LPN vs. RN

Head-to-head comparisons of salaries, education, job requirements, and more.


Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) in California and Texas, provide basic nursing care. They typically work in long-term care facilities or with patients who require chronic medical care.


Registered Nurses (RN) provide and coordinate patient care. Their exact responsibilities depend on where they work, their education, their specialty and their role.


LPNs earn a median salary of $48,070 per year or $23.11 per hour (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)


The median salary for registered nurses $77,600 per year $37.31 per hour (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)


What they do

  • Takes vital signs
  • Performs basic patient assessments
  • Administers medications
  • Handles activities of daily living (ADLs) which include baths, mouth care, dressing, turning, etc.
  • Does some procedures and maintains patient records.
  • Takes vital signs
  • Performs in-depth patient assessments
  • Administers medications 
  • Manages activities of daily living (ADLs), either by performing them or by delegating to an LPN or nursing assistant
  • Does specialized procedures
  • Writes charts
  • Researches and develops care plans.

What they do

  1. Earn a high school diploma or equivalent
  2. Complete a state-approved training program, typically one year
  3. Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN)
  4. Obtain license from state board of nursing
  1. Earn a high school diploma or equivalent
  2. Enroll in a nursing program, either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN)
  3. Pass the nurse licensing exam, the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  4. Obtain a nursing license from the state where you wish to practice 
  5. Find a job as a registered nurse

After earning an ADN or BSN, registered nurses can also earn graduate degrees in nursing. Read more: How toBecome a Registered Nurse

Frequently Asked Questions

What can an RN do that an LPN cannot?

It is easier to become an LPN than an RN. Becoming an RN requires at least an associate's degree in nursing (ADN), while many hospitals require a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN).

Is it easier to become an LPN than an RN?

An RN's scope of practice—what they're allowed to do—encompasses everything an LPN can do and more. For example, they can create treatment plans and perform specialized procedures. Unlike LPNs, RNs can manage LPNs and other nursing assistants. RNs can work in all of the LPN settings and add higher level hospitals and research institutions. They can also find careers in hundreds of other ancillary fields like healthcare administration, billing, pharmaceuticals and legal consultancy