LPN Certification and Certificate Programs

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

Working directly under the supervision of a health practitioner such as a registered nurse or a doctor, an LPN--alternately known as Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)--provides basic patient care and education. This is done in addition to monitoring the patient's health and progress and maintaining detailed records of the patient's condition.

Essential Information

Individuals interested in becoming nurses without significant training may choose to pursue practical or vocational nursing. Licensed practical and vocational nurses (LPNs/LVNs) provide care under the supervision of a higher level health practitioner, like a registered nurse. Aspiring LPNs and LVNs need to complete an accredited certificate or diploma program. They then qualify to sit for a licensing examination. These professionals should see faster-than-average job growth in the coming years.

Required Education Certificate or diploma in licensed practical nursing
Licensure Required; all LPNs must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Practical Nurses
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 16%
Median Salary (2015)* $43,170

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Certificate Programs

Many 2-year community colleges and trade schools offer LPN certificate programs. Students can earn a certificate in licensed practical nursing within a year, or 2-3 semesters. During that time, they gain nursing experience through both classroom and laboratory work - learning how to care for patients across a variety of healthcare settings.

Educational Prerequisites

Aspiring students must first earn a high school diploma or GED certificate. Colleges may also require applicants to pass basic aptitude tests, which gauge fundamental English and math skills. Additionally, some schools necessitate that applicants complete introductory biology courses before enrolling.

Certificate in Licensed Practical Nursing

While earning an LPN certificate, students learn how to apply didactic lessons in a clinical setting. Common courses cover:

  • Human behavior
  • Critical thinking
  • Nutrition
  • Patient care
  • Anatomy
  • Pharmacology
  • NCLEX preparation

LPN Certification

LPNs need licensure rather than certification. The National Council Licensure Exam for Practical Nurses is commonly known as the NCLEX-PN. Registration for the examination can be secured through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (www.ncsbn.org). Taking the exam requires submission of education transcripts and paying a registration fee.

The NCLEX-PN is a pass or fail exam using a Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) process. It features pertinent nursing questions, which require both written and practical answers. Once a student successfully completes the exam, licensure to officially become an LPN is granted.

Continuing Education Information

LPNs can go on to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing, both of which qualify them to take the NCLEX for registered nurses (RNs). Registered nurses supervise licensed practical nurses and work more closely with physicians.

Career and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that LPNs and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) earned $43,170 as a median annual income in May 2015. The BLS also estimated that LPN and LVN jobs will increase 16% for the years 2014 through 2024.

Once you earn your LPN certificate, you must become licensed in order to actually work as an LPN. Specific duties are determined by state regulations , and may vary between states. Licensed LPNs can opt to advance their careers and/or their standings by earning specialty certifications in areas such as gerontology, IV therapy, long-term care or pharmacology. Certification programs are offered by professional organizations such as the National Association of Practical Nurse Education and Service and the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses.

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