While almost no one becomes a Licensed Practical Nurse for the money alone, it is important to feel like you are being paid what you are worth; understanding the factors that impact your LPN salary can help you make the most of your LPN career. As with any career, there are many variables at play in determining your salary, and it is no different for LPNs or Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs). Salary is most impacted by place of work, location within the country, and experience.
When I first became an LPN, I stayed in the same job for years. While I wasn’t completely happy with my job, I wasn’t unhappy either. I was complacent. After I earned my RN degree, I learned that my complacency had cost me – literally.
Had I researched the LPN/LVN job market, I could have earned a much better LPN salary, possibly making RN school more affordable.
Don’t make the same mistake! Learn what factors go into making the most of your LPN salary so you can leverage this knowlege into better LPN or LVN pay for you.
Earning Potential for LPNs/LVNs
According to PayScale, the average LPN/LVN earns $18.00 per hour, with hourly wages ranging from $14.97 to $24.61. Average yearly salary ranges from $31,070 to $52,483.
These figures are averages; there are certain states where LPNs/LVNs may earn exponentially more than LPNs/LVNs in other states.
LPN Annual, Hourly and Employment Numbers by State
|State||Employment||Hourly Wage||Annual Wage|
|District of Columbia||1,610||$25.53||$53,100|
In any higher paid nursing job, LPN/LVN or RN, employers look for experience. They seek nurses who are well-rounded and have ample experience in their chosen specialty – and if they don’t have the necessary experience, a resume that shows the nurse is seeking to expand their experience.
Typically, new nurses begin their careers in an entry-level position. While the entry-level position on a Med/Surg unit is not as glamorous as performing chest compressions in an ICU, assisting with childbirth on a mother/baby unit, or hooking up chemotherapy to elaborate central lines for an oncology patient, a nursing job on a Med/Surg unit offers plenty of experience. The entry-level position will allow the new nurse to not only sharpen skills, but also develop a niche, because the Med/Surg unit sees ALL types of patients. For example, through my years on a general floor, I noticed the many patients with type 2 diabetes and the complications it causes and eventually, I earned my certification as a diabetes educator after becoming an RN.
Keep in mind that in many facilities, working “off shifts” such as afternoons, midnights and weekends, may net a larger salary due to a shift differential. This means that the nurse earns the same base salary as a nurse on a day shift, plus an additional amount per hour or shift.
So – when that call comes in offering a midnight shift position on a Med/Surg unit, don’t turn it down. The experience gained may be necessary when applying for a specialized position in the future.
LPN vs RN Employment Numbers
|State||LPN Employment||RN Employment||% Difference RN vs LPN|
|District of Columbia||1,500||11,030||86|
Source: http://www.dol.gov/, 2015 Data
Is LPN/LVN Right for Me? – Pros and Cons
It is often assumed that people go into nursing “for the money.” True – it is possible to make a decent living as a nurse, especially if the nurse is willing to work extra shifts and overtime. However, the people who think that nurses are in it “for the money” don’t realize how physically and emotionally draining a career it can be.
StraighterLine notes that all nurses, LPNs/LVNs and RNs alike, should possess 6 qualities:
- Excellent communication skills. Nurses continually speak with patients, families, physicians and people from other disciplines. Communication skills are necessary in order to interact with all of these people during a shift.
- Emotional strength. Nurses will deal with human suffering and medical emergencies, sometimes daily. Being strong emotionally is important in order to execute excellent nursing care.
- Empathy. The nurse should be able to empathize with their patients in order to connect with them emotionally.
- Patience. Nurses may deal with an exceptional amount of stressful situations. Having patience is important in these situations.
- Paying attention to detail. Nurses who miss details may have patients with poor outcomes. Paying attention to detail can save a patient’s life.
- Physical endurance. Nurses are on their feet for eight to twelve hours (or more!) per day. The nurse must be able to handle the work in order to effectively care for their patient load.
There are days that being a nurse is taxing, no matter what type of environment you work in. Without the aforementioned qualities, nursing may not be for you.
LPN Salary by Workplace
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the types of employers that employ the greatest number of LPNs are Nursing Care Facilities, General and Surgical Hospitals, doctor’s offices and clinics, home healthcare services, and retirement homes. While the general duties are similar in each setting, the specific responsibilities and roles can vary, leading to a variance in LPN salary.
Nursing care facilities are the largest employer of LPNs, with nearly 213,000 employed as of May 2009. Of the largest five employers of LPNS, nursing homes have the highest average salary. The average LPN salary at a nursing home is $44,000 annually.
In fact, 29% of the LPN/LVN workforce works in a skilled nursing facility – that’s more than a quarter of all practicing LPNs/LVNs. By the year 2020, the need for LPNs/LVNs in these facilities is expected to grow 11.7%, presumably due to the aging of “baby boomers.”
Since Nursing homes often only employ a few RNs, LPNs often have more responsibilities than in other settings. In addition to the standard care of patients, LPNs typically supervise nurses aids, and can even advance to charge nurses over other LPNs.
While there are only 64,000 LPNs employed by home health care services, this industry pays nearly as much as nursing care facilities. LPNs in this setting travel to patient’s homes and help them with everything from medication management, to personal hygiene, mobility, and meals. The average annual salary in the home healthcare industry is $43,404.
While home health nurses account for only 9% of the LPN/LVN workforce, the growth rate is expected at 72.1% by 2020 – a gigantic increase from right now! With insurance changes, people spend less time in the hospital recuperating, requiring more nursing care in the home – meaning an increased need of nurses in this setting.
LPNs in retirement communities perform similar duties to those in nursing care facilities; however, since patients in retirement homes tend to be more able-bodied, the average LPN salary in this industry is slightly less, at $43,000. This industry employs just over 39,000 LPNs as of May 2009. These LPNs/LVNs account for 5.4% of the LPN/LVN workforce and the growth rate is projected at 49.4% by the year 2020!
Hospitals are the second largest employer of LPNs and provide the most traditional setting. In hospitals, LPNs provide basic bedside care, and work directly under RNs to monitor patients and assist with personal hygiene and mobility. Hospitals employ about 159,000 LPNs, and the average LPN salary is $39,980.
Finally, doctors’ offices and clinic have the lowest annual LPN salary, at $36,770. LPNs in this setting typically bring patients into exam rooms, take blood pressure and weight, and get a general idea of patient concerns. Their responsibilities are fairly limited, which likely accounts for the lower salary. This industry employs about 89,000 LPNs.
Find all LPN Jobs or LVN Jobs on this site, where we have the largest listing of open available LPN nursing jobs anywhere.
- The number of LPN jobs listed today: 17,395
- The number of LVN jobs listed today: 5,144
- The number or Registered Nurse jobs listed today: 93,970
Jobs With the Best LPN Salary
According to the Houston Chronicle, working in specialty areas may make a difference in pay – or it may not.
For example, they reported that in 2010, LPNs/LVNs earned “…$30,970 or less for the lowest-earning 10 percent to $57,360 or more for the top-earning 10 percent.” In fact, the highest earning LPNs/LVNs earned more than people with a bachelor’s degree, who earn an average of $55,432 per year.
LPNs/LVNs working in a general or surgical hospital earned about $41,330 per year in 2010. LPNs/LVNs who specialized in psychiatric and substance abuse nursing actual earned less – albeit only $10 less – at $41,320 annually.
LPNs/LVNs who were employed by colleges, insurance carriers and grant services made the most, earning about $47,000 per year, although these jobs were scarce.
The biggest determinant in a high salary? Location. See above for the highest paid nurses by city and state.
Does this mean that you should not earn a certification and that it wouldn’t help you earn more? Absolutely not! Each institution is different and may have different pay policies.
LPN Hospital Jobs: From ERs to geriatric care to surgery prep, surgery nurses do it all. LPNs working in hospitals are accountable for drawing blood, reading crucial signs, monitoring patients’ reactions to medicine, teaching families how to take care of injured or sick friends, feeding babies, and preparing IVs in addition to feeding, cleaning, and dressing patients who aren’t able to do so for themselves. Infirmary settings are a vital but demanding workplace setting those in the nursing profession.
LPN Nursing Care Facilities: Nursing homes and palliative care facilities supply a barely slower-paced, but no less critical source of jobs for LPNs. Approved practical nurses perform lots of the same daily jobs as infirmary nurses, but patients stay longer and might not be anticipated to make full recoveries. Nurses who work in nursing houses and surgeries must have remarkable patience and the emotional stoicism to face death and dying first hand on an everyday basis.
LPN Home Care Nursing: Personal care nurses perform some of the same jobs as hospice and nursing care LPNs, but they do so in their clientele ‘ houses. Home care LPNs can be employed for short visits ( to draw blood, check blood pressure, or monitor other imperative figures ) or for long term care ( food, cleanliness, medicine, and physiotherapy ) for aged, sick, hurt, or disabled patients. Home care nursing is a quickly growing area, with a rise in the amount of aging patients and the augmenting capacity to perform health tests and care outside of surgeries. Home care nurses must be comfortable working independently with minimum supervision.
LPN Office Nursing : Office nurses work in medical hospitals, doctors’ offices, and non-hospital surgery centers. These nurses help to prepare patients for exams or surgery, aid doctors in the OR, handle injections or medicines, and dress injuries and cuts. These jobs for LPNs may include some executive office work. Jobs for LPNs who work in this kind of setting often require more normal work hours with a lower stress level than nurses in hospitals or nursing homes.
Military LPN Jobs: The army is always short of talented nurses. LPNs who want to pursue an army nursing job could be needed to get extra schooling, or possibly even a RN or BSN in nursing. Army nurses are constantly in demand in both peace and wartime, and the army will customarily reimburse LPNs who receive extra schooling for active duty to move from an LPN to RN or LPN to BSN.
LPN Travel LPN Jobs: Many engaging opportunities exist for LPNs who want to work in other states or in foreign nations. Nurses are in heavy demand in several parts of the Earth, and many agencies will spend top dollar to send nurses on short term remote assignments ( usually starting from two to six months ). Travel nurses can find nursing jobs across the U.S. And nearly anyplace globally, jobs for LPNs are in demand including hospital assignments in other states, emergency medicare in 3rd world states, and health centers on top quality resorts and cruise ships.
Where to Live to Earn the Highest LPN Salary
LPN salary varies greatly by geographical location. In general, the Northeast and California have the highest annual salaries. Connecticut comes in first with an annual salary of $52,300. New Jersey and Rhode Island are very close in second and third place with $50,350 and $50,010, respectively. California and Massachusetts have the fourth and fifth highest salaries, at $49,940 and $49,760, respectively.
By contrast, southern states tend to have lower salaries. West Virginia has the lowest annual salary, at $32,250. Oklahoma is not far behind with an annual salary of $32,790. Other states with low annual LPN salaries are South Dakota ($33,390), Alabama ($33,490), and Arkansas ($33,750). With a difference of over $20,000 between the highest paying state and the lowest paying state, it is clear that location plays a big part in LPN salary. This is important data to have, particularly if you are considering where to live; however, keep in mind that states with higher salaries likely also have a higher cost of living.
Cities That Pay the Best LPN/LVN Salary
As with work experience and nursing certifications, LPNs/LVNs may earn more based on their city of employment. In general, the more populous the city, the higher the rate of pay.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Albuquerque, NM, LPNs are the highest paid in the country, earning an average salary of $56,080. The next highest-paying city is about $1,000 less annually, at $57,050, in the San Francisco/Oakland, CA area. However, the “comfort score” is much less, meaning that there are certain factors, such as real estate and cost of living that make the salary seem more profitable than it really is.
Experience Makes a Difference
The experience of the LPN plays a significant role in determining LPN salary. LPNs with less than a year of experience can expect to make between $27,000 and $39,000 annually. Compare that with LPNs who have 20 or more years of experience and make between $34,000 and $48,000 a year.
Getting specific certifications can also increase an LPN salary. LPNs can become certified in IV therapy, gerontology (work with the elderly), long-term care, and pharmacology.
As mentioned before, licensed practical nurses in certain settings can become Charge Nurses who supervise other LPNs. The LPN salary of a charge nurse ranges from $29,000 to $58,000 depending on years of experience.
Some of the options available to LPNs pay significantly more than others. While you should never make a career choice based on salary, knowing your potential earnings may help you decided between two similar workplaces, or even between two states. Of course, the more training you get, and the longer you stay in the field, the better chances you have of maximizing your LPN salary.
How to Increase Your LPN Salary
An LPN’s salary range is somewhat limit. Educational level is the main determining factor when it comes to a nurse’s salary range. State and federal regulations determine the highest level of care that can be offered is solely determined by education level. The more services and responsibilities a nurse can offer a healthcare employer and its patients, the higher the salary you can demand.
The single best cure to the limitations of an LPN’s salary is by earning an advanced nursing degree. Earn an RN degree and earn an RN Salary. Today, there are many more educational opportunities available to an LPN or LVN. Healthcare degrees can be earned online and from out-of-state colleges. Clinicals can be completed locally. The variety of online RN programs, LPN to RN, and LPN to BSN degree programs is plentiful today and growing.
It doesn’t take long for licensed practical nurses to realize that the LPN salary doesn’t match up with the registered nurse (RN) salary. If you have ever asked yourself, “How Much Can I Earn With a BSN Degree,” this article might help you determine if you want to earn a BSN degree. The LPN or licensed vocational nurse (LVN) salary is sometimes significantly lower than the RN average salary, even in instances where the LPN and RN have the same job responsibilities. The discrepancy is due primarily to a difference in education and training. Although there are many other reasons to pursue certification as an RN, the difference in average LPN salary is often a motivating factor for LPNs who choose to enroll in an LPN to BSN degree program.
Returning to school for a BSN degree definitely requires some investment of money and time, but the monetary payoff of that investment is significant, even within the first year.
Specialties and Areas of Practice for LPNs
One way to ensure an increased salary (besides waiting for 20 years of experience!) is to earn a certification. It is a widely-known fact that RNs may earn certifications, but there are also a variety of specialty certifications that LPNs/LVNs may earn.
Certifications can be earned by LPNs/LVNs after earning their nursing license. Each state has different licensing requirements, but all require passing the “boards” – NCLEX-PN. After becoming an LPN/LVN, the nurse is eligible for advanced certification, although all certifications may have different requirements.
Here is a list of several certifications that LPNs/LVNs may earn post-graduation and post-licensure that can increase earning potential:
- NAPNES LPN specialties: National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service (NAPNES) offers certification to LPNs for IV therapy, long-term care and pharmacology. All the certifications require that the LPN/LVN take a certifying exam, which is 120 to 160 questions.
- Foot Care Specialty: National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses offers a certification for foot care. Due to the chronic nature of disorders such as diabetes, many adults have the need for foot care.
- Developmental disabilities: Developmental Disabilities Nurse Association offers a certification program for LPNs/LVNs working with people with developmental disabilities. The nurse must have at least 4,000 hours of work experience and pass a certifying exam.
- Childbirth specialties: Prepared Childbirth Educators, Inc offer a variety of certification programs for LPNs/LVNs. Options include Breastfeeding Counselor, Childbirth Educator, Infant Massage Instructor, Labor Doula, and Prenatal/Postnatal Fitness Instructor.
Some jobs may require the LPN/LVN to earn their certification as a condition of employment whereas others will not. However, earning an advanced certification is a great idea in order to progress in the chosen field.
Can an LPN/LVN Make as Much as an RN?
Yes – in certain circumstances.
As you’ve read by now, there are certain places where LPNs/LVNs stand to make more or less. For example, LPNs/LVNs make substantially more in a long-term care facility – they make more per hour and in some facilities, depending on staffing, they make have to work more overtime. Nurses in these facilities may end up making more at the end of the year than an RN, even if their salary and/or hourly rate is less.
LPNs/LVNs who are advanced in their career may make a substantial hourly rate. Some of these nurses may make a similar rate to an entry level RN.
Nurses employed in state facilities, such as a veteran’s affairs (VA) facility, notoriously make a higher rate of pay – for both LPNs/LVNs and RNs. These nurses will probably make more than nurses in other facilities, such as nurses working in a general hospital.
How Much will an RN Degree to Increase Your Nursing Salary?
Earning and RN will increase your salary significantly. There are several reasons why you might want to consider entering into an LPN to RN degree program. Although LPNs play an important role in the healthcare field, many seasoned LPNs encourage those who are just starting out in the profession to view LPN nursing jobs as a stepping stone toward becoming an RN. Licensed Practical Nursing jobs are fairly limited by scope of practice, ability to specialize, and opportunities for advancement. RN jobs, on the other hand, particularly those available to graduates of a BSN program, require more technical and critical thinking skills, have extensive specialties to choose from, and can lead to various advancement opportunities.
LPN vs RN Salary Comparison by State
|wdt_ID||State||LPN / LVN Average Annual Wage||RN Average Annual Wage||Percentage Difference|
|9||District of Columbia||$51,320||$79,640||36%|
Source: http://www.dol.gov/, 2014 Data
How Much Will a BSN Degree Increase Your Nursing Salary?
According to Payscale.com, the LPN salary for someone just entering the field ranges between $27,000 and $39,000 a year. Compare that with the entry-level RN salary of $38,000 to $52,000 and the average entry-level BSN salary of $48,000 year, and it becomes clear why earning a BSN is an attractive option. That is a minimum difference of $11,000 and a maximum difference of $25,000. Although there are some higher paid LPN jobs, most licensed practical nurses or licensed vocational nurses top out at around $50,000 in the United States, even after 20 or more years of experience. BSNs, on the other hand, can earn over $70,000 a year after 20 or more years of experience.
Not only are BSN salaries higher than LPN salaries at each level of experience, but the rate of salary increase is also significantly higher. From entry level to 1-4 years of experience, a BSN can expect a salary increase of about 12%, versus the LPN salary increase of only about 2.5%. From entry level to 10 years of experience, the BSN can expect a salary increase of about 32 %, as compared with the LPN salary increase of only 14%.
LPN vs RN Scope of Practice
Perhaps the most significant difference between LPN jobs and RN nursing jobs is scope of practice. LPNs focus primarily on bedside care, and basic assessment and care procedures, such as taking vital signs, administering injections and enemas, and assisting with personal hygiene and patient mobility. They are usually under the direct supervision of an RN. In most states, LPNs are not allowed to start IVs, administer medication, or hang blood bags. These are all specific skills taught during RN training. RNs who began their careers as LPNs also state critical thinking skills as a significant difference in education and training between the two nursing levels. While LPNs are very task-oriented, RNs are trained to see the “big picture” and use multiple tools and factors to determine a patient’s care plan. To that end, RNs conduct initial assessments and develop the care plan, while LPNs often carry it out.
In many cases, RNs, even those who have just earned their certification, have immediate supervision over LPNs. This is one of the reasons why the RN salary is higher than the LPN salary for what seems to be the same job. RNs carry a higher level of responsibility for the patient’s care and outcomes.
RNs Can Specialize by Workplace, Population, Disease
As a general rule, there are few opportunities for LPNs to specialize. Most LPN nursing jobs utilize similar technical skills regardless of population or workplace setting Because the RN has a larger scope of practice, there is much more differentiation among patient population, workplace setting, type of disease or ailment, or body system cared for. RNs who specialize by population may do so by age, such as newborns (neonatolgy) or the elderly (geriatrics), or by specific sectors of society, such as in prisons, schools, summer camps, or military bases. While LPNs may also be care for these populations, their specific duties will be far less affected by the population than will the duties of the RN.
The majority of LPN jobs take place in hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, or in home healthcare companies While RNs also work in these settings, they can further specialize within hospitals as surgical nurses, emergency room nurses, or critical care nurses Other workplace settings that are available to RNs include hospice, in which the nurse cares for patients in the final stages of their lives; infusion, where nurses administer medications, fluids, and blood through IVs; or psychiatric/mental health, where nurses help care for patients with mental and emotional disorders.
Finally, RNs can specialize by type of illness or by body system treated. These include diabetes, cancer, or HIV/AIDs nurses, or cardiology, gastroenterology, or dermatology nurses.
Each nursing specialty requires a different set of technical and patient care skills, as well as different levels of coping ability and stress management. Some RNs receive specific training to help them specialize, while others develop the skills needed for a specialty over time, while working in that area.
Limited Opportunity for Advancement with LPN Nursing Jobs
Another significant difference between LPN nursing jobs and RN nursing jobs is the opportunities for advancement. While LPNs have some opportunities for supervising others, such as becoming a charge nurse who oversees other LPNs and nurses aids, most supervisory and administrative roles are reserved for RNs, and many of those are reserved for RNs who have graduated with a BSN. RNs typically begin as staff nurses in hospitals, and then, depending on performance, may progress to become assistant unit manager, head nurse, assistant director, director, vice president, or even chief of nursing. Some of these more senior level positions may require a Masters in Nursing.
RNs also have the opportunity to obtain advanced practice certification through a specialized Masters in Nursing Degree. Certified Nurse Midwives provide prenatal care, assist women with childbirth, and take care of general women’s health needs. Nurse Practitioners work in various settings and provide primary and specialized care, covering a wide range of healthcare needs. Certified Nurse Anesthetists administer anesthesia and other similar care needs for patients before, during and after surgery. Finally, Clinical Nurse Specialists provide specialized care to patients in an area of nurse specialization. Each of these advanced practice specialties affords the nurse a higher level of autonomy, allowing him or her to diagnose, write prescriptions, and in many cases, take care of most, if not all, of a patient’s needs.
LPN nursing jobs provide a great base of knowledge for any nurse; however, for a the LPN who wants more responsibility, the ability to specialize, and the opportunity to advance, obtaining a BSN through an LPN to BSN degree program is the best way to build on that base.