There are several advancement opportunities for LPNs, including a variety of continuing education classes. While LPNs may complete courses to upgrade their skills, some may choose to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in order to become an RN.
Continuing education is training that LPNs receive after completing required education and obtaining nursing licenses. LPNs can take continuing education classes in order to maintain their skills and better understand their field, or to earn additional degrees. Many LPNs go on to become registered nurses. Some states require LPNs to take classes in order to maintain their licenses.
|Degree Options||Associate, bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing are available to LPNs who wish to become registered nurses as well.|
|Other Requirements||Additional licensure necessary for registered nurses|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||16% for LPNs; 16% for RNs*|
|Average Salary (2015)||$44,030 for LPNs; $71,000 for RNs*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
LPNs may hope to pursue a career in a more specialized nursing field or higher professional level. For example, some nurses hope to have a career as a registered nurse (RN) or nurse practitioner (NP). Each career option requires additional education and may require additional licensing.
Associate Degree in Nursing
The first step in order to advance your career as an LPN would be to compete an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Some LPNs will have already fulfilled this requirement upon gaining their LPN license. However, since LPN status can be achieved without completing an ADN program, this is a necessary step for those who have not received the additional education. These programs require an additional year of studies, focusing on courses such as:
- Human development
- Family health
- Advanced anatomy
- Professional ethics
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Some schools offer an LPN-BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree option. These are for LPNs who have already received their associate degree in nursing. Completing this program would allow an LPN to attempt to become an RN by completing additional licensing. Common courses in these programs include:
- Health assessment
- Nursing management
- Adult health issues
- Clinical practice
LPNs who want to become RNs must pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), an advanced exam option of the NCLEX-PN, which licensed practical nurses have already completed. Passing this exam will allow LPNs to become RNs and likely earn greater income and further develop their careers.
Additional Continuing Education Options
LPNs who have become RNs can further their education in a variety of ways. Students can earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree, which can provide the path to gaining additional nurse classification. Some common specializations are:
- Advanced practice nurse
- Pediatric nurse practitioner
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Acute or primary care specialist
- Geriatric nurse practitioner
These degree programs require an additional 2-3 years of study in a chosen field. Becoming specialized may require completing additional licensing, depending on the state or employer. Other options include graduate certificate education programs and doctor of nursing practice degree programs. Each option can lead to greater specialization and career advancement in a variety of areas, including teaching and research.
Career and Salary Information
The BLS predicts a 16% job growth for LPNs and licensed vocational nurses in the years 2014-2024. These nurses earned an average annual wage of $44,030 in May 2015, according to the BLS. Registered nurse positions are also expected to increase by 16%. The BLS reports an average annual salary for these workers of $71,000.
While job growth may be the same for both LPNs and RNs, pursuing a degree to become a registered nurse can result in a significant salary increase. Some colleges offer specially-structured degree programs to help LPNs earn their BSNs in 2 to 3 years.