Licensed Vocational Nurse: Salary, Duties and Requirements

Licensed vocational nursing requires some formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Licensed vocational nurses, or licensed practical nurses in most states, assist and monitor medical patients. They need to complete 1-2 years of vocational nursing training and must be licensed in order to work.

Essential Information

Licensed vocational nurse (LVN) is a job title specific to Texas and California. Licensed vocational nurses are known as licensed practical nurses (LPNs) in all other states. LVNs and LPNs work under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) and physicians, providing basic bedside care to patients. Completion of a formal vocational nursing program is required for this career field; these programs may last 1-2 years, and some result in a certificate, a diploma or an associate's degree. Candidates must also pass an licensure exam.

Required Education 1- to 2-year vocational nursing training program
Other Requirements Licensure required
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 16% for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses
Median Salary (2015)* $43,170 for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Licensed Vocational Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensed vocational nurses earned a median of $43,170 in 2015. In the same year, the highest-paid ten percent earned $59,510 or more, while the lowest-paid ten percent earned $32,040 or less. In 2014, the BLS predicted 16% growth of employment for licensed vocational nurses through 2024, which is faster than average.

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Job Duties

LVNs are typically responsible for monitoring patients' vital signs, including their blood pressure, pulse, respiration, temperature, height and weight. Other tasks that LVNs are responsible for include giving enemas, recording intake and output of foods and fluids, collecting samples for testing, maintaining equipment, dressing wounds, treating bedsores and giving massages. They also assist patients in getting dressed, bathing, eating, walking and standing.

Since LVNs have a lot of direct contact with patients, they record and update patient histories, keep track of how they are feeling and monitor their responses to medications and treatments. LVNs may use this information to fill out paperwork, such as insurance forms, referrals and pre-authorizations, and to inform doctors and RNs so that they may determine the best course of care for a patient. Some LVNs also perform laboratory tests, assist in the delivery of and care for infants, administer medications and start intravenous fluids (IVs).


LVNs must graduate from a vocational nursing program. These programs are usually offered by community colleges and vocational schools, and they usually take about one year to complete. Students enrolled in these programs receive training both in the classroom and in a clinical environment. Subjects covered typically include anatomy, physiology, nutrition, pharmacology, first aid, obstetrics, pediatrics, medical-surgical nursing and patient care. However, some employers may require completion of a 2-year associate's degree program, which would also include general education courses such as English, mathematics, social science and humanities.

Those who have graduated from state-approved training programs and have completed other state eligibility requirements for licensure must take the National Council Licensure Examination in practical nursing (NCLEX-PN) to become licensed. This exam is given by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and is computer-based. LVNs and LPNs may also be required by some states and employers to complete continuing education credits at regular intervals.

Those who are interested in becoming a licensed vocational nurse should attend a vocational nursing program offered through a community college or vocational school. They will also need to pass a licensing exam given by the NCSBN. The majority of their work consists of monitoring patients, updating patient information, and assisting patients as needed.

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