What is the Difference Between an RN and LPN?

Posted by Athena Career Academy on Oct 7, 2019

What is the Difference Between an RN and LPN?If you've made the decision to go back to school for nursing, and you have settled on a school, you may think all the big decisions have already been made. However, there's still one choice left. Will you stop once you earn your LPN degree or will you continue on to pursue a registered nurse degree?


While it may seem either branch of nursing would have a lot in common, that's not necessarily the case. Day-to-day tasks, salary ranges, and amount of necessary schooling all differ quite a bit. In basic terms, LPNs are given certain medical duties to perform, but they don't share as many of the registered nurse responsibilities.

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Education Paths

In terms of necessary education, a licensed practical nurse vs registered nurse comes down to duration and personal preference. Many RN programs are bachelor's degree-level, while those who complete LPN programs earn associate's degrees. That fact alone means RN programs generally take longer to complete. An RN program will typically require three to four years to complete.


For those who are looking to change careers in a smaller timeframe, an LPN degree may be the way to go. Because there are fewer responsibilities, an accredited LPN program can be completed in about one year.


There are many in the field who get their start as an LPN before completing the RN degree program. For RNs, there is also another step up, the advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

Salary Considerations

With the differences in levels of education, there is, of course, a difference in salary. Level of pay can differ greatly between regions of the country, but typically RNs have a median salary of around $71,000, while LPNs come in around $46,000.
Of course, both roles are in high demand. Nationally, both RNs and LPNs see about 15 percent job growth every year. That makes either career a very practical destination for those who are looking for long-term employment.

Job DutiesNew Call-to-action

Obviously, with more education and a higher salary for an RN, there is generally more expected from a job-duties perspective. However, there are also some intrinsic differences that come with each different nursing role.


LPNs will typically work in a home health care facility, a nursing facility, or a medical or surgical hospital setting. They will be performing basic medical care tasks, like checking blood pressure or providing other basic medical care. They usually work as part of an LPN team, reporting to both RNs and doctors on overall patient health. LPNs have a very rewarding career.


An RN has many of the same job settings as LPNs, finding work in both medical and surgical facilities. Additionally, an RN may find roles available at correctional facilities, schools, summer camps, and governmental agencies. Their jobs are more administrative-focused, coordinating staff and preparing treatment plans while delegating duties to LPNs.


For those considering a career change in to the field of nursing, both LPN and RN programs offer high rates of employment and emotionally rewarding work. For many, it will come down to the job duties they would like to perform, and what they feel may be a better fit for themselves personally.

Learn More About Athena's Nursing Programs


No matter what career you choose to pursue, Athena Career Academy can provide you with the education and experience to move forward. Contact us today for more information about our accredited nursing programs, and how you can get started today!

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