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 Rankings
- Practical Nursing Programs
- Practical Nursing Resource Center
- Programs and Licensing by States
- Practical Nursing Responsibilities
- Career Paths & Specialties
- Salary, Employment, and Other Stats
AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org 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.
Top Online Programs
Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.
Best Practical Nursing Programs
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.
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'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.
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 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.
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.
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' 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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'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'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.
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'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'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Level of nursing autonomy
Acts independently in the nursing role as defined by state's scope of practice
Gathers data and applies nursing knowledge to assess a patient’s physical and psychological conditions
Makes independent nursing decisions and develops nursing diagnoses based on the signs and symptoms of the patient
Identifies patient treatment goals, formulates appropriate strategies, and prioritizes based on patient needs
Independently administers prescribed elements of care, including therapies, treatments and medications
May assign nursing care tasks to other RNs, LPNs and assistive professionals, as defined by state’s scope of nursing practice
Level of nursing autonomy
Works in a dependent nursing position under the direction and supervision of an RN, APN or licensed physician
Observes, monitors and reports a patient’s signs and symptoms and reports regularly to supervising physician or RN
Not allowed to make nursing diagnoses
Assists physician or registered nurse to identify patient needs and treatment goals
Follows orders from a physician or supervising nurse to administer medications or provide treatments
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.
Practical Nursing Salary, Employment, and Other Stats
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.
|Annual Wage (10th Percentile)||$31,640|
|Median Annual Wage||$42,490|
|Annual Wage (90th percentile)||$58,710|
|Occupational Outlook (2014 – 24)||16%|
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)
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
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, OES
Top paying states for LPNs/LVNs
(Annual mean salary 2014)
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
- 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