Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care.

Work Environment: Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses work in many settings, including nursing homes and extended care facilities, hospitals, physicians’ offices, and private homes. Most work full time.

How to Become One: Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses must complete a state-approved educational program, which typically takes about 1 year to complete. They must be licensed.

Salary: The median annual wage for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is $46,240.

Job Outlook: Employment of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is projected to grow 11 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. As the baby-boom population ages, the overall need for healthcare services is expected to increase. LPNs and LVNs will be needed in residential care facilities and in home health environments to care for older patients.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses with similar occupations.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a licensed practical or vocational nurse with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Licensed Practical Nurse Jobs

  • Licensed Practical Nurse - Belvedere Seniors Living - Coquitlam

    Belvedere Seniors Living is owned and operated by the Evertt family, who have been committed to providing

  • Licensed Practical Nurse, Registered Practical Nurse - Elite Body Sculpture - Toronto

    In addition, someone who enjoys working in the OR and working closely with our surgeons. Excellent communication skills are a must as you will be

  • Licensed Practical Nurse - Team Lead - Christenson Communities - Sherwood Park

    People with the experience, and expertise, to help residents live the lives they envision for themselves. If making a difference in people's lives is

See all Licensed Practical Nurse jobs

What Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses Do[About this section] [To Top]

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic medical care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

Duties of Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses typically do the following:

  • Monitor patients' health—for example, by checking their blood pressure
  • Administer basic patient care, including changing bandages and inserting catheters
  • Provide for the basic comfort of patients, such as helping them bathe or dress
  • Discuss the care they are providing with patients and listen to their concerns
  • Report patients' status and concerns to registered nurses and doctors
  • Keep records on patients' health

Duties of LPNs and LVNs vary, depending on their work setting and the state in which they work. For example, they may reinforce teaching done by registered nurses regarding how family members should care for a relative; help to deliver, care for, and feed infants; collect samples for testing and do routine laboratory tests; or feed patients who need help eating.

LPNs and LVNs may be limited to doing certain tasks, depending on the state where they work. For example, in some states, LPNs with proper training can give medication or start intravenous (IV) drips, but in other states LPNs cannot perform these tasks. State regulations also govern the extent to which LPNs and LVNs must be directly supervised. For example, an LPN may provide certain forms of care only with instructions from a registered nurse.

In some states, experienced licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses supervise and direct other LPNs or LVNs and unlicensed medical staff.

Work Environment for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses[About this section] [To Top]

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses hold about 728,900 jobs. The largest employers of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses are as follows:

Nursing and residential care facilities 38%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 15%
Offices of physicians 13%
Home healthcare services 12%
Government 6%

Nurses must often be on their feet for much of the day. They are vulnerable to back injuries, because they may have to lift patients who have trouble moving in bed, standing, or walking. These duties can be stressful, as can dealing with ill and injured people.

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse Work Schedules

Most licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) work full time. Many work nights, weekends, and holidays, because medical care takes place at all hours. They may be required to work shifts of longer than 8 hours.

How to Become a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses near you!

Becoming a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse (LPN or LVN) requires completing an approved educational program. LPNs and LVNs must have a license.

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Education for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

LPNs and LVNs must complete an approved educational program. These programs award a certificate or diploma and typically take about 1 year to complete, but may take longer. They are commonly found in technical schools and community colleges, although some programs may be available in high schools or hospitals.

Practical nursing programs combine classroom learning in subjects such as nursing, biology, and pharmacology. All programs also include supervised clinical experience.

Contact state boards of nursing for lists of approved programs.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

After completing a state-approved educational program, prospective LPNs and LVNs can take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). In all states, they must pass the exam to get a license and work as an LPN or LVN. For more information on the NCLEX-PN examination and a list of state boards of nursing, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

LPNs and LVNs may choose to become certified through professional associations in areas such as gerontology and intravenous (IV) therapy. Certifications show that an LPN or LVN has an advanced level of knowledge about a specific subject.

In addition, employers may prefer to hire candidates who are trained to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Advancement for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

With experience, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses may advance to supervisory positions. Some LPNs and LVNs advance to other healthcare occupations. For example, an LPN may complete a LPN to RN education program to become a registered nurse.

Important Qualities for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Compassion. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses must be empathetic and caring toward the people they serve.

Detail oriented. LPNs and LVNs need to be responsible and detail oriented, because they must make sure that patients get the correct care at the right time.

Interpersonal skills. Interacting with patients and other healthcare providers is a big part of their jobs, so LPNs and LVNs need good interpersonal skills.

Patience. Dealing with sick and injured people may be stressful. LPNs and LVNs should be patient, so they can cope with any stress that stems from providing care to these patients.

Physical stamina. LPNs and LVNs should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as bending over patients for a long time.

Speaking skills. It is important that LPNs and LVNs communicate effectively. For example, they may need to relay information about a patient's current condition to a registered nurse.

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is $46,240. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,160.

The median annual wages for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Government $48,050
Nursing and residential care facilities 47,470
Home healthcare services $46,510
Hospitals; state, local, and private $44,630
Offices of physicians $42,520

Most licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) work full time. Many work nights, weekends, and holidays, because medical care takes place at all hours. They may be required to work shifts of longer than 8 hours.

Job Outlook for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) is projected to grow 11 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As the baby-boom population ages, the overall need for healthcare services is expected to increase. LPNs and LVNs will be needed in residential care facilities and in home health environments to care for older patients.

A number of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, have become more prevalent in recent years. LPNs and LVNs will be needed to assist and care for patients with chronic conditions in skilled nursing and other extended care facilities. In addition, many procedures that once could be done only in hospitals are now being done outside of hospitals, creating demand in other settings, such as outpatient care centers.

See all nursing jobs.

Job Prospects for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Job prospects should be favorable for LPNs and LVNs who are willing to work in rural and medically underserved areas. Employers also may prefer candidates who have certification in a specialty area such as gerontology or intravenous (IV) therapy.

Employment projections data for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, 2018-28
Occupational Title Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28
Percent Numeric
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses 728,900 807,000 11 78,100


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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