How to Become
an LPN or LVN

Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications

Choosing a career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) is worthwhile if you are planning to enter the field of healthcare. While a doctor prescribes treatment or medication to a patient, they cannot implement all the essential care needed. As an aspiring LPN or LVN, you will carry out that responsibility.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of acquiring a license to be a practical or vocational nurse.

What Is a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse?

An LPN is a healthcare worker who helps patients to eat, dress, bathe, and do other tasks considered as essential care. LPNs work together with registered nurses (RNs) and doctors to know about patients’ information. They can also effectively communicate with the patient’s family about health care procedures and protocols.

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The term ‘licensed practical nurse’ is used across the states in the US, except for California and Texas. In these two states, they use the term ‘licensed vocational nurse’ instead. But they both go through the same licensing process and do the same tasks. So, LVNs and LPNs are essentially the same. From this point, we’ll use LPN to refer to both.

What Type of School Should You Attend to Become
a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse?

You can enroll in a formal training program at a hospital, vocational school, or community college to become an LPN. Some of these learning institutions will require a high school diploma or a general education diploma with a GPA of at least 2.50.

In this non-degree program, you should accomplish 45 to 50 units of coursework and about 500 to 700 hours of clinical work. On average, it takes only about a year to finish the program. If you want to join the healthcare workforce as soon as possible, this career is a sensible choice.

Best Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse Education Tracks

You can choose to enroll in vocational schools, community colleges, and hospitals that offer LPN programs to invest in quality education.

Some learning institutions also offer excellent training programs online. However, they still require you to fulfill hours of hands-on clinical work to complete the program and apply for a license.

Various education tracks can help you get that license to be a practical or vocational nurse. Some of the factors you should consider include the institution’s reputation, tuition fees, and acceptance rate. You should also pinpoint those accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.


Vocational School

Vocational schools are less expensive to enroll in than traditional colleges. Here, you can finish a program in two years or less because you will not need to take subjects that are irrelevant to your chosen career, unlike in traditional colleges. This learning institution also allows greater class schedule flexibility in comparison to rigidly structured college courses.

Some vocational schools are only open to applicants from their state. So, we recommend that you check out your local vocational school before looking for others in a different location.


Community College

If the vocational school near you does not offer the subject you want to focus on, you might want to check out your local community colleges. Most community colleges do not offer online courses, but you’ll find a few that do. You can check out Edmonds College, and Northland Community and Technical College for online options.

It will take you only about two years of full-time enrollment to complete a program in a community college as they allow their students to choose nursing as a specialization. You will spend some of that time accomplishing prerequisite subjects like English, math, psychology, and social sciences.

Another advantage of studying in a community college is the lower tuition fees. You can even apply for scholarships or financial aid to significantly reduce costs without compromising educational quality. Because of their flexible schedules, community colleges are often the go-to learning institution for adult learners who are juggling study and work.


Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse Degrees

There are undergraduate- and graduate-level degrees that you can take to pursue a nursing career. Some institutions even offer post-bachelor or post-graduate certificate programs to further advance your knowledge in the field.

The most common nursing degrees include an LPN diploma, a Registered Nurse diploma, and an Associate Degree in Nursing.


Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse Courses

An LPN training program focuses on the fundamentals of nursing, medications, the anatomy of the human body, and disease development. If you want, you can also take specialization certificate programs to increase your knowledge in the field.

How to Become a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse

How to Become a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse: A Step-by-Step Guide

Becoming an LPN takes only two years and these three steps will start moving you towards that goal:

Find and choose an accredited practical or vocational nursing program.

It will help your journey if you can identify where you want to work as an LPN. This way, you can find out what kind of training is necessary.

Earn a degree or certificate.

Within 12 to 16 months, you have to finish your degree or certificate. Coursework includes academic, lab, and clinical components. Schools and colleges conduct both lecture and lab classes on campus or online. For clinical work, however, you will go to hospitals and nursing homes.

Register and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

After completing your program, you need to take the NCLEX administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Wait for about six weeks and hope for the best results.

Key Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse Skills

Key Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse Skills

As an LPN, your responsibility is to provide patients with essential care. To find out if this career is the right one for you, check out the Holland Codes developed by the academic psychologist Dr John L. Holland. The Holland Codes reveal that people with builder and helper personalities are well-suited to the role of an LPN.

Since your patients would have a wide range of personalities and varying medical concerns, equipping yourself with the following essential skills will help you out in your career.


Keep in mind that a patient’s frame of mind will be affected by their condition. As much as possible, treat them kindly and pay attention to their needs.

Interpersonal skills

Your interpersonal skills will come to the forefront when interacting with healthcare professionals and the family of the patient.


If you are serious about becoming an LPN, patience is a key personality trait. You have to keep your cool in challenging situations.

Communication skills

Be prepared to relay information from the healthcare professionals to the patients and their families in a language that they will clearly understand. It’s your job to simplify complicated technical medical terms.


Be keen on details while providing essential care and checking the records of the patient. Providing the appropriate care at the right time also relies on your attention to the patient.

Physical stamina

Be physically fit and increase your stamina to keep pushing through your hectic workday.

Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

An LPN earns a median pay of $48,820 per year based on the 2020 data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This occupation is growing five percent faster than the average rate, making it a practical career option.

Min salary


Average salary


Top salary


Entry-Level Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse Job Requirements

If you have been eyeing a particular position, it will be more efficient to take classes related to that. Your educational background should give you a grounding in health, safety, and sanitation standards and procedures.

Your medical vocabulary should also be rich enough to communicate effectively with doctors and other healthcare professionals. Basic computer knowledge, such as the use of Microsoft Word and Excel, should also be part of your skillset.

After securing your license to be a practical or vocational nurse, you can start applying for relevant jobs and positions. Be ready physically, mentally, and emotionally to take on the job opportunity offered to you.

What Does a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse Do?

What Does a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse Do?

Health and Records Monitoring

You will conduct monitoring activities such as checking the blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate of patients. Since LPNs spend more time with the patient than doctors and nurses, it should be easy for you to keep track and record their health status.

Providing Essential Medical Care and Basic Comfort

Dressing wounds, changing bandages, inserting catheters, and administering injections, are among the essential medical care tasks that you will provide. You will also be helping patients who need assistance in performing tasks such as using the bathroom, bathing, dressing, and eating.

Communicating with Key Healthcare Professionals, the Patient, and Family Members

LPNs discuss the care they provide and listen to patient and family concerns. You will then relay this information to the attending healthcare professionals on a regular basis.

Medical Care and Life Support

You can apply for certifications in intravenous fluid therapy, wound care, and healthcare management. There are also pediatric, cardiac, and basic LS certifications.

Medical Department

The American Board for Transplant Certification awards certifications to be a procurement transplant coordinator or clinical transplant coordinator. You can also get certifications to work in the cardiology, nephrology, pharmacology, urology, and medical research departments.


An LPN can also apply for certifications in gerontology, developmental disabilities, long-term care, correctional health care, hospice, and palliative care.

How to Prepare for Your Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse Job Interview

How to Prepare for Your Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse Job Interview

To prepare for your job interview, it’s a good idea to know the most common questions you will be asked. These will assess your technical and soft skills.

Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse Job Interview Practice Questions

  • Operational and situational questions will include hypothetical scenarios that will test your intrapersonal and communication skills as well as your technical knowledge.
  • Role-specific questions will most likely be about why you chose to be in the field, your expectations, and your concerns. They will also ask you technical questions.
  • Behavioral questions will mostly revolve around your social skills and interaction with professionals and patients.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse?

You can become an LPN in less than two years. This includes the coursework and the NCLEX.

Associate degree


Bachelor’s degree


Master’s degree


Should you Become a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse in 2021?

LPNs have higher salaries than other entry-level healthcare positions, like certified nursing associates. Due to the higher percentage of aging Baby Boomers and the after-effects of COVID-19, there might be more people in need of essential care. So, becoming an LPN is expected to be an in-demand career in 2021.

Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurse FAQ

Where can I work as an LPN?

You can work in long-term care facilities like nursing homes, hospitals, correctional facilities, and clinics.

What is the difference between an LPN and a nurse practitioner?

They differ in terms of autonomy. LPNs work under the supervision of RNs, while nurse practitioners can work on their own. A nurse also gets a significantly higher salary.

Can an LPN become an RN?

Yes. There are learning institutions that offer LPN-to-RN bridge programs to fill in the gap in knowledge and experience.

What is the passing rate for NCLEX?

According to the NCSBN, the average success rate in 2020 was 86.57 percent. Graduates with bachelor’s degrees performed better with a 90 percent average passing rate.

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