LPN vs. RN – What’s the Difference?

LPN vs. RN – What’s the Difference?

From the outside, nursing seems relatively straightforward.

In fact, many people don’t realize that there are actually several different branches of the nursing profession.

If you’ve begun the journey of pursuing a career in nursing, chances are you’ve come across the terms Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and Registered Nurse (RN) in your research.

But what’s the difference?

More importantly, how can you know which path is right for you?

Let’s take a closer look at what sets these two credentials apart.

Education Levels

Education for LPN vs RN - ProMed Certifications

The biggest difference between an LPN and an RN is the amount of education required to achieve a degree.

Practical nursing degrees can be earned in as few as 12 months, while professional nursing degrees (a requirement for RNs) can take anywhere from 18 to 36 months, depending on the situation and circumstances.

The amount of time you’d like to commit can determine which degree you ultimately work toward.

Earning Potential

Obviously, with more schooling comes higher pay.

RNs can make significantly more money than LPNs (Typically 40-60% more in annual income), however, LPNs still make a decent salary.

Registered Nurse Median Salary 2016 - ProMed Certifications
(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

LPN Median Salary 2016 - ProMed Certifications
(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Plus, because it takes less time to earn a practical nursing degree, an LPN can enter the workforce sooner.

And since many health care institutions will gladly pay some or all of the costs associated with pursuing a higher degree, LPNs can often continue their education while already gainfully employed in the medical field.

Those considering each option should weigh these factors accordingly.

Job Opportunities

Job Opportunities For LPNs vs RNs - ProMed Certifications

Again, the additional schooling an RN receives opens more doors of opportunity in terms of job type and career advancement.

Furthermore, RNs may practice certain specialties that are in higher demand and therefore provide more career options.

For instance, an RN might enter a nursing specialty field such as working with patients who have a specific health condition, like an oncology nurse, or could decide to pursue a career in geriatrics, pediatrics or emergency room nursing.

Many nurses practice as LPNs for a period of time before moving on and becoming RNs.


Management Opportunities For LPNs vs RNs - ProMed Certifications

If you are a person who prefers to be in charge, going for an RN position might be the better fit for you.

That’s because, unlike LPNs, RNs are not required to work under the supervision of other nurses.

This provides greater control and the ability to become a leader.

Some individuals, however, take no issue with working under others who are more qualified.

And LPN is still a highly respected role.

Length of Time to Advancement

LPNs are able to enter the job market much faster than their RN counterparts, however, because the former requires less training, it will take longer to achieve additional credentials in the future if advancement is something you desire.

For instance, both an RN and an LPN can pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, but it will take much more work for an LPN to reach that level.

If you foresee the desire to continue your education, it might make sense to get a larger chunk of it out of the way now.


Ultimately, the decision of whether an RN or LPN position is right for you is something you must reach on your own.

Hopefully the points made above will help guide you in the right direction.