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Understanding the Differences: LPN vs. RN Career Paths

Choosing a career in nursing is a commendable decision that can lead to a fulfilling and impactful profession. Nurses serve as the foundation of the healthcare industry. Healthcare facilities nationwide rely heavily on the exceptional skills of Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Registered Nurses (RNs) to provide patient care and maintain smooth operations. 

If you’re considering a path in this noble field, it’s important to understand how each role plays a significant part in patient care. Yet, they have distinct responsibilities, educational requirements, and job opportunities.

This guide compares the two based on essential factors, like their education, licensing and certifications, day-to-day duties, salary ranges, and career paths. We hope this can help you determine the right career path for you. 

Daily Duties: Breaking Down The Differences

A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) in Texas provides primary nursing care under the supervision of RNs and physicians. They typically operate in supportive positions and undertake tasks like: 

    • Bathing, dressing, and feeding patients during visitations.
  • Monitoring patients’ health and comfort levels by taking blood pressure, temperature, and other vital signs.
    • Assisting RNs and doctors in performing procedures and tests.
    • Gathering patient data and documenting their findings for review by another healthcare provider.
    • Administering certain medications and injections following a nursing care plan.
  • Providing wound care.
  • Helping patients and their families understand their treatment plans.
  • Offering emotional support to patients.


LPNs work closely with patients and play a key role in assessing patient well-being and communicating their needs to the rest of the healthcare team. 

On the other hand, registered nurses have a broader scope of practice and are responsible for more complex patient care. Their daily duties may include: 

  • Providing basic and advanced patient care, including administering medications, treatments, and injections. 
  • Assessing patient symptoms, creating care plans, and evaluating patient progress.
  • Supervising teams of LNs, nursing assistants, and other healthcare staff.
  • Evaluating patient conditions or health issues through physical examinations.
  • Preparing and administering medications to patients who are sick, injured, disabled, or recovering.
  • Documenting patients’ medical histories, observing symptoms, and noting treatment plans.
  • Organizing and updating medical records.
  • Assisting doctors during medical procedures.


What’s the Difference Between an LPN and an RN in Terms of Education?

Becoming an LPN or LVN generally requires completing an accredited practical nursing program, which can take around 12 months at a vocational school or community college. After finishing their program, aspiring LPNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) and apply for state licensure. 

There are several educational paths for RNs, including an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), which takes approximately 15 months to two years, or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), a four-year degree program. 

After earning their associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing, prospective RNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed. 

What’s the Difference Between an LPN and an RN in Terms of Employment?

Licensed practical or vocational nurses are often found in settings such as long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, and clinics, where their skills are well-suited to provide basic nursing care. In fact, around 35% of all LPNs find their roles within nursing and residential care settings. 

On the other hand, RNs have the qualifications to work in more diverse environments, including hospitals, private practices, outpatient care centers, and public health organizations, which require more advanced nursing skills. 60% of registered nurses work in state, local, or private hospitals, while only 6% work in nursing or residential care facilities. 

Salary Ranges: What’s the Difference Between an LPN and an RN?

Typically, registered nurses have higher salaries than licensed practical nurses because of their advanced skills and educational background. Nevertheless, LPNs also enjoy favorable salary potential and career prospects.

According to data from Indeed, LPNs in the U.S. typically earn an average annual salary of $59,540. However, salaries can vary depending on your location, experience, and employment facility. Moreover, LPNs who completed specialty training in their field often earn more.

Meanwhile, the average annual income for a registered nurse is $93,816. However, like LPN salaries, they may vary based on the nurse’s level of experience, specialization, location, and the hiring institution. 

For instance, nurses working in the operating room can expect to earn an average of $132,956 annually, while an RN serving as a case manager typically earns around $83,451 per year. 

LPNs vs. RNs: Career Advancements 

Both LPNs and RNs have opportunities for career advancement through continuing education and specialization. Registered nurses, however, can pursue a broader range of specialties and advanced practice roles. 

So, what exactly is the difference between the RN and LPN career paths? 

Licensed practical nurses may advance their careers by acquiring specialized certifications or pursuing further education. Many take advantage of LPN to RN programs, leveraging their experience to shift into registered nursing roles.  

As for RNs, the degree they’ve earned often sets the stage for future advancements. Those with a BSN can pursue graduate studies, such as becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). APRNs hold the highest level of nursing credentials and can pursue several career paths, such as: 

  • Nurse Practitioner 
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner 
  • Clinical Nurse Leader 
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist 
  • Certified Nurse Midwife  

Transform Your Nursing Career With Texas Health School 

Licensed practical and registered nurses play a critical role in our healthcare system. However, the crucial question remains: What’s the difference between LPN and RN, and which career path is right for you? 

Becoming an LPN could be the ideal starting point if you want a quick entry into nursing with potential for future advancement. However, becoming a registered nurse may better serve your career goals if you’re interested in the broader scope of practice and more diverse career opportunities. 

If you’re ready to take that next step in your career today, Texas Health School offers the VN program as well as the LVN to A DN program designed to help you seamlessly shift into a registered nursing role.. The LVN to A DN program spans 64 weeks and is divided into eight 8-week sessions/modules to ensure it’s both effective and respectful of your time. Contact us for more information. 

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