Differences between the LPN and RN

Differences between the LPN and RN

It’s pretty safe to say that we’re all glad for the countless women and men who work as nurses and provide crucial care in times of need. But how many of us know what the differences are between the various types of nurses? What is an LPN? What makes them different from an RN? To answer your questions, here are some of the key differences between these two types of nurses.

What LPN and RN Stand For

Before we get to the differences, we need to establish what the acronyms stand for. LPN is short for Licensed Practical Nurse. In California and Texas, these nurses are called Licensed Vocational Nurses, or LVNs. RN is short for Registered Nurse. This title is consistent across the United States.

Key Differences Between an LPN and an RN


The first big difference is in the educational requirements for the two licenses. The time needed to become an LPN is much shorter than to become an RN. LPN or LVN Programs can often be completed in as little as 13 months. These programs teach core nursing skills like competent care for clients of different ages and needs, understanding disease conditions in different environments, and knowing the legal and ethical responsibilities of nursing.

In contrast, to become a Registered Nurse you need to complete a program that is at least two years long, however, four-year nursing degrees are becoming a requirement more often. While this is a much larger investment of both time and money, the skills learned are much broader and more comprehensive. Our two-year nursing program involves studying the fundamentals of nursing and required technical skills, health assessment, pharmacology, critical children and families and psychiatric/mental health nursing. These programs also often include leadership course in the final semester to prepare the students for leadership roles in the future.

After completing the program, both types of nurses must pass the NCLEX licensing exam. Regardless of which degree you are trying to get, we would strongly recommend that you make sure to attend an accredited program. These programs have proven that they cover all of the required information, so you can be more confident that you are prepared to take the licensing exam when you complete the program. Financial aid is typically only offered at accredited schools, which is another reason to ensure you attend an accredited program.

Job Responsibilities

Both LPNs and RNs have similar patient care responsibilities, but they vary in scope. LPNs are primarily responsible for assisting patients with medication, updating patient information, monitoring vital signs, assisting doctors and RNs, and other specialized skills as the specific setting requires, such as feeding babies in a maternity ward.

RNs are responsible for all of these tasks, but they also have more responsibilities. An RN will often manage and oversee teams of LPNs and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). They also often specialize in a particular aspect of medical care. These specializations can range from pediatric care to geriatric care, surgical assistance to patient rehabilitation.


Given the differences in the amount of education they need and scope of their responsibilities, it’s no surprise that RNs typically make quite a bit more than LPNs. Salaries vary from location to location, and cost of living needs to be taken into consideration when comparing them, but the national average salary for LPNs is a little under $48,000 a year as of 2019. In contrast RNs make over $75,000 on average. In California, an LVN makes an average of $53,000 and an RN makes an average of almost $107,000!

While it may seem like becoming an RN is the obvious best choice when you look at the salaries, it’s important to keep in mind that there are several factors to consider. An RN program can take up to four times as long as an LPN program and can cost roughly four times as much. In addition to that, every additional year of school is that much more time before you can start working in the field and earning those nurse salaries. Be sure to take these factors into account as you decide which path is right for you.

As you can see, there are many differences between LPNs and RNs. We know it can be hard to decide which direction is best for you, which is why we have knowledgeable admissions specialists who can help you understand what your options are. If you aren’t sure which program to choose, please reach out to one of our admissions specialists so we can help you get started on the right path for you.

*Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts does not guarantee employment or a certain salary for graduates. This information is provided solely as an example of possible employment outcomes.

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