according to the NCSBN's 2023 NCLEX-PN pass rate data, more than 85% of applicants passed on the first try in 2023. Strong study habits are a great asset. Some applicants may find it helpful to prepare for the exam in study groups with peers, while others may seek out an NCLEX-PN review course to strengthen their ability to approach the exam confidently.

Next Steps

Page last reviewed February 27, 2024

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