Considering LPN School

What is the Difference Between LPN and RN School? Work?

At times it may seem there is not a lot of difference between these two very important nursing roles.  But there are some significant differences, and knowing those differences will help you decide which schooling and role is right for you.

The RN schooling is traditionally of longer duration with courses that provide education on team leadership, pharmacology, research, legal/ethical issues.  The LPN schooling is of shorter duration and does not have similar courses.  At work, the RN usually organizes the patient’s broad plan of care, which is something the LPN then helps to carry out.  RN's make more money than LPN's.   An LPN, with experience, can be promoted to a supervisory role in a nursing home or office setting.  But usually leadership roles in hospitals are held by RN's, usually with a Bachelor’s degree.

LPN's

  • Shorter schooling – around 18 months
  • Courses focus on “doing” skills necessary to care for patients
  • Make less money than RN's
  • Are supervised by RN's
  • Usually are not promoted to supervisory roles over RN's

RN's

  • Longer schooling – 2 to 4 years
  • Courses focus on the “thinking” skills necessary to direct patient care
  • Make more money than LPN's
  • Are independent caregivers – no direct supervision required
  • Lend to being promoted to supervisory roles

Read more about LPN to RN programs.

LPN Programs Near Me

We have developed individual state profile pages for students looking to find the right practical nursing program for them. To get started click your state below.

  • LPN to RN/BSN Online - Achieve Test Prep

    *Must Be a LPN/LVN

    LPNs earn your ADN or BSN degree online in up to 1/2 the time and cost of traditional programs. With No Waiting List to get started, Free Books, and Low Cost financing options available, this is the perfect way for LPNs, LVNs, and Paramedics to earn your Associates Degree in Nursing and your RN license. Our convenient, instructor led test-out program allows you to learn at an accelerated pace and earn college credit-by-examination which then is eligible to be transferred to an ACEN accredited nursing school or 100's of universities nationwide.

Also, by visiting the website for each state's Board of Nursing or a similar title that is responsible for nurse licensure. Listed on each state’s site is a link to all approved LPN/LVN programs in the state. Information may include the address, director of the program, website, and pass/fail rate on state LPN examinations. To view State Boards of Practical and Vocational Nursing for All 50 States.

How Do I Choose a Good LPN Program?

There are many factors that will play into your selection of an LPN school:

  • NCLEX-PN “Pass Rate” - One of the best ways to determine the quality of a program is to look at the published “pass rate” for students taking the state examination.  The board of nursing maintains data for each school as to how many students took the LPN state examination, how many students have passed the exam, and how many have failed.  You want to choose a school that has a high “pass rate”.
  • School Accreditation - There are two organizations that can accredit LPN schools.  They are the National League of Nursing Accrediting Agency (NLNAC).  This accreditation status means that the schools meets the standards for LPN set by the agency.  This may be important to you in the future – many bachelors and masters degrees in nursing require that you have graduated from an accredited school.
  • Online Classes - Would you prefer to take part of the classroom learning online?  Does the school offer it online?
  • Learning Management System - How does the school organize the materials it asks you to read?  How to they organize their handouts?  Is everything organized online or do they provide paper copies?  Are you expected to find all your own articles in class or do they provide you links to articles?  And are textbooks is books or are they provided on a Kindle or iPad?  Textbooks may be the same price in both formats but are much heavier to carry than having everything electronic.
  • Cost - An LPN program can range in price from $4000 - $20,000 for the entire program.   Cost may be more or less of an issue for you.  Usually you get what you pay for but now always!
  • Location - If you wish to keep costs low, you may want to choose an LPN program near home.
  • Tuition Assistance -  What percent of students in the LPN program receive non-loan scholarship assistance? Learn more about ways to pay for your program.
  • Course Taken Credit - Have you take advanced level high school classes or college credits that you will get credit for in the program?
  • Clinical Practicum Locations - Each LPN program has is “preferred provider” for clinical rotations.  It is very important where you do your clinical rotations.  If you want experience in trauma care, there may be only one or two LPN programs in town that go to a hospital that provides trauma care.  Where do you get your pediatric rotation?  For pediatrics it is important to rotate through a pediatric hospital – not just a pediatric clinic or long term care facility.
  • Overall Feeling - When you walk in the building, do you get a feeling of “sterility” or warmth?  Do you feel that it is an environment where you can take the needed risk to learn and to make mistakes?  Do the instructors speak well or do they use poor grammar?  Are the instructors (not just the people you meet during the application process) able to relate to you?

Word of mouth.  Go to the LPN school’s Facebook page.  What are students saying that are in school now or have graduated?  Can you meet with someone that has been through the program?  It will be important to compare and contrast what students of various programs say. We've developed a ranking system based on first time NCLEX-PN test takers pass rates.

student loanPaying for LPN School

Vocational school is expensive – no getting around it.  There are five basic ways to pay for LPN school:

  • Cash - If a parent is able, a portion may be paid this way.  It is also possible for the student to work during high school to save a portion of the cost.
  • Loans -  There are student loans available through the government or school.  These are usually need-based with income limits restricting eligibility.
  • Scholarships -  Scholarships are available that are merit-based (based on your grades) or need-based (based on financial need).  There are many excellent scholarships available but be aware there are applications and deadlines to be met.  You can recognize a legitimate scholarship when contact information is available, an award is not guaranteed, and does not require an application fee.  You can recognize a possible scholarship scam when you receive an award for which you didn’t apply, they guarantee you will win, or they require a credit card number or money to apply.
  • Grants - Research government programs that pay for school in exchange for the graduate agreeing to work in a job and/or area of the country identified in need for a specific period of time after graduation.
  • Work-Study Programs -  These are sponsored by the school you are attending.  Usually in exchange for a portion of your tuition being paid you work at the school for a specific number of hours of work per week.

Read further into the various ways of paying for your LPN program.

LPN Course Prerequisites

In most cases, your LPN program will not have college courses required before entrance into the program.  However, it will be valuable for you to have taken high school classes emphasizing proper English grammar, reading, math, and science.

LPN Entrance Requirements

In order to be accepted into an LPN program, most schools require a high school diploma with a GPA of at least 2.0 or a GED certificate.  You will need to show proof of citizenship, and if English is your second language provide official results of your TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) test.   The TOEFL test is available on paper or online.  The program may require a criminal background check and have rules about what background can still be accepted into the program.

LPN School Application Process

The application and application process will take quite a bit of time to complete so start early!  First you will need to complete an application which may be on paper or online.  The application will have statements you will need to read regarding acceptance and continuation in the program – you will need to sign that you understand and agree.  There may be questions about criminal history or disciplinary action from a state regulatory agency.  You will need to provide information about your educational background, transcripts from all schools, and employment history.  Programs usually require several letters of recommendation from a non-family member.  There is also a required essay for you to complete on topics like your recent life experiences, reason for selecting the LPN career track, or you plans and aspirations for the future.  The purpose of the essay is for evaluators to feel your passion for being a licensed practice nurse!  It also shows then your command of the language, organization skills for writing and spelling abilities!  So take your time and write well and be passionate!

The Test of Essential Academic Skills – Most LPN schools require you complete a test of some kind showing basic academic abilities.  The test covers knowledge of math, science, grammar, and spelling – limited to the aspects of each that will be needed in order to function well as an LPN.  If you feel uncomfortable or unsure of how well you will do, you can purchase preparatory study material or online practice tests.  The test itself, depending on your location, costs around $100.  It will cost you to have official test result score sent to you intended LPN school.  You may be required to travel in order to take the test so plan to register early.  Each nursing school requires a specific test for entrance, so do check on the program requirement.  An example of one test, the TEAS, is at www.atitesting.com/solutions/prenursingschool/teas.aspx.  The school also may have an application fee that ranges anywhere from $25 - $250.  Once all the required documents are gathered, send them all required documents and the application fee to the program address.

Each LPN school has enrollment due dates, notification of acceptance/denial dates, and start dates.  Once you feel your application should have been received by the school, give them a call and make sure they received it.  Also ask if it looks like all the documents are in order and if any are still needed from you.  Also find out when you can expect an email or phone call regarding an application interview.

Application Interview.  If you have been asked to come in for an application interview, there are a few important things to keep in mind.  First, do some online research about the school for which you are applying.  What type of health care programs do they have there?  Why specifically do you want to be an LPN?  Why not an EMT, nurse’s aide or RN?   Of all the schools you could have applied to, why did you chose this school? Practice potential questions and answers with a friend.  Prepare for questions you may want to ask about the courses you will be taking, the clinical practicums and grade expectations.

It will be important for you to wear the appropriate attire for the interview.   There are many resources for dressing well for an interview, but here are a few suggestions:

General Interview Tips

  • If you have tattoos, cover as much a possible with clothing
  • No more than two sets of earrings that are visible
  • Clean hair - pulled back if possible

Females

  • Clear or no nail polish
  • A suit is good but not necessary
  • No sandals, tennis shoes, or extremely high heels
  • No heavy perfume
  • No jeans, nice pants or skirt are ok
  • Collared shirt (freshly ironed) or quality sweater

Males

  • Collared shirt, freshly ironed (no t-shirts)
  • Clean, short nails
  • No heavy cologne
  • No jeans, nice pants are ok
  • A suit is good but not necessary
  • A tie is good but not necessary
  • No sandals or tennis shoes

At the end of the interview be sure to understand when a decision will be made regarding acceptable into the school and how they will inform you one way or the other.  Once home, send a handwritten note to the school thanking them for the opportunity to interview at the school.

Letters: Acceptance or Denialsuccess

Usually schools will notify you my mail or email of your acceptance into the program.  The school will have published dates when letters or emails will be sent to let you know.  When you receive your letter or email of acceptance, the school will also provide you with an important school handbook if you do not already have one.  This school handbook is their school manual that describes things such as the dress code, attendance policy, smoking policy, inclement weather, health requirements, appointments with instructors, class and clinical time, parking, transportation, graduation requirements, grievance procedure, and student probation and dismissal procedures.  Read over the book carefully making notes if needed.

If you do not get into the program initially, you may be placed on a waiting list.  There are times a potential student may need to turn down going to school right then for financial and/or personal reasons.  As they drop off, you move up on the waiting list and may have a chance for getting admitted.  If you are not accepted into the school, contact the school regarding suggestions to improve your application for next time!  Was it a difficult interview that made the difference?  A poor TEAS score?  Commit to turning it around for the next application cycle!

Waiting for LPN Program to Start

waitingThis is a very important time to get your personal and home life organized so that you can best dedicate your time to school in the near future.  Suggestions may include organizing your clothes in your closet or cooking meals for your family for the freezer.  As you wait for school to start, this is a good time to work overtime!  Make those extra dollars you will need!  Organize a study area in your house for books, papers, and a computer.  Do a thorough job cleaning your house.  It may also be a good time to take your car in for a quick once-over so breakdowns are less likely while in school.  A set of four new tires may be in order.

Next Guide: How Much Does LPN School Cost? > During LPN School & Obtaining Licensure

Angela Ebel, MSN, RN

Angela Ebel, RN, MSN is a clinical nurse specialist currently in outpatient clinical practice and research. She is a graduate of Yale University and a Fellow in Patient Safety from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her nursing experience ranges from critical care, emergency, outpatient, and home health care. She has designed and implemented hospital error reporting software, implemented computer-based training, authored several CBTs, authored several book chapters and journal articles, been an educator for a trach speaking valve product, served as a nursing instructor, written several video scripts for a national patient safety provider, is a nurse blogger, and has been an instructor in an online patient safety fellowship using Blackboard. She is married with boy/girl twins, volunteers for local performing arts center, and volunteers for Camp Twitch and Shout for kids with Tourettes syndrome.