RN vs. LPN: What Are the Differences?

Healthcare Careers,LPN,LPN Salaries,RN,RN Salaries
Written by
Miranda Kay, RN
November 26, 2022

What is a registered nurse (RN) versus licensed practical nurse (LPN)? Many new nurses welcomed into the medical field may wonder what the differences between these two careers are. The two have much in common regarding tasks, education, responsibility, and salary. But what are the differences? In this article, you will learn the difference between an RN vs. LPN.

What Is An RN?

An RN, aka a registered nurse, is a nurse who provides and coordinates patient care. RNs educate patients about their health and provide advice and plans to patients and families. RNs have a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities. The responsibilities of an RN may include the following: 

  • Recording patient medical history
  • Patient assessments, administering prescribed treatments and medications, ensuring nurse and patient safety, and taking samples for laboratory testing.

What types of RN vs. LPN jobs are there? Registered nurses can find jobs in acute care, the air force, burn unit, critical care, family practice, forensics, progressive care units (PCUs), home health, hospice, post-anesthesia care units (PACUs), or legal consultancy - to name a few specialties and areas of care. You may be interested in PRN nursing jobs if you're an RN. While they are temporary jobs, you can make a lot of money traveling to various locations and working in various settings.

What is the average RN salary? In 2021, the median annual salary was $77,600.

What are the education requirements? The options available are:

  • A bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).
  • An associate's degree in nursing (ADN).
  • A diploma from an approved nursing school.

BSNs take four years to complete, and ADNs take about 2 to 3 years. Nurses must complete a nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Some RNs become certified through professional associations.

What Is An LPN?

An LPN, aka licensed practical nurse, assists doctors or registered nurses. LPNs' responsibilities include updating patients' health records, administering medication, and assisting other nurses. LPNs usually work under the supervision of an RN.

What types of LPN jobs are there? An LPN can find jobs like medical assistance at a clinic, home health, hospice, assisting in senior living, occupational health, first aid stations, mental health facilities, school systems, dialysis, and even correctional facilities. You may be interested in PRN nursing jobs if you're an LPN. While they are temporary jobs, you can make much money traveling to various locations and working in multiple settings.

What is the average LPN salary? The median annual salary is $48,070.

What are the education requirements? Once you've completed an accredited nursing program, which takes about one year, you can become an LPN. After this, you must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). These types of programs are found in community or technical colleges.

RN vs. LPN Differences

Firstly, LPNs provide primary nursing care and comfort to their patients. RNs provide treatments through medications and advise their patients and families. An RN can perform diagnostic tests, administer medication, and oversee staff, unlike an LPN.

Secondly, education training is vastly different between the two careers. As previously stated, an RN will need either an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. In comparison, an LPN must complete an approved nursing program, which lasts between 12 to 18 months. The only similarity is passing the NCLEX to apply for a license.

Thirdly, the salary difference. The $29,530 difference between $48,070 and $77,600 is huge. An RN making that much more than an LPN reflects the education RNs must complete.

Which path would you choose? Consider the following questions when assessing which career you're looking to pursue.

  • Are you looking to advance in your career? What is your desired salary?
  • How soon do you want to work in the medical field?
  • Would a shortened education be beneficial for your career outlook?

Spend time thinking about your career goals and looking at these critical factors.

These professions are the true backbone of the healthcare field as a whole. Without RNs and LPNs, the healthcare industry would be nothing. A nurse's goal is to provide the highest quality care to their patients.

Blog published on:
November 26, 2022

Miranda is a Registered Nurse, Medical Fact Checker, and Publishing Editor at Nursa. Her work has been featured in publications including the American Nurses Association (ANA), Healthcare IT Outcomes, International Living, and more.

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