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Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) work alongside registered nurses and other medical professionals to provide patient care. Nearly 40% of LPNs work in residential treatment centers such as nursing homes. These facilities require round-the-clock staffing, so many LPNs work nights and weekends.

Aspiring LPNs can pursue a diploma or an associate degree. Applicants to either type of program need a high school or GED diploma. Learners pursuing a practical nursing degree take courses such as introduction to nursing and the principles of pharmacology. During a client-centered care class, degree-seekers complete clinical rotations.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Practical Nursing

true Q. What do practical nurses do?

LPNs record patients' vital signs and keep patients clean. They may also assist RNs and doctors with medical procedures.

true Q. What's the difference between a practical nurse and a registered nurse?

Although RNs and LPNs share some job duties, RNs need more education and training. This qualifies RNs to perform tests and administer medication.

true Q. How long does it take to become a practical nurse?

Most students earn an LPN degree or diploma in about 12 months. Candidates must complete coursework and pass the NCLEX-PN exam. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Why Get a Degree in Practical Nursing?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for LPNs to increase 9% from 2020-30, meaning graduates should enter a strong job market. LPNs earn a median salary of $48,820 per year, about $7,000 higher than the median annual salary for all occupations. Additionally, graduates can use their practical nursing degree and professional experience to earn a BSN.

Many LPN degree-seekers choose online programs, especially those with children or full-time employment. Online programs typically provide more scheduling flexibility than on-campus options. For example, students may complete coursework asynchronously. Distance learners can choose from programs nationwide and often pay lower tuition rates.

How Much Does a Practical Nursing Degree Cost?

The cost of a practical nursing degree depends on many factors, including residency status. Out-of-state tuition rates at public schools are much higher than in-state tuition rates. A degree's cost also includes transportation to clinical rotations, lab fees, and textbooks.

Students can reduce out-of-pocket expenses by applying for institutional and private financial aid, such as scholarships. Learners can also reduce the cost of earning an LPN degree by attending an online program. Students can work part time while in school, and some schools offer tuition payment plans.

How Much Do Practical Nursing Majors Make?

According to BLS data, LPNs earn a median annual salary of $48,820. However, earning potential for practical nursing degree-holders varies by geographic location. LPNs in California, Alaska, and Massachusetts earn significantly more than those in other states, according to the BLS. However, these states' costs of living exceed the national average.

LPNs can increase their salary potential by advancing their education and exploring related job opportunities. For example, occupational therapy assistants and physical therapists earn significantly higher median salaries than LPNs. These positions require an associate or bachelor's degree. Practical nursing degree-holders in these programs often graduate faster than their peers.

Courses in Practical Nursing

LPN degree-seekers gain academic knowledge and master essential skills such as communication, emotional coping, and analysis. These skills prepare people to work alongside other medical professionals and effectively treat patients. Degree-seekers hone these skills during clinical rotations in healthcare settings.

Although curricula vary by program, core coursework typically includes human anatomy and physiology, perspectives in nursing, and general psychology. Graduation requirements may also include a capstone course and a minimum GPA. Learners should consult their prospective school's academic or admissions advisors for details about the student experience.

  • General Human Anatomy and Physiology

    LPNs must understand how the human body works to treat patients. This course covers various body structures and systems, such as the skeleton, the nervous system, and circulation. This introductory course provides an academic foundation for upper-division courses.
  • Perspectives in Nursing

    Degree-seekers in this class learn about nurses' roles in healthcare settings. Topics include nursing professionalism, healthcare policies and rules, and trends affecting the nursing profession. The course prepares students to collaborate with healthcare peers and positively impact the field.
  • General Psychology

    Psychology plays a significant role in the nursing profession. Illness and injury can affect patients' mental states. In this course, practical nursing degree-seekers analyze mental processes. Learners explore psychological theories, research methods, and treatments for mental health conditions. The class prepares learners to identify psychological disorders.

How to Become a Practical Nurse

LPNs need an associate degree or an undergraduate certificate. Aspiring LPNs can earn these credentials from a community or junior college. Unlike undergraduate degrees, certificate programs do not require general education courses. Most learners complete certificate programs in about one year, depending on academic requirements and their enrollment status.

During clinical rotations, schools pair LPN degree-seekers with hospitals and clinics. Learners develop in-demand skills in practical settings. To earn state licensure, graduates take a certification exam. Some professionals supplement their license by earning professional certifications in areas such as phlebotomy.

Licensure for Practical Nursing

To qualify for licensure, prospective LPNs must first complete an approved academic program, such as an associate degree or undergraduate certificate program. This program must hold accreditation from the state board of nursing.

Completing an LPN program qualifies graduates to sit for the NCLEX-PN exam. This computer-adaptive national examination includes 85-205 multiple-choice questions. The exam covers topics including safe care environments, health promotion and maintenance, and psychosocial integrity. Candidates must submit an initial license application and create a Pearson VUE account to sign up for the exam.

Licensure fees vary by state and may exceed $200 for the initial LPN license. States also charge fees for delinquent licenses, reinstatement, and license verification. LPNs maintain their license by taking continuing education courses. Most states require 15-30 contact hours every two years. Some states, including Arizona, Colorado, and Connecticut, do not require continuing education.

Practical Nursing

Yale University true View School Profile $$$ New Haven, CT

Located in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale offers practical nursing degrees at the master's and doctoral levels. The on-campus MSN degree features concentrations in diabetes care, oncology, and gender and sexuality health justice. The university's Ph.D. program attracts learners with a background in research and prepares them for a career in academia.

Yale offers specialized career resources for nursing degree-seekers, including a custom resume and cover letter guide, an employment outlook, and job-hunting tips. Students can also visit the Office of Career Strategy to learn networking skills.

Applicants must submit three recommendation letters, GRE scores, and multiple essays. Prospective doctoral learners need a master's degree and transcripts that reflect a minimum 3.5 GPA. Yale covers tuition costs for students who require additional help after exhausting federal grants and loans.

Columbia University in the City of New York true View School Profile $$$$ New York, NY

Columbia's on-campus practical nurse degrees include an MSN with concentrations in advanced clinical management and mental health nurse practitioner. Courses vary by program, but they may include health promotion, physical assessment, and deviations from health. Students can also pursue a DNP program at Columbia.

Columbia's School of Nursing offers Stellic, an online platform that allows academic advisors to track their students' academic progress. Degree-seekers can also visit the Center for Career Education to perform practice interviews and receive resume critiques.

Prospective students without a nursing background can apply, as Columbia offers bridge courses that give learners foundational knowledge and skills. Admission requirements vary by degree, but they typically include prerequisites and recommendation letters. Columbia awards numerous scholarships and grants, none of which require a separate application.

University of Pennsylvania true View School Profile $$$$ Philadelphia, PA

Penn's on-campus practical nursing programs include bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Students learn on the university's Philadelphia campus. Master's degree-seekers can choose from multiple specializations, including neonatal, pediatric primary care, and women's health.

Penn offers many career services exclusive to nursing degree-seekers, including workshops covering networking skills, resume writing techniques, and internships. The university's Career Services (CS) website features resources that students can access 24/7, including how-to guides and career interest communities. Learners can also review CS articles covering topics like top nursing employers and academic success tips.

Application requirements for the master's program include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Some graduate concentrations do not admit applicants without 1-2 years of professional experience. Penn's School of Nursing offers departmental financial aid to qualifying learners.

Duke University true View School Profile $$$ Durham, NC

Duke offers four practical nursing degrees on its Durham, North Carolina, campus: an accelerated BSN, an MSN, a DNP, and a Ph.D. program. Learners who possess an associate in nursing can complete the BSN in just 16 months. Coursework covers topics like health assessment, the principles of pharmacology, and gerontological nursing. Master's learners can select one of eight specializations in areas such as palliative care.

Learners approaching graduation can visit the School of Nursing's Career Services website to access information on upcoming job fairs, new job postings, and resume assistance. They can also access an extensive alumni network that allows recent graduates to learn from experienced peers.

Application requirements at the graduate level include three recommendations, GRE scores, and an active nursing license. Duke prefers applicants with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate or graduate GPA. Both incoming and current graduate degree-seekers can apply for institutional financial aid by submitting the FAFSA.

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor true View School Profile $$$ Ann Arbor, MI

U-M's on-campus practical nurse degrees educate recent high school graduates and experienced nurses who want to advance their career. The four-year bachelor's program features courses in introduction to psychology, human anatomy, and the context of care. The school also offers MSN and DNP programs. MSN students who plan to pursue the school's DNP should choose the MSN program's leadership track.

The School of Nursing offers all Career Center (CC) resources through Handshake. Students can log in to Handshake to make a counseling appointment and explore other CC resources, such as career guides and information regarding on-campus and virtual career fairs.

Admission requirements vary by degree. Prospective MSN degree-seekers must apply to the program and a specialty simultaneously. The university covers tuition for undergraduate learners who enroll in the Honors Program.

Vanderbilt University View School Profile $$$$ Nashville, TN

Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt offers a variety of on-campus practical nursing programs, including master of science in nursing, DNP, and Ph.D. programs. The master's program offers specializations in areas such as adult-gerontology acute care, emergency, and nursing informatics.

Career services advisors provide students with links to top nursing job boards and maintain the school's vast alumni network on LinkedIn. Counselors also offer various virtual resources, such as coaching appointments and workshops. Degree-seekers can learn more on the Career Services website or by downloading the DoreWays mobile app.

Prospective MSN degree-seekers should possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, complete undergraduate prerequisites, and submit three recommendation letters. The DNP program admits applicants with either a bachelor's or master's in nursing. Vanderbilt awards $7,000 per year to full-time MSN students with financial need.

Johns Hopkins University View School Profile $$$$ Baltimore, MD

Johns Hopkins' practical nursing programs include MSN, DNP, and Ph.D. programs. The MSN program offers three specializations: entry into nursing, advanced nursing practice, and healthcare organization leadership.

The School of Nursing's Career Lab works with students to network with potential employers, identify relevant skills, and reflect on career goals. The university's career services advisors provide additional resources, including virtual events and webinars. Additionally, free software, such as Handshake and Vault, allows learners to hone job-hunting skills at any time of day.

Johns Hopkins accepts applications for the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Degree-seekers pay a flat per-year tuition rate. Approximately 90% of MSN students receive institutional aid, ranging from $10,000 to full tuition.

New York University View School Profile $$$$$ New York, NY

NYU's practical nurse degrees help experienced nurses attain the latest best practices and advance their career. Learners in the RN-to-BSN program can graduate in just 16 months. They study topics like adult and elder nursing, acute care psychological nursing, and contemporary issues in healthcare. Master's learners can specialize in one of nine areas. They can also further their studies by earning an optional certificate in advanced practice.

NYU's Wasserman Center for Career Development offers on-campus and virtual career fairs, an internship and job board, and resume critiques. Students can also use the university's Violet Ready website to build 11 essential skills, including networking, resilience, and career awareness.

Prospective graduate students should possess a New York state nursing license, a minimum 3.0 undergraduate or graduate GPA, and work experience. Other admission requirements include two recommendation letters and a 2-3-page personal statement. NYU awards institutional aid packages to bachelor's and master's students who demonstrate financial need.

Emory University View School Profile $$$$ Atlanta, GA

Emory's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing features a variety of practical nursing programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Undergraduates can earn a traditional or accelerated bachelor's. Master's students can specialize in one of 13 areas, including neonatal, family nurse, or women's health. Although most students attend courses on Emory's Atlanta, Georgia, campus, the accelerated BSN and DNP programs both offer a fully online curriculum.

On-campus and online degree-seekers can use the School of Nursing's Career Services (CS) website to sign up for resume webinars, research job openings in and around Atlanta, and complete mock interviews. Learners can find nearly all CS resources by logging into Handshake.

Admission requirements for all master's degrees include a Georgia nursing license and a resume. Doctoral applicants must submit two professional references. Emory's institutional scholarships award aid to incoming learners based on past academic performance, military service, and Peace Corps participation.

University of Rochester View School Profile $$$$$ Rochester, NY

Rochester's practical nursing opportunities include an online RN-to-BSN, multiple nurse practitioner degrees, and an MS-Ph.D. accelerated program. On-campus learners can gain hands-on experience at the Rochester Medical Center or at one of 600 clinical sites throughout New York. Specializations at the master's level include family, pediatric, and adult-gerontology.

Current students and recent graduates can take advantage of the Green Center's (GC) extensive career resources, including self-discovery tools, career communities, and podcasts. Virtual learners can access GC services through Slack, Zoom, and Handshake.

Each degree uses different application deadlines, and some degrees admit new learners only once per year. Prospective graduate degree-seekers need a minimum 3.0 undergraduate or graduate GPA, an active nursing license, and at least 1-2-years of clinical experience, depending on the program. New York residents may qualify for a 50-55% tuition reduction.

Georgetown University View School Profile $$$$ Washington, DC

Practical nurse degree-seekers at Georgetown can select from one of four specialties at the bachelor's level, including global health, healthcare management and policy, and human science. MSN learners can choose from seven specializations. The doctoral program accepts degree-seekers with a bachelor's or a master's degree in nursing.

The Cawley Career Education Center (CCEC) offers specialized resources for nursing students, such as links to top job websites and professional publications. Other services include free access to private job boards and nursing organization recommendations. Nursing learners can also research job-hunting advice and career guides on the CCEC website.

Each degree program accepts new learners twice per year. Admission requirements typically include a nursing license, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and prerequisites. Many graduate programs do not consider applicants without professional experience. Georgetown offers a 5% tuition reduction for all nursing students.

Saint Louis University View School Profile $$$$$ Saint Louis, MO

SLU's practical nursing programs include accelerated bachelor's and master's programs that allow students to graduate in 12-21 months. Graduate learners can supplement their education by earning a certificate in one of five areas, such as nurse education, gerontological care, or pediatric primary care.

Both online and on-campus students can take advantage of SLU's Virtual Career Lab. The lab hosts multiple webinars each week that cover different industries. Learners who cannot attend can review recorded presentations on Handshake.

Prospective students should contact SLU to learn more about required application materials. This private university does not charge a higher tuition rate to out-of-state learners. The Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing awards multiple scholarships each year.

Case Western Reserve University View School Profile $$$$$ Cleveland, OH

CWRU's practical nursing degree-seekers can pursue a master of nursing or a master of science in nursing with specializations in adult-gerontology acute care, education and population, and pediatric nurse practitioner. The school also offers a DNP program, which features a cohort learning model.

The CWRU Career Center offers career counseling, targeted job postings, and cover letter reviews. The center also sponsors student groups that help like-minded learners network and explore job opportunities.

MSN applicants need three recommendations, an Ohio nursing license, and prerequisites in statistics. Prospective DNP students should possess a minimum 3.0 graduate GPA. Undergraduate and graduate degree-seekers can apply for institutional scholarships and grants by submitting the university's financial aid form and FAFSA results.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill View School Profile $$ Chapel Hill, NC

UNC offers a variety of practical nurse degree programs. The university's BSN program includes coursework in clinical nursing skills, reproductive health and nursing care, and the foundations of research and health innovation. The school's MSN program offers multiple specializations, such as family nurse practitioner and healthcare leadership.

The university's career services include career guides and virtual career counseling. Career counselors can assist nursing students with researching and applying for jobs throughout the country. Learners can explore the career services website to learn more about interviewing tips, career pathways, and how to create a strong online presence.

Application materials depend on the degree and which track students select. Requirements can include a GPA cutoff, professional experience, and undergraduate prerequisites. Out-of-state students spend significantly more on tuition at this public institution. Undergraduate and graduate learners can apply for institutional and departmental financial aid.

Drexel University View School Profile $$$$$ Philadelphia, PA

Drexel's graduate practical nursing programs include an advanced role MSN and a nurse practitioner MSN. Both tracks feature numerous specialization options, including public health, pediatric primary, and psychiatric mental health. Public health students can earn the degree entirely online or on Drexel's Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, campus.

Counselors in Drexel's Career Development Center (CDC) give students and alumni the tools they need for a successful job hunt, such as resume tips, personal branding guides, and interview techniques. Other CDC resources include advice on how to achieve a work-life balance.

The MSN program accepts applicants with or without a nursing background. Prospective students should possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Learners who maintain a 3.0 or higher graduate GPA may qualify for the Drexel Dean's Fellowship.

Villanova University View School Profile $$$$$ Villanova, PA

Villanova's on-campus, undergraduate, and graduate practical nursing degrees prepare aspiring and practicing nurses for leadership positions in the field. The traditional four-year BSN requires coursework in Christian faith and life, health assessment, and human anatomy. Master's students can select from four nurse practitioner tracks, such as nursing education or adult-gerontology.

The Villanova Career Center (CC) offers virtual events, including an annual nursing career day. Students can visit the CC website to explore different careers and learn more about master's and doctoral programs. These and other resources help nearly 99% of BSN alumni find a job before or shortly after graduation.

Application requirements for the four-year BSN program include high school transcripts and one teacher recommendation. Villanova recommends but does not require standardized test scores from undergraduate applicants. Financial assistance for nursing degree-seekers includes need-based grants and a low-interest loan program.

Purdue University-Main Campus View School Profile $$ West Lafayette, IN

Situated in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue offers practical nurse degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. The BSN offers two tracks: one for recent high school graduates and one for learners with a bachelor's in a different field. MS degree-seekers training for a career as a nurse practitioner can specialize in adult-gerontology primary care, family, pediatric, or psychiatric/mental health nursing.

Nursing students can visit the Purdue Center for Career Opportunities (CCO) website to hone interviewing skills, research potential employers, and network with alumni. CCO job-search videos cover salary negotiation techniques.

Recent high school graduates interested in the BSN program can apply with the Common Application. Master's degree programs require applicants to hold a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and an Indiana nursing license. Other application materials include three recommendation letters and a resume. The School of Nursing awards merit-based scholarships to qualified undergraduate degree-seekers, which require a separate application.

Creighton University View School Profile $$$$$ Omaha, NE

Creighton's four practical nursing programs include traditional and accelerated BSN programs, an MSN, and a DNP. The traditional BSN includes coursework in population health, professional concepts, and care management. MSN degree-seekers can specialize in either nursing administration and leadership or nursing education.

Counselors who work in Creighton's John P. Fahey Career Center can help students identify career goals, develop transferable skills, and create personalized success steps. The center also offers Vault, GoinGlobal, and CareerShift software.

Prospective MSN students need an active nursing license, three recommendation letters, and undergraduate prerequisites in statistics. Creighton does not charge a higher tuition rate to out-of-state degree-seekers. The College of Nursing automatically considers incoming freshmen for scholarships.

Wake Forest University View School Profile $$$$ Winston-Salem, NC

Wake Forest's School of Medicine features two graduate practical nursing programs on its Winston-Salem, North Carolina, campus: an MSN in nurse anesthesia and a DNP. During the six-semester MSN, learners study clinical integration concepts, leadership skills, and applied clinical learning. The DNP program uses a fully online curriculum, and learners can earn the degree while working full time.

The Office of Personal and Career Development (OPCD) features videos that teach new students how to access all OPCD resources and services. Degree-seekers can also sign up for a virtual counseling session, submit a resume for review, and study the latest job market news.

Application requirements for the MSN degree include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, competitive GRE scores, an active North Carolina nursing license, and at least 2,080 hours of clinical experience. DNP applicants must submit two recommendation letters.

University of Miami View School Profile $$$$$ Coral Gables, FL

UM's nine practical nurse degrees train new and experienced nurses in areas such as adult-gerontology, family nurse practitioner, and anesthesia. The four-year traditional BSN includes coursework in systemic physiology, the principles of nutrition, and introductory statistics in healthcare. Master's degree-seekers can choose between a full- and part-time curriculum. The school also offers a DNP program.

Students can access the school's career services to explore career opportunities, prepare for interviews, and build a professional network. The school also offers virtual and in-person programs and workshops that examine different career paths.

MSN applicants need a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, three recommendation letters, an active nursing license, and a personal statement. The doctoral program uses similar requirements and accepts applicants with a bachelor's or master's in nursing.

Catholic University of America View School Profile $$$$$ Washington, DC

Located in Washington, D.C., Catholic University of America offers both on-campus and online practical nursing programs. On-campus BSN students complete an exploratory nursing program in the first two years before taking advanced coursework in women in health and illness, management of healthcare delivery, and nursing research. The school also offers fully online MSN, DNP, and Ph.D. programs.

The Center for Academic and Career Success (CACS) offers a cover letter guide and networking advice. CACS also offers Jobs For Catholics, a specialized job board wherein learners can find a career that aligns with their faith.

The undergraduate nursing program requires that learners maintain a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA during their freshman and sophomore years. MSN applicants must submit three recommendation letters.

Ohio Northern University View School Profile $$$$ Ada, OH

ONU's practical nursing degrees include a BSN degree that most full-time students can complete in four years. The 120-credit curriculum covers topics such as nutrition for nurses, transcultural health, and medical surgical nursing.

The Office of Polar Careers offers a job board, in-person and virtual appointments, and career videos. Other resources include a customizable action plan and career fair success strategies. Students can also download a resume template aligned with their academic major.

Admission criteria include a minimum 23 ACT or 1130 SAT score, a high school diploma or GED scores, and a criminal background check. Applicants must also lack physical or mental impairments that would impact their nursing duties.

George Washington University View School Profile $$$$$ Washington, DC

GW's practical nurse degrees emphasize the latest best practices. The BSN program offers a veterans track wherein learners with an associate degree can graduate in just 15 months. The MSN degree uses a hybrid curriculum with some courses on GW's Washington, D.C., campus.

Students can access career services such as resume and cover letter guides, job opportunities, and links to top nursing career sites. They can also review top nursing professional organizations on the Career Services website.

Application requirements vary by degree type but can include two recommendation letters, a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and a personal statement. Applicants to the master's or doctoral program need an active nursing license.

Boston College View School Profile $$$$ Chestnut Hill, MA

Located in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, BC offers undergraduate and graduate practical nursing programs, including BSN, MSN, and Ph.D. programs. BSN alumni report a 91% NCLEX-RN pass rate.

The BC Career Center (CC) created a special website for healthcare and nursing majors that includes career clusters. Students can join a cluster to network with peers and share job-hunting strategies. Other CC resources include a detailed checklist covering each step of the job-hunting process.

Undergraduate application requirements include the BC Writing Supplement. Prospective MSN degree-seekers should possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and submit two recommendation letters. Although financial aid options vary by degree, the university considers all incoming BSN students for endowed scholarships.

Gonzaga University View School Profile $$$$$ Spokane, WA

Gonzaga offers one BSN practical nursing degree, two master's degrees, and two doctoral degrees. BSN students take courses on topics like determinants of health, profession and therapeutic communication, and pharmacology. Learners can earn any of the university's nursing graduate degrees entirely online. All nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The school's career services include career fairs, career assessment tools, and on-campus career labs. The school also offers affordable business cards, which students can use during career fairs and other networking events.

Students can apply to the BSN after completing all nursing prerequisites with a minimum B grade in each course. MSN applicants without a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA can apply but must submit a letter of explanation. Washington residents with financial need may qualify for the Washington College Grant.

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