LPN to RN: Advance Your Career with an Accelerated Nursing Degree

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What’s the difference between LPN and RN professionals? A registered nurse has more diverse job responsibilities and authority than a licensed practical nurse, as well as greater salary potential and career advancement opportunities. Making the LPN to RN transition could take less than two years.

nurses looking at X-Ray scans

Myriad career choices exist within the larger healthcare field — paramedics, radiology technicians, nurses, and beyond. Even within the nursing field, there are different levels of nursing and many kinds of nurses. One of the great things about working in healthcare — beyond the ability to help others — is the room for career growth and advancement. For example, if you started your career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN), you can become a registered nurse (RN) later.

But what is the difference between LPN and RN professionals, and how can you transition from LPN to RN? At Utica University, we’ve helped countless healthcare professionals take the following steps required to advance their careers with a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Nursing degree. Here, we’ll discuss the LPN to RN transition details and what you can expect with an accelerated BS in Nursing program, such as Utica University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program.

The Difference Between LPN and RN Professionals

LPNs and RNs have some similarities; both work in healthcare and are charged with looking after the best interests of their patients. They also work in some of the same settings, such as hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities.

However, there are also quite a few differences—from the scope of practice and beyond.

What Is an LPN?

Depending on their state, an LPN may also be called an LVN (licensed vocational nurse). LPNs provide primary healthcare with duties like changing bandages and checking vital signs. An LPN can also discuss patients’ health concerns and update their health records. They also assist with the activities of daily living (ADLs), such as feeding and grooming. In some states, an LPN may be allowed to dispense medication and start IV drips, but they cannot prescribe medications.

student nurse with workbook

LPNs work under the supervision of another healthcare professional, such as an RN or doctor, and each state has distinct guidelines regarding the supervision requirements of LPNs.

What Is an RN?

A registered nurse is charged with delivering and coordinating patient care, educating patients and family caregivers and collaborating with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, nurses and physical therapists. They work as healthcare team members, developing or expanding patients’ treatment plans. An RN can also:

  • Assess patients and review their symptoms and medical history
  • Operate medical equipment
  • Administer medications, start IV drips and perform treatments
  • Perform diagnostic tests and evaluate the results

These are just a few of the critical responsibilities of an RN.

Key Differences Between an LPN and an RN

As you can see, an RN has a greater scope of practice than an LPN. Additionally, an RN may supervise one or more LPNs. This difference in practice authority is due to the differences in education, training and credentials.

An LPN does not need a college degree. To become an LPN, you must have a high school diploma or GED and complete a state-approved LPN training program, typically lasting one year. You must also pass the NCLEX-PN licensure exam, after which you may choose to obtain various voluntary certifications.

In contrast, an RN must have a nursing degree and may also obtain a graduate degree to advance their career. Aspiring RNs must pass the more rigorous NCLEX-RN licensure exam to obtain state licensure and can choose to receive other certifications.

Benefits of Going from LPN to RN

If you’re already an LPN, you may have considered pursuing career advancement as an RN, but here are the perks of transitioning from LPN to RN online or in person.

Better Salary Potential

One clear perk of transitioning from an LPN to RN career is the increase in salary potential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for LPNs was $54,620 as of May 2022. In contrast, the median yearly wage for RNs at that same time was $81,220.

More Diverse Job Responsibilities

Another perk of becoming an RN is the diversity in job responsibilities. While LPNs fulfill an essential role in healthcare by providing fundamental patient care and assisting with ADLs, RNs have a broader and more diverse scope of practice. Because of this, they also have a more significant potential to impact their patients’ well-being positively.

Stronger Job Growth

Along with higher salary potential, RNs have a more robust job growth rate than LPNs. The BLS projects that the job growth rate for LPNs is 5% from 2022 through 2032, reflecting an increase of about 34,900 jobs. In contrast, the projected job growth rate for RNs is 6% during that same period, indicating that healthcare employers expect to hire about 177,400 new nurses.

utica nursing student holding syringe

Opportunities to Work in Varied Settings

RNs and LPNs can work in many of the same settings, such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, physicians’ offices and patients’ homes. However, RNs can also choose from other workplace settings, including K-12 schools and universities, medical evacuation flights, law offices and governmental agencies.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Opportunities for career advancement are limited for LPNs. In fact, without a nursing degree, the only way to truly advance within the healthcare field is to go back to school to earn a nursing degree, such as with an LPN to RN online or hybrid program.

In contrast, once you are an RN, you’ll have more opportunities to enjoy career growth. Your undergraduate nursing degree will lay a foundation for graduate-level nursing education and additional nursing certifications. You’ll then be eligible to pursue a career as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), nurse manager or healthcare administrator.

four nurses smiling

Are you thinking about becoming a nurse later in life? Here’s what you need to know.

How Long Is the LPN to RN Transition?

Now that you know the benefits of the switch, you may wonder, “How long is the LPN to RN transition?” Typically, a BS in Nursing requires four years of college education. However, if you are eligible for the ABSN program at Utica University, you may complete the program in as few as 16 months and be ready to sit for the NCLEX-RN.

Note: Most ABSN students become nurses within three years, and many do it in two years.

Become an RN With Utica University’s ABSN Program

Utica ABSN student sitting and smiling

Our ABSN program leverages your non-nursing college credits, allowing you to graduate in far less time than a traditional nursing degree program. The ABSN program is ideal for those with at least 65 non-nursing college credits or a completed non-nursing bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. With three start dates per year, you can start sooner than you might think.

Plus, you can complete your degree at Utica University through a hybrid approach. The program combines online classes with in-person nursing labs to develop essential nursing skills. You’ll also complete clinical rotations at top healthcare facilities nearby. The Utica BS in Nursing program may be for you if you’re an LPN eager to earn a BS in Nursing quickly.

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