The Complete Guide to LPN to RN Programs
Both Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses play critical roles in the medical system, but if you are an LPN, taking the next step and earning an RN degree can offer a lot of advantages.
RNs have higher earning potential, more options for positions and specializations, more opportunities for advancement, and more long-term job security. But where do you start? This guide will explain exactly how to become a registered nurse as an LPN.
The Benefits of Completing an LPN to RN Program
Before we dig into how to go from an LPN to an RN, let's talk about why you should. Here are the top reasons LPNs choose to further their education and become registered nurses:
1.) Higher Earnings Potential
Simply put, RNs can make more money than LPNs. Registered nurses earn an average of $25,000 more per year than licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses (LVN).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a Licensed Practical Nurse in 2020 was $48,820 per year or $23.47 per hour. Median pay for a Registered Nurse rose to $75,330 per year or $36.22 per hour.
2.) More Career Choices in Both Position and Specialization
As a registered nurse, you have more chances to work in an area matching your personal interests, specializing in specific health conditions, specific work environments, or a specific patient population.
3.) Greater Autonomy
While LPNs work under the supervision of either an RN or a physician, RNs have greater authority to make decisions and take action based on their knowledge and experience.
4.) More Opportunities for Advancement
RNs have more chances to further their careers: they can move on to supervisory and management positions, as well as earn their master of science in nursing (MSN) degree, become a nurse practitioner or nurse educator, and more.
5.) Greater Long-term Job Security
Nursing is one of the few professions in which there is greater demand at higher levels of practice. The skills and knowledge of registered nurses are both valued and needed.
How to Go From an LPN to an RN
LPNs looking to advance into an RN career will need to complete the following steps:
Step 1.) Meet LPN-to-RN Program Requirements
Requirements for LPN-to-RN programs will vary based on the school, but you'll likely need:
- High school diploma or GED
- Minimum GPA
- An LPN license in good standing
- Proof of a minimum number of clinical experience hours
- Most programs will require a minimum of one year of working experience as an LPN
- Proof of a current BLS/CPR certification
- Proof of completion of specific general education courses.
- Proof of completion of specific nursing courses
- Passing score on entrance exams, which may include the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) exam.
2.) Enroll in an LPN-to-RN Bridge Program
LPN to RN bridge programs are specially designed to build on the education and experience LPNs have already received. There are two paths available:
- LPN-to-ADN program
- LPN-to-BSN program
Both LPN-to-ADN and LPN-to-BSN programs are available through online learning or in person. This means an LPN can continue earning a living while completing his or her coursework. Many LPNs find their experience and previous education provide a significant advantage in their RN program studies.
Step 2.) Complete Training Requirements
LPN-to-RN programs prepare you to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and to meet other requirements set forth by your state’s Board of Nursing. Courses will vary based on state requirements and the school’s goals and philosophies.
Step 3.) Apply for Your State License
The first license you ever apply for is generally called licensure by “examination”. You will apply to a state board of nursing to take the National Certification Licensing Examination (NCLEX) to become licensed in that state. Check with your state’s board of nursing to find out your specific requirements, as not every state has exactly the same requirements.
Step 4.) Take the NCLEX-RN
Once you are deemed eligible by the state board of nursing you are seeking a license from, you must sit for and pass the NCLEX in order to earn your RN license. Once you pass the NCLEX and meet all additional requirements, you will receive licensure in your state. Some nursing students take an NCLEX review course or use other study techniques prior to taking the test.
LPN-to-RN Bridge Programs
LPN-to-RN bridge programs are specially created to provide LPNs with an expedited path to the RN degree. This approach acknowledges the education LPNs already have, both through their LPN programs and their hands-on experience in professional nursing.
Many LPN-to-RN programs allow tests that can exempt you from courses on subjects you’re already familiar with. Good test scores earn credits that count toward your degree requirements.
As we mentioned earlier, there are two types of LPN-to-RN programs. Let's get into each of them in a bit more depth so you can figure out which is right for you.
An LPN-to-ADN program is an associate's-level program that will make nurses eligible for RN licensure. These programs are faster and less expensive than LPN-to-BSN programs. Making them a good choice for nurses looking to make the career move as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Upon completion of an LPN-to-ADN program, you'll be prepared to enter entry-level registered nurse positions.
LPNs and LVNs who become ADNs can pursue a bachelor of science in nursing degree if they want to further their education later on. You can often get this paid for by your employing hospital.
LPN-to-ADN programs normally require 60 to 72 credit hours and generally take one to two years to complete.
Where Can You Take These Programs?
These programs are frequently available at vocational schools, community colleges, and online.
An LPN-to-BSN program is a bachelor's level degree program. Like the LPN-to-ADN, you'll be eligible for RN licensure after you complete the program. But unlike the LPN-to-ADN, you'll have a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.
The LPN-to-BSN takes longer to earn and is more expensive, but since they surpass associates of science degree requirements these programs involve a more rigorous course of study.
Graduates also have more choices in the specialties that they are able to work within, as well as a higher likelihood of advancing into management and leadership positions.
RNs with BSN degrees also have the opportunity to later pursue a master of science in nursing degree.
LPN-to-BSN programs consist of 120 credit hours and take two to four years to complete.
Where Can You Take These Programs?
These programs are available through 4-year colleges and universities.
Online LPN-to-RN Programs
Most LPNs looking to earn their RN are already working, supporting themselves and their families. In other words, they're busy! Online learning programs can help time-crunched LPNs become RNs in half the time it would take in a traditional educational environment.
What You Need to Know About Online LPN-to-RN Programs
Before enrolling, LPNs and LVNs should make sure their online program is accredited, that the program offers the same qualifications as a traditional program, and that it prepares students for the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
Some online programs require students to spend a minimal amount of time on campus while others let students satisfy all the degree requirements off-site.
Benefits of Online LPN-to-RN Programs
One of the biggest advantages of enrolling in an online LPN-to-RN program is the ability to test out of general education classes by taking exams for class credit. Testing out can expedite the process because LPNs can avoid lengthy courses that do not directly contribute to the practical aspects of nursing care.
Online LPN-to-RN programs offer a number of other advantages including:
- Flexibility: You can learn while accommodating existing work schedules and busy lifestyles
- Efficiency: You can earn your RN degree in less time
- No waiting list: Admissions are “rolling” throughout the year
- No commute: Online programs are accessible no matter where you live
- Cheaper: Less expensive than degrees earned in traditional educational settings
Choosing an LPN-to-RN Program
As you consider the costs and reputations of online degree programs, make sure you also consider whether a program fits your life.
For example, some online programs require students to attend a percentage of classes in person. Others require clinical hours at a specific healthcare facility. If you don’t live nearby, you’ll have a hard time meeting these requirements.
Is an LPN-to-RN Program Right for Me?
Choosing to become a registered nurse is a big decision that you should base on your own personal goals, dreams and needs.
If you’re not certain whether to move forward, take a minute to compare your current LPN or LVN job responsibilities to working as a registered nurse:
- Rather than being supervised, as an RN you can be responsible for supervising others
- Rather than being asked to observe patients, you could make decisions about their treatment and provide patients with essential education about their health and specific conditions
- Rather than simply following instructions, you will be able to use your education and professional judgment to make decisions integral to the patient’s well-being and care
Additionally, as an RN you will have more extensive knowledge, greater earning power and personal and professional growth, and the ability to specialize in areas that are of interest to you.
The job market for RNs is experiencing tremendous growth, and by equipping yourself with an RN degree you will open the door to limitless opportunities.
How much does an LPN-to-RN program cost
- The costs to attend an LPN-to-RN bridge program depend on whether you are pursuing a bachelor’s or an associate degree. A bachelor’s degree can take twice as long to earn, so it requires more tuition. Other factors contributing to price include the school’s location, type of college -- community, state, or private, your residency status, and if you’re attending a public college or university -- in-state residents pay lower rates
What classes and clinicals will I take in an LPN-to-RN program?
- Nursing courses range from clinical assessment to nursing theory, management and leadership classes, basics of research, pediatric and/or geriatric nursing, writing, and psychology. All programs require clinical experience ranging from 200 to 500 hours. Some schools predetermine approved sites or facilitate internships and hands-on learning opportunities for their students; others require students to arrange these hours for themselves.
Why do LPN-to-RN programs need to be accredited?
Accreditation is a must for LPN-to-RN programs. Accreditation assures both you and your future employers your program meets current, evidence-based standards. There are two accrediting bodies for RN programs: the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), which accredits all levels of nursing degrees and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), which provides accreditation for programs offering Bachelor’s degrees and higher.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Registered Nurse Salary: US News and World Report
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing
- Johnson & Johnson Nursing
- Medscape RN/LPN Compensation Report, 2018
- National League for Nursing
- American Addiction Centers
- American Red Cross
- Daughters of the American Revolution
- National Student Nurses Association
- National CPR Foundation
- Federal Student Aid
- CNN Money