How to Become an LPN: Salary, Job Description & Education Requirements


So you are interested in becoming a licensed practical nurse and you want to know the who, what, where, when and why of it all? Well you’ve certainly come to the right place because we happen to have all of those answers for you! The position of an LPN is demanding, but very rewarding and doesn’t require oodles of schooling or debt to achieve your certification. Do keep in mind though that you will be around blood, sick people and other various bodily fluids. You may want to keep the smelling salts handy if you start to feel a bit weak in the knees.

How to Become an LPN

There is quite a bit that must be done to become an LPN and it all starts out with finding the right educational institute to attend that has a state approved program. Technical schools and community colleges are ideal places to attend and achieve this certification as are some hospitals that offer this type of program too.

You must complete an approved educational program to become an LPN. The program will be a combination of classroom learning with a focus on nursing, biology and pharmacology as well as many other important topics. During and after you complete your course work, there will also be clinical experience required to successfully complete the program. This portion of your certification will be all hands on learning experience in the actual field.

The last thing that you need to complete to become an LPN is quite a doozy. You will need to take the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX-PN for short. We thought we’d give you that handy little acronym to save you a bit of extra typing when you are taking a look at Google later. All states require this test to be passed in order to receive a license and work as an LPN. Once all three requirements are completed, you will receive a certification or diploma.

If you are interested in becoming an LPN in a more specific medical setting, you can totally do that with some extra certifications. The extra certifications will show that you have more knowledge and education in a particular area. They will also allow you to pursue areas that you may be interested in or have a particular passion about. Some common areas for LPN’s to dive into are pediatrics, immunology and oncology to name a few. Just be prepared to encounter a lot of cooties when dealing with pediatrics, but the cute little kids more than make up for it.

To become a successful licensed practical nurse, there are some very important traits that you will need to have. Each of these traits is essential to how you handle the position, the patients and supporting staff. If you feel that you are lacking in any of these areas, have no fear because you will have plenty of time to develop the traits during your schooling and clinical work.

To be a great licensed practical nurse, you will need to be a somewhat compassionate person, detail oriented and patient person. Having exceptional interpersonal and speaking skills will be incredibly beneficial to you too. These skills will make your interactions with your patients as well as your fellow care workers much easier to manage, especially in times of high stress. You will absolutely need physical stamina since it will play a very large part as well. There will be lots of bending, pulling, standing, walking and carrying involved in this job that can be rather taxing on your body.

Should I Become an LPN?

You may be asking yourself at this point, “should I become an LPN?” or “how do I know if this is the right job for me?”. Both of these are excellent questions, indeed! There are some fun career tests out there that will help you to determine if this is the right career for you. Career planning sections of some websites will feature quizzes about careers and we happen to have found just the right one to help you determine if you are destined to be a licensed practical nurse or if you should skip it all together. So go ahead and take 5 minutes to see what it says, even if it’s just for a bit of fun. Click right here to take this fun quiz!

How Long Does it Take to Become an LPN?

The length of time it takes to become an LPN will vary by student, the school attended and if you are going to expand upon your skill set with a more specialized certification. This is a vocational occupation and a certificatification program that can take you as little as 6 months if you go at it full gorilla. You will want to get the most out of your time and money, so it is super important to find the program that works the best for you and your lifestyle.

If you are going to go the vocational route to achieve your certificate, the total time to complete the program will be somewhere between 6 months and a year. This will depend on your course load ultimately. The vocational route is usually offered through a career institute or hospital.

If you would rather take the slow and steady wins the race approach, that’s totally fine as well. You can obtain an associate’s degree through your local community college to become an LPN. This approach will take you about 2 years and will be semester based.

Remember that after you finish the required course work there will be the added clinical requirements to fulfill. You will also be required to complete and pass the NCLEX-PN that we already mentioned briefly above. We’ll touch more on the NCLEX-PN in greater detail later, so keep an eye out and a note pad nearby.

LPN Schools

Centura College, with campus locations in Virginia, South Carolina and Florida, is dedicated to helping students gain the skills and attitudes necessary to succeed. Drawing from over 30 years of career school experience.

Programs:

  • Practical Nursing Diploma
  • Associate of Occupational Science Degree in Medical Assisting-Clinical Concentration
Locations: Norfolk

Fortis Institute can give you the skills you need to train for a career in the healthcare field.

* Programs vary by location

* Please contact each individual campus for accreditation information


Programs:

  • Practical Nursing
  • Associate Degree in Nursing
  • Medical Assisting
Locations: Richmond

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Programs:

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  • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
  • Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner, Primary Care
  • And more...

CTU can help you connect to what matters most: a powerful professional network, faculty who are real-world professionals and innovative technology. And now several CTU degree programs are ranked by U.S. News Best Online Programs for 2015.  Are you in?

Programs:

  • Master of Science in Nursing - Nursing Administration

Experience the Rewards of Caring, With ECPI’s Medical Careers Institute, you can Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree in 2.5 Years or Your Associate’s Even Sooner through Our Year-Round Schedule!

 

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Programs:

  • Practical Nursing - Diploma
  • Medical Assisting - Associate's
  • Nursing (RN) - Associate's
Locations: Roanoke

At Denver College of Nursing, we believe good nurses are the future of quality healthcare. That’s why we strive to achieve excellence in healthcare education every day. We know our students can make a difference in others’ lives while in school by participating in SNA, community service, service –learning and GHP, as well as after graduation—and for years to come.

Programs:

  • Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing

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Altierus is a non-profit, higher educational school system with 21 campuses in 11 states, operated as Altierus Career College or Career Education. And being a student here is different. Because we don't see you as just a student. We see you as an individual within our community with your own reasons for being here.

Programs:

  • Diploma - Medical Assistant
  • Associate of Applied Science - Medical Assistant
Locations: Chesapeake

The Metropolitan Institute of Health and Technology (MIHT) is dedicated to educating men and women to serve with confidence in the health and technology industry. MIHT provides career training for students to move forward in their chosen field of study, changing their lives for the better. MIHT strives to provide quality education with affordable tuition. Our staff works to determine the best financial options for students on an individualized level.

Programs:

  • Clinical Medical Assisting
Locations: Lorton

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Programs:

  • MSN Clinical Nurse Educator
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Is it Possible to Become an LPN Online?

You can technically become an LPN online, but there are a few things you will want to consider before paying for your course load. If you really want to achieve this certification online you certainly can, but do keep in mind that you cannot complete all of the requirements for completion online and you only want to begin this process through an accredited school. Be super wary of schools that offer 100% online completion as these schools are very often unaccredited. If you cannot find an accredited school you will be better off with going to an on-site program instead.

Online schools are a great option for students that cannot attend a traditional school and will often allow you to go part time and at your own pace. Once you find a school that has the appropriate credentials, you will want to get all of your little ducks in a row and find out what the requirements for enrollment in the program are. You will most likely be required to have a high school diploma or GED, average GPA of 2.5 (some schools may require higher), pass a drug test, pass a criminal background check and two professional recommendations.

These schools will allow you to take your theory course work online. Do keep in mind that online classes aren’t for everyone, though, and require lots of autonomy and focus in order to stay on top of your work. If you’re anything like us, your mind will wander during study time and it will be hard to…Oh look a squirrel. Oops! What we meant to say was, it will be hard to focus. Some of the classes you can expect to take are human anatomy and physiology, English composition, introductory psychology and introduction to health careers, just to name a few.

Along with the online course work, you will be required to complete your clinicals. These can be completed in a location near you and signed off on for credit. Lastly, you will need to pass the NCLEX-PN exam, which will need to be taken in a location near you.

What’s the Average LPN Salary?

It’s all about the Benjamin’s in this section, so let’s get to it! The Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting that the median salary for a licensed practical nurse is $42,927, which translates into $20.63 an hour. There is a range in this job for the salary, however. The lower 10% are earning around $31,300 and top 10% are earning around $58,020.

These salary variations will be largely based upon the different specialized fields you are able to go into as most will require more schooling. With more schooling comes more pay in the vast majority of cases. The location of your employment will have an impact on your salary as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has some pretty excellent graphs and maps that will show you the different pay grades depending on a multitude of different factors.

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Do I Need to Have an LPN Certification?

The answer here is a simple – yes, you will absolutely need an LPN certification to become employed in this field.

There are three steps to take in order to achieve your certification to become a licensed practical nurse. You will need to finish your course work first and foremost. You will be able to complete the required course work at an actual school or career institute as well as online. Next, you will then need to complete your clinicals. This step cannot be completed online as your course work can be. It will need to be done at a healthcare center that is local to you and recorded for submission.

The final step to receive your official certification as a licensed practical nurse after you’ve completed your classes and clinicals, is going to be to take and pass the final NCLEX-PN exam. This is a test that is offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. It’s important to remember that the NCLEX-PN will need to be administered at a Pearson VUE testing center rather than a regular proctor at a library or other testing center. These testing locations and other important related information can be easily located on the Pearson VUE website.

Preparing for the NCLEX-PN

Not to totally freak you guys out or anything, but this is a beast of a test and you will need to be really prepared. Having said that, we know you can pass it will flying colors if you follow our steps to prepare yourself. Get ready to take notes because this part is important!

You will want to pay super close attention to all of the material that is covered in class. You will want to make a ton of notes and reference them during your time preparing for the NCLEX-PN exam. Try to gain as much information as possible from your clinicals as well. Luckily most of the concepts that are covered on the exam are going to be done during this time and there isn’t much that is better than learning from hands on experience.

We strongly advise that you take as many prep tests as you can tolerate. This is very helpful in allowing you see the areas that you need to work on the most as well as letting you see where your strengths are. Do try to take prep tests that mimic the NCLEX-PN as closely as possible so that you can get an idea of the question type that you will be see on the actual exam.

Try to get a good prep book as well if possible. These will have important review sections and the questions will be similar to those on the exam. You can find excellent test prep books from retailers as well as Amazon. There are also other testing aids available such as CD’s with important guides and diagrams as well printed flash cards.

We really want to stress that you probably should take the exam as soon as possible after you graduate. The information will be freshest in your mind at this point and the pass rates are much higher for newly graduated students. Do try to study as much as possible and use different tools to do so. Try flash cards, studying on the computer as well as from your books. Get a study buddy if you can find one or even use a family member to quiz you.

Once you have sufficiently prepared for your NCLEX-PN exam, rip the band aid off and take it. We are sure you’ll pass and if not you’ll know what to work on next time. Treat yourself to a super cute pair of scrubs or an ice cream cone afterwards too!

What’s on the NCLEX-PN?

It’s really helpful to know what is going to be on this monster of a final exam to help you study, so get your pen and paper out to copy this information down! There is a really great break down of the exam and its content on the NCSBN website. It has a ton of very crucial and helpful information for you that will make your chances of successfully passing it higher.

The NCLEX-PN exam will be broken into 4 different categories with sub-categories to follow. Each category and sub-category will feature questions that will make up 7% to 15% of the total exam. The scoring will weighted to varying degrees and totaled to calculate your final score.

The first major category is “Safe and Effective Care Environment”. There are two sub-categories here as well – “Coordinated Care” and “Safety and Infection Control”. Next comes “Health Promotion and Maintenance” and “Psychosocial Integrity”. These guys are so important that they are standalone sections without sub-categories. Last, but not least, comes the “Physiological Integrity” section. There are the sub-categories of “Basic Care and Comfort”, “Pharmacological Therapies”, “Reduction of Risk Potential” and “Physiological Adaptation” here.

Meet Finola

Finola is a newly certified LPN that passed the very difficult NCLEX-PN! We want to throw a big congratulation’s her way and a round of applause. Finola was kind enough to share her secrets of success with the world by posting a very informative and super helpful video on YouTube. Her video outlines her experience taking the NCLEX-PN and has some of her study tips. We definitely suggest checking it out and hearing her story. Thanks for sharing, Finola and congratulations again!

What’s the Job Outlook for LPN’s?

There is pretty great growth for licensed practical nurses and that is to be expected since there seems to always be a need for health care workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is currently projecting a 25% growth from 2012 to 2022. That’s nothing to shake a stick at by any means, especially considering that this growth is much faster than average when being compared to other careers.

There are some key factors that will play a role in this field’s continued expansion over the next several years too. For starters the “baby-boomers” are aging and their overall healthcare service needs will be greater than ever before. These patients will soon be in need of more care thus increasing the need of more LPN’s in home health environments as well as residential care facilities.

Another factor in the rapid growth is that there is continued growth of chronic conditions that require frequent trips to the doctor or hospital. Chronic conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure are going to lead to the need for more LPN’s in outpatient centers, doctors’ offices and hospitals. These are excellent places to submit your resume and credentials to soon after you complete your schooling, clinicals and final exam. The early bird really does get the worm and facilities are often keen to hire new graduates.

lpn-nurses-photo

Final Grade

  • Degree vs. Debt: A-

The degree to debt ratio is not too shabby, especially when you consider that the duration of your schooling really isn’t all that lengthy. Most students can finish this program within 1 to 2 years with ease. The pay is also pretty decent coming from a 1 year certification. There are some other costs associated with this degree, like scrubs and medical supplies, which can get expensive. You can however use all of these expenses as tax write-off’s when the IRS comes calling each April.

  • Difficulty of Degree: B

The difficulty of the degree is really not too bad. Do keep in mind that you will be dealing with things like blood and other bodily fluids, so it’s certainly not for the squeamish. The online course options are limited and do not include your clinicals or the final NCLEX-PN exam. The clinicals and exam can be rather stressful, so preparation is very important to be less stressed and successful in completing them.

  • Happiness Quotient: C+

As to be expected with any career in the medical profession, there are going to be long hours on your feet, plenty of stress, some serious strain on your body as well as the emotional toll that caring for patients may take. Even with all of the aforementioned “downers”, being a licensed practical nurse can be really rewarding. You are helping people during the times that they are in the greatest need and that my friends is pretty amazing.

  • Job Outlook: A

With a projected growth rate of 25% it is pretty safe to say that this career is going to be booming, much like all other medical professions. As cities expand and build more hospitals and healthcare facilities, we will also see a demand to fill the positions of LPN’s too.

Sources and Recommended Reading

We have to give credit where credit is due of course! We have to give a virtual high five to the all of the sources that we used today. We definitely suggest that you hit each of these sites up for some more information if you feel that you need it, because there really is a bunch of great stuff to be read. Remember that research is your friend and will help you decide if a career as an licensed practical nurse is the right path for you.

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