Are you thinking of becoming a nurse?
Starting as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is a great way to begin your nursing career!
It takes about a year to finish an LPN education program and then a few months more to become licensed.
So, if you want to start working as a nurse right away without spending so much on a nursing education program, this could be the best path for you.
Not to mention that LPNs are in demand! It won’t be hard for you to land your first nursing job.
This is also a great stepping-stone to advance your nursing career in the future if you want to become an RN or an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.
But the question is… How do you become an LPN?
You may come across a lot of information about this, so it’s important to have an organized and clear guide to help you out.
And that’s why we are here!
We’re going to guide you on how to become an LPN in just four simple steps.
We’ll also answer important questions, such as:
- What’s the difference between an LPN and an LVN?
- What’s the difference between an LPN and an RN?
- Where do LPNs usually work?
- How long does it take to become an LPN?
- Are there accredited online programs to become an LPN?
- How much does an LPN make?
- Which states pay the highest for LPNs?
- Are LPNs still in demand?
So, if you’re ready, let’s begin!
What is an LPN?
An LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) is a crucial part of the healthcare team.
They work closely with RNs and physicians and provide basic healthcare for their patients.
They assist patients with tasks such as eating, bathing, dressing, etc. They also help maintain the patient’s records and communicate with the patient and his/her family.
Some LPNs may also be tasked to administer certain medications and take vital signs.
Some states refer to LPNs as LVNs (Licensed Vocational Nurses).
How to Become an LPN in Four Simple Steps
Becoming an LPN takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but the process is not that complicated.
Here are our four simple steps:
- Enroll in an Approved LPN Nursing Program
- Send an Application to Your State’s Nursing Regulatory Board
- Take and Pass the NCLEX-PN
- Keep Your License Active and Pursue Continuing Education
Let’s discuss each one.
Step #1: Enroll in an Approved LPN Nursing Program
Becoming a nurse is no easy task. You need to be equipped to take care of your patients.
This is why enrolling in an LPN program is necessary. It will give you the knowledge and skills you need to practice as a safe and effective nurse.
But don’t just choose the first LPN program you see!
Make sure the program is approved by your state’s nursing regulatory board.
You can also check other important qualities of the program, such as the curriculum, the faculty, and the NCLEX passing rate.
Content of an LPN Program
Whichever LPN program you enroll in, you can generally expect two main components - academic and clinical training.
Some of the courses you can expect to take as an LPN student include:
- Fundamentals of Nursing
- First aid
- Physical education
- Human Anatomy
- Foods and nutrition
- Introduction to pharmacology
- Child growth and development
- Emergency medical technology
The coursework also includes laboratory exercises that simulate the real world and prepare you for clinical experience.
This is a crucial part of your training as an LPN.
You get real-life nursing experience through supervised clinical work in partner institutions.
You can get a feel of what it’s really like working as an LPN, and what particular fields or areas you enjoy working in.
Length of LPN Programs
LPN programs can range from 9-18 months, but most are completed in one year.
If you want to finish in a shorter time, you can go through an accelerated program. However, you need to consider if you can cope with all the requirements in a shorter period.
Some LPN programs allow you to take some of the coursework online. However, you will still have to complete some work on-campus, as well as complete your clinical training.
Requirements for Enrollment
To enroll in an LPN program, you should have your high school diploma or GED ready.
Some schools may also require you to take the TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills) first, to make sure you meet the minimum academic requirements.
Just remember that different schools may have different requirements, so make sure to check with the school you’re interested in.
Step #2: Send an Application to Your State’s Nursing Regulatory Board
Once you complete your LPN program, it’s time to prepare yourself for licensure.
Remember that you can’t practice as an LPN without first being licensed.
Different states have different processes for licensure, but there are a few common requirements across states.
First of all, you need to fill up an application form and send it to your state’s regulatory board of nursing.
Your school may give you the form or you can usually find it on the board’s website. You have to fill up basic information about yourself and answer various questions.
You may also be asked to submit your high school diploma or GED, as well as your transcript of records (TOR) from your LPN education program.
Usually, you will be asked to go through a criminal background check as well.
Some states require application fees, and some do not. Make sure to check your state’s specific requirements.
Step #3: Take and Pass the NCLEX-PN
Once your application is approved by your state’s board of nursing, you will be given the authorization to test (ATT).
This means you are now authorized to take the NCLEX-PN exam.
All aspiring LPNs need to take and pass this exam to become licensed.
But don’t worry! Your school usually prepares you for this exam, and there are also a lot of online resources that help you practice for the big day.
Before you can take the exam, however, you will need to register with Pearson Vue (the one who administers the exam) and pay an exam fee of $200.
You can then schedule your exam on your preferred time and day, and you can choose your preferred testing site.
What to Expect from the NCLEX-PN
The NCLEX-PN is a national exam that evaluates if you have the basic knowledge and skills expected of an entry-level LPN.
It tests for basic nursing information as well as higher cognitive thinking and good decision-making.
You should have a good understanding of your role in the healthcare team, the scope of your practice, how to coordinate with others, and how to make decisions that are best suited for your patients.
The exam consists of different types of questions including multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, hot-spot, multiple responses, and ordered response items.
The PN exam, on the other hand, has a minimum of 85 questions and a maximum of 205.
It is administered through a Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) method.
What to Do if You Pass or Fail the NCLEX-PN
If you pass the NCLEX… Congratulations! That is a big step forward!
You can expect to receive your official results in a few days or weeks, together with your license!
And the rest is history! You can now begin your LPN career!
However, if you don’t pass on your first try, then don’t despair! We encourage you to retake the exam.
The good thing is that you will be sent a diagnostic report of your performance on the exam. This means that you can get an idea of what went wrong and how you can improve.
So, instead of throwing out the results, you should keep them and use them for improved outcomes on your next try.
Step #4: Keep Your License Active and Pursue Continuing Education
Your LPN journey doesn’t and shouldn’t end with the NCLEX and getting your license. Instead, you will enter a professional career where the learning just never ends.
All LPNs are required to renew their license, usually every two years (although some states may have a different timeframe).
And this is crucial!
Remember that the medical world is always advancing. New medicines are created, new technologies are introduced, new nursing practices are mandated, and new research keeps refining our understanding!
Since all of these things are advancing, then LPNs cannot remain stagnant. They have to advance as well to maintain their licenses and have a safe and effective practice.
One of the ways to stay abreast of all the developments is by pursuing continuing education (CE).
Most states mandate how many hours of continuing education you need to keep your license active. They may also mandate specific courses that you need to take.
Some states, however, do not require a specific number of contact hours. Some just require a certain number of work hours.
Check out this article to see the specific CE requirements of your state.
However, even if your state does not require nursing CE, remember that it is advantageous for you to pursue it.
Aside from CE units, you can also take special LPN certifications to further your credentials and skills.
There are many certifications offered to LPNs, such as:
- Certified Hemodialysis LPN
- Certified Peritoneal Dialysis LPN
- Developmental Disabilities LPN
- IV Therapy LPN
- Long-Term Care LPN
- Transplant Coordinator LPN
- Urology LPN
- Wound Care LPN
Also, if you want to advance your career even more, then you can consider becoming an RN through an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN).
This will open more work opportunities for you.
You may even consider becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming an LPN
Now that we’ve covered the four steps to becoming an LPN, let’s discuss some common (and important questions).
What’s the difference between an LPN and an LVN?
LPN stands for Licensed Practical Nurse while LVN stands for Licensed Vocational Nurse.
Only California and Texas use the term LVN.
Although the terms are different, they have essentially the same role and function in the healthcare team.
They also have the same basic requirements to become licensed.
What’s the difference between an LPN and an RN?
LPNs and RNs are both licensed nurses with a very important role in the healthcare team.
RNs, however, are assigned more complex roles and may also hold managerial positions. This corresponds to the longer training that RNs go through to become licensed.
LPNs usually work under the leadership or supervision of an RN.
They focus on important everyday necessities of the patient, such as bathing, dressing, and eating. They may also administer certain medications, take vital signs, and adjust catheters as needed.
LPNs also play an important role in communicating with patients and their families.
Where do LPNs usually work?
LPNs can work in any healthcare facility, such as hospitals, nursing homes, community health clinics, mental health institutions, and even in private homes.
Although some hospitals prefer to hire RN-BSNs, there are still plenty of opportunities for LPNs.
Here are the top 5 industries with the highest level of employment of LPNs, according to the BLS.
Percent Of Industry Employment
Hourly Mean Wage
Annual Mean Wage
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)
Home Health Care Services
Offices of Physicians
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
Continuing Care Retirement communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly
An LPN nursing education program typically takes one year to complete. You will also need a few months after you graduate to prepare for and take the NCLEX.
Some LPN programs, however, can be shortened to about 9 months, whereas some might opt to finish in 18 months (if you are a part-time student).
Are there accredited online programs to become an LPN?
There are no full online LPN programs that are accredited. However, there may be some hybrid LPN programs where a portion of the coursework is completed online, but the rest is done face to face.
Remember that hands-on experience and clinical exposure are crucial parts of your LPN training, and this cannot be completed online.
How much does an LPN make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average income of LPNs in the country is $24.93 hourly or $51,850 annually.
Which states pay the highest for LPNs?
The top-paying states for LPNs in the country are California, Alaska, Washington, Massachusetts, and Nevada.
This table shows the annual mean wage for each of these 5 states, according to the BLS.
Employment Per Thousand Jobs
Hourly Mean Wage
Annual Mean Wage
Are LPNs still in demand?
Although more and more hospitals are hiring RNs compared to LPNs, LPNs are still in demand, especially in nursing care facilities and home health care services.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics even projects that there will be a 6% increase in the demand for LPNs from 2021-2031.
And there you have it! We’ve covered a lot, haven’t we?
In this article, you were given a simple 4-step guide on how to become an LPN. Some common and relevant questions were also answered to provide you with more information.
We hope you found this useful for your journey to becoming an LPN.
If you have any other questions, leave us a comment!
We wish you all the best!