LPN Versus RN: What’s the Difference?

When discussing the LPN versus RN debate, there are numerous things to consider. Even though they sound similar, if you compare registered nurse vs. licensed practical nurse careers and education you’ll see they have fairly little in common in terms of job tasks, educational paths, and salary ranges. Whether you’re in nursing school and debating which degree to pursue, or you’re thinking about switching sides from one degree to the other, it’s important to know the differences between LPN and RN so you can make the best decision for you. The LPN versus RN debate is an important one, but luckily we’re here to help. Below are just a few of the biggest differences when it comes to the LPN versus RN debate.

LPN Versus RN – What You Need to Know

Nursing Education

For starters, many believe that the path towards an LPN license is a little easier than an RN license. While that is still up for debate, many also view RN as the tougher, but more financially rewarding, nursing option. In terms of education, licensed practical nurses go through a licensing process that is very similar to registered nurses. There is a screening process and often a fingerprint-based background check. LPNs are accountable to their licensing agency when it comes to demonstrating the ethical practice and following the scope of practice.

They also must pass a national exam. The NCLEX is offered at both the RN and PN levels. The NCLEX-PN is considered the easier exam, but differences go beyond difficulty level. Both tests assess knowledge and decision-making appropriate to a particular job role. The NCLEX-RN requires more critical thinking; the RN is expected to carry out more assessments and make more decisions on his or her own before seeking the support of a supervisor.

RN and LPN jobs

Job Duties

An LPN will be tasked with providing basic medical care to patients. They may be asked to check blood pressure, insert catheters, and bathe patients among other things. They will also report the status of patients to doctors and RNs. RNs on the other hand, administer medication and treatment to patients, coordinate plans for patient care, perform diagnostic tests and analyze results, instruct patients on how to manage illnesses after treatment, and oversee other workers such as LPNs, nursing aides, and home care aides. Basically, RNs are usually tasked with taking on more duties, but they are also compensated for this increase in workload.


One of the biggest factors in the LPN versus RN debate is the salary. While an LPN makes around $42,490 per year, an RN makes upwards of $68,450 dollars per year. While this increase in salary does catch the eye of many healthcare students, it’s also important to remember that in order to become an RN, you’ll be spending more time in school and therefore, you’ll need to pay more tuition money, so be sure that you have your finances in order before starting this career journey.


Most LPNs work in physicians’ offices, home health care facilities, nursing care facilities, medical and surgical hospitals, and community care facilities. They can also choose to work in psychiatric hospitals, correctional facilities, outpatient clinics, dialysis centers, and blood banks. Many choose an LPN career because of the flexibility it offers. As an LPN, you’ll be able to choose where you work, and in many cases when you work as well.

RNs are majorly employed in general medical and surgical hospitals. However, they may also find a job in physicians’ offices, home health care services, and nursing care facilities. Besides, they can opt to work in correctional facilities, schools, summer camps, educational services, government agencies, administrative and support services, and military forces. Since RNs take on more of a management role, you will usually be in bigger facilities that will have you overseeing multiple people at once. This is great for those who the like the hustle and bustle of a nursing job.

Looking for a travel job? Be sure to use TravelNurseSource to find the ideal LPN or RN assignment.

Already an LPN or RN? What advice do you have for those trying to make a decision between the two careers? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Author: Troy Diffenderfer

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