What to do after you become a licensed practical nurse

Career options that open up to you after you become a licensed practical nurse.

Pursuing a licensed practical nursing (LPN) credential is one of the fastest and most straightforward ways to enter the nursing profession. An accredited LPN program usually lasts no longer than 12 months, during which students complete intensive coursework and internships to gain the knowledge, skill and experience they need to function as medical staff. That means, in roughly one year, you can qualify for work in the medical field.

Yet, earning an LPN likely isn’t the last step of your journey as a nurse. Here are a few career options you might take after you complete your LPN program.

Find LPN Work

An LPN degree provides a functional nursing license, which means that you can find nursing work with real responsibilities after graduation. LPNs can and do work at a wide variety of healthcare facilities, from hospitals to nursing homes to private practices. LPNs can also lend their expertise to insurance companies, though this career path is much less common for those who wish to employ their nursing knowledge and skill.

LPNs are somewhat limited in the medical tasks they can perform. In most environments, LPNs are responsible for basic levels of patient care, to include collecting patient histories, measuring vital signs and delivering medical supplies to other healthcare providers. Many states restrict what types of medications LPNs can administer and what procedures LPNs can provide, which means that most direct healthcare is provided by more advanced nurses, like Registered Nurses or Nurse Practitioners, or physicians.

As a working LPN, you can expect to take home an average annual pay between about $36,000 and $57,000, depending on where you live, what kind of facility you work for and your level of experience. If you are desperate for any kind of reliable income, this salary might be sufficient to maintain your current lifestyle, but most LPNs soon become eager to improve their credentials and increase their earning potential.

Enroll in an ADN Program

If you crave more responsibility and higher pay, you should consider returning to school to become a Registered Nurse (RN). RNs coordinate and provide patient care, which can include performing basic procedures and administering medications to offering emotional support to patients and families. Many RNs also function as public health officials, educating patients and other members of the public about healthcare.

The fastest way to qualify as an RN is to pursue an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). ADNs are typically two-year degrees earned through community colleges, which means that education costs tend to be more manageable for ADN students. Many LPNs continue working while they pursue their ADN, and their real-world experience can make it easier to complete coursework and earn their degree. Once you find work as an ADN-RN, you can expect to bring home a salary between about $59,000 and $97,000, again depending on your location and expertise.

Unfortunately, there are some downsides to pursuing an ADN over a more prestigious BSN. ADN-RNs are less thoroughly trained than BSN-RNs, which means that in competitive markets, they will be less preferred by employers. ADNs also preclude the pursuit of more advanced certifications, like midwifery or anesthesiology, which can allow you to specialize and increase your salary. If you want a long and successful career in nursing, you might want to skip an ADN and use your LPN to catapult you farther up the nursing ladder.

Skip to a BSN Program

A Bachelor of Science in nursing is a nursing degree that requires participation in a four-year program from an accredited university. University programs tend to be more expensive and more intensive than programs at community colleges, which likely means you will need to continue working as an LPN and utilize financial aid to obtain this degree. Fortunately, you can find online BSN degrees, which make it easier to fit your courses amidst your work as an LPN.

A BSN provides benefits beyond qualifying you as a Registered Nurse. With four years of training, BSN-RNs earn dramatically higher salaries than you can expect with an LPN alone; depending on location, the starting salary for a BSN-RN ranges from roughly $60,000 and $124,000. What’s more, with a BSN, you can pursue specializations that can further increase your earning potential while awarding you with exciting new responsibilities in the workplace. Finally, a BSN is a prerequisite for any graduate degrees you might want to pursue to further your nursing career, so if you hope to earn a master’s or doctorate degree in this field, you need a bachelor’s degree to start.

You have an LPN certification, but that shouldn’t prevent you from doing more to build a successful nursing career. With an ADN or a BSN, you can enhance your potential and start on the career path of your dreams.