Licensed Vocational Nurse: Occupational Outlook & Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a licensed vocational nurse (LVN). Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

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Following high school, you may want to investigate a career in the allied health field. A relatively short certificate or diploma program at a community or vocational college can prepare you to work as a licensed vocational nurse.

Essential Information

Licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), sometimes known as licensed practical nurses (LPNs), care for ill, injured or disabled people in nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, group homes and private homes. Overall, the career outlook is bright, and educational requirements to enter the career are minimal, with completion of a training program in vocational nursing and a licensing exam acting as the minimum requirements in most states.

Required Education Completion of a training program, often leading to a certificate or a diploma in practical or vocational nursing; associate degrees are also available
Licensing Nurses must pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) in all states to earn licensing
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses*
Median Salary (2015) $43,170 for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Educational Requirements to Become a Licensed Vocational Nurse

All U.S. territories and states require LVNs to complete state-approved practical nursing programs and then pass licensing examinations. Such programs, often available through vocational or community colleges, typically last about one year. They include classroom study of nursing concepts and patient care-related subjects, such as:

  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Pediatrics
  • Administration of drugs
  • Obstetrics
  • First aid
  • Nutrition

Students also conduct supervised patient care. A high school diploma or equivalent is usually required to enter a nursing program, although some programs take candidates without a diploma, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Associate Degree in Nursing

Many LVNs choose to enter programs that offer associate degrees in nursing (ADN). LVNs who wish to further their careers may seek out this option. ADN programs include an additional year of study, but offer LVNs greater flexibility for career and educational advancement in the future. Common courses include:

  • Health assessment
  • Human development
  • Medical-surgical nursing
  • Psychiatric nursing

Required Licensure

In order to become an LVN, a candidate must successfully complete the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). Obtaining a license is a requirement to legally gain employment as an LVN. This computer-based test is used to assess the competency of nurses regarding healthcare procedures and concepts.

Occupational Outlook for Licensed Vocational Nurses

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that employment of LPNs and LVNs was expected to increase 16% from 2014-2024, which was faster than average. Much of this increase may be in response to the overall growth of healthcare services and the long-term care needs of an aging population. Because technological advancements in the industry allow many procedures to be performed outside of hospitals, LVNs should see strong opportunities in outpatient facilities and physicians' offices as well. In May 2015, the median earnings of LPNs and LVNs were $43,170 per year, with the top ten percent earning $59,510 or more annually.

The projected job growth rate for LVNs is expected to be much faster than the average for all other occupations, and median earnings in 2015 amounted to $43,170. Completing a certificate, diploma, or an associate's degree program will prepare you to sit for the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nurses, which is mandatory to work in this field.

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