The Best Online LPN-to-RN Programs of 2023


Updated January 19, 2023

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While licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) share many of the same responsibilities, RNs have a larger scope of practice. They also enjoy higher salaries and more leadership opportunities than LPNs. For these reasons, you may be interested in applying to LPN-to-RN programs.

But what can these programs offer you? Learn more about the benefits of online LPN-to-RN bridge programs and how to choose the right program for you.

Why Get Your LPN-to-RN Online?

  • Becoming an RN can make you more money — many RNs earn around $30,000 more per year than LPNs.
  • RNs have greater autonomy and can make decisions to enhance patient outcomes.
  • Becoming an RN brings you one step closer to becoming an advanced practice RN, an in-demand leadership role in nursing.
  • RNs can work in specialized units, like neonatal or critical care.
  • Many online LPN-to-RN programs offer flexible scheduling opportunities, allowing you to maintain your current work schedule.

How Do Online LPN-to-RN Programs Work?

LPN-to-RN programs provide practicing LPNs with a shortcut to becoming an RN.

The program length will depend on whether the LPN-to-RN program leads to a diploma, associate degree, or bachelor's degree, lasting 1-4 years.

Approved LPN-to-RN bridge programs have many requirements, including on-site clinical hours and online courses. Here are some examples of classes you may take:

  • Pharmacology
  • Care Across the Lifespan
  • Role Transition

For admission into an LPN-to-RN program, you usually need a GED or high school diploma in addition to an LPN license.

Did You Know?

  • According to the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey, RNs represent the largest healthcare workforce, with more than 4.2 million registered nurses.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an annual average of over 200,000 job openings for RNs over the next decade.
  • According to the BLS, the largest employers of RNs include hospitals, ambulatory care services, nursing and residential care facilities, and the government.
  • Growth in telehealth and remote nursing will continue to give RNs more responsibilities, flexibility, and professional opportunities.

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Why Accreditation Matters for LPN-to-RN Programs

It's important to know what accreditation is and why it matters. Accreditation can impact your access to financial aid, transfer credits, licensure, and ultimately employment.

Institutional accreditation should come from an agency approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and/or the U.S. Department of Education.

Programmatic accreditation is also important. As an aspiring RN, you should ensure your program holds accreditation from one of the following agencies:

Not only does programmatic accreditation verify the quality of a nursing program, but it also qualifies the program for board approval, examination, and licensure.

How Much Do LPN-to-RN Bridge Programs Cost?

The cost of an online LPN-to-RN program can vary significantly.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual undergraduate tuition ranged from $3,900 at two-year public schools to $18,200 at four-year private schools in 2020-2021.

An LPN-to-RN program's degree level and length play a big role in its cost. For example, Florida Gateway College's one-year LPN-to-RN associate degree program costs $10,600, whereas the University of Arkansas's LPN-to-BSN program costs just under $22,000.

You also need to consider additional fees, such as:

  • Labs
  • Books
  • Uniform and scrubs
  • Clinical supplies
  • Association dues
  • Testing fees
  • Drug screens

How Much Money Can You Make as an RN?

How much you make as an RN depends on where you live, where you work, and how much experience you have.

The median annual salary for RNs was $77,600 in May 2021, according to the BLS. However, that same year, the average annual salary was $124,000 in California but just $60,540 in South Dakota.

No matter where you work as an RN, you'll still likely enjoy a higher salary than you would as an LPN — LPNs earned a median salary of just $48,070 in May 2021.

If you decide to build on your LPN-to-RN experience and pursue a master's degree in nursing, you can expect another salary boost. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for advanced practice RNs was a whopping $123,780 in May 2021.

How to Become an RN in 3 Simple Steps

To become an RN, you'll typically need at least an associate degree in nursing, a passing score on the NCLEX-RN, and licensure. Here, we detail the steps you need to take.

Step 1: Earn an Associate or Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

The first step to becoming an RN is to get an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). While some states allow you to practice with an associate degree, many employers prefer candidates to have a bachelor's degree.

The lengths of RN programs can vary. Typically, though, it takes around two years for an ADN and four years for a BSN.

If you completed an LPN program, you might qualify for LPN-to-RN online programs. That way, you can work as you complete your ADN or BSN degree.

This path can also help you save time on your bachelor's degree. LPN-to-RN programs often take only three years instead of the usual four.

Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

Developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the NCLEX-RN tests you on your knowledge of nursing practices and procedures. It also challenges you to demonstrate your critical thinking and decision-making abilities.

LPN-to-RN programs do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to preparing you for the exam. If you need more prep, you can access study guides and practice tests online and in NCLEX-RN prep books.

Step 3: Apply for Licensure

After you pass the NCLEX-RN, you need to apply for licensure with your state's nursing board.

According to NCSBN, the licensing process typically requires you to:

  • Complete either an ADN or BSN program
  • Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
  • Pass a criminal background check

Every state maintains its own education and clinical requirements for RNs, so be sure to check your state's nursing board requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions About LPN-to-RN Programs

Are LPNs real nurses?

Yes, LPNs are real nurses, although their scope of practice is limited compared to that of an RN. LPNs provide medical care to patients in residential care facilities, hospitals, and doctor's offices. To become an LPN, you must complete an approved educational program and pass the NCLEX-PN before applying for state licensure.

Is it easier to go from LPN to RN?

LPNs will likely have an easier time in RN programs than students with no previous nursing education or experience. LPN-to-RN programs can also reduce the time you spend in school compared to those who pursue a BSN without first becoming an LPN.

How long does it take to become an RN from LPN?

LPN-to-RN programs can vary in length and depend on the credential being awarded. In general, LPN-to-RN bridge programs take about one year when leading to an associate degree and 2-3 years when leading to a bachelor's degree.

Can you become an RN without a bachelor's degree?

Yes, you can become an RN without a bachelor's degree. Many states allow RNs to qualify for licensure with an associate degree in nursing. A few states even allow you to qualify with just a diploma in nursing.

Check with your local nursing board to find approved nursing programs.

What do RNs do that LPNs cannot?

Compared to LPNs, RNs have more responsibilities, such as administering certain medications, performing and analyzing diagnostic tests, providing complex patient education, and operating advanced medical equipment. RNs can also specialize in an area of nursing that requires a higher level of patient care.

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