How to Go from LPN to RN

LPNs are some of the most valuable people in any medical center or hospital. But even LPNs who love their jobs may eventually get bored or want to earn more money. The best way to do that? Going from an LPN to an RN, or registered nurse.

But that’s a little easier said than done! Becoming an RN involves:

  • Getting another degree
  • Studying for a big exam
  • Getting RN licensure
  • And more

No worries, though. I’ve taken this route myself and I’m here to tell you it is possible to go from LPN to RN in just a couple of years. Let’s break it down.

What is an LPN vs RN?

An LPN or licensed practical nurse is a nursing professional who doesn’t need a college degree in order to work in the healthcare sector. LPNs provide all kinds of basic nursing and medical care, including:

  • checking blood pressure
  • ensuring the comfort of their patients
  • discussing the healthcare of patients
  • reporting on patient status to doctors
  • and more

Becoming an LPN is relatively straightforward compared to obtaining an RN degree. To become an LPN, you have to:

  • Complete an accredited and practical nursing program. This usually takes about one year to complete. Many of the best LPN programs can be completed at community or technical colleges, or may even be provided by medical centers themselves
  • Subjects include biology, nursing, pharmacology, and more
  • Once you complete your practical nursing program, you can receive an LPN certification
  • LPNs must take the National Council Licensure Examination in order to get the license

LPNs play a key role in medical environments ranging from local clinics to larger hospitals. As they acquire experience and spend more time at a given location, LPNs can eventually advance to certain supervisory positions.

However, your progression is effectively capped as an LPN. In order to progress your profession even further, you’ll need to eventually become an RN or Registered Nurse.

A registered nurse is essentially an advanced version of an LPN. The big distinguishing factor between both professions is that RNs can administer medication and treatments to patients. Their additional duties include:

  • coordinating plans with doctors for patient care
  • performing more complex diagnostic tests
  • analyzing the results of those tests
  • instructing patients about how to take their treatment or manage their illnesses
  • oversee other medical workers such as LPNs and nursing aides

Because of these additional duties and responsibilities, RNs must complete some extra educational requirements.

Why Progress to RN from LPN

I hear you – why bother progressing from an LPN to an RN when being an LPN gives you a stable degree and a decent salary (often up to $50,000 a year or so)? Plus, you have to spend lots of time getting your RN degree, which might seem unnecessary or too tough.

I get it. But there are lots of good reasons to progress to an RN from an LPN.

More Earnings

For starters, you have much higher earnings potential as a registered nurse compared to staying as a licensed practical nurse. In general, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs earn almost $25,000 more per year than equivalent LPNs. RNs usually earn around $73,000 per year compared to $47,000 per year.

That’s quite a chunk of change!

More Choices in Position

Many LPNs, despite loving their jobs, are still limited in terms of where they can work and limited in terms of their specialization. RNs, in contrast, have more opportunities to work in areas that match their interests. Plus, RNs get to specialize in medicine or care topics that are more interesting to them.

This also means that RNs get greater freedom while being able to live in more areas compared to LPNs.

More Autonomy

LPNs are almost always supervised and rarely get to make decisions for themselves. RNs get to make calls and have actual authority – it’s easy to think of them as “head” nurses. They aren’t doctors, of course, but they actually get to administer treatment to patients and can even reach supervisory and management positions.

Speaking of which…

Opportunities for Advancement

RNs get to advance much more than LPNs. There’s just more room to grow in terms of your professional career. So if you want to constantly be progressing and become as good of a nurse as possible, obtaining your RN degree is the way to go.

Many RNs, since they have to complete a bachelor’s degree anyway, also obtain a Master of Science in Nursing eventually. This allows them to become either nurse practitioners or nurse educators.

More Job Security

RNs have greater job security compared to LPNs, just because their positions require more education and practice. This means that, in the event of a hospital or clinic downsizing, RNs are less likely to be let go or transferred to another location compared to LPNs.

All in all, I think it’s pretty clear that there are lots of reasons why you might want to become an RN if you’re already an LPN. But how exactly do you do that?

Obtaining an RN Degree

There’s technically no such thing as an “RN degree”. Instead, there are two types of degrees that can allow you to become a registered nurse.

Program Types

The first registered nurse program is an Associate Degree in Nursing or ADN. This degree only requires about two years of education, so it’s a good choice for those who don’t want to go to school for as long as up to four years.

As an associate degree, however, ADNs don’t usually allow you to progress to management or higher positions as a registered nurse. Still, ADNs will allow you to take the requisite exam to obtain RN licensure.

The other degree is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or BSN. Most registered nurses opt for the latter degree since it provides them with more professional freedom and opportunity to progress as they gain experience. But BSNs usually take up to four years to complete.

Both types of degrees must be accredited in order to count as an “RN degree”. Furthermore, both types of degrees will discuss subjects like:

  • Core nursing competencies
  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Physical therapy
  • And more

If you know that you want to become a registered nurse from the get-go, you can also go straight into LPN-to-ADN or LPN-to-RN programs. Both of these are fast track degree program types offered by certain universities or colleges.

They build on any experience or education that you already have as an LPN and accelerate you to RN licensure, often helping you take and pass the exam as well. The former type of accelerated program is usually found at community colleges or vocational schools while the latter can be found at major universities with good healthcare departments.

Online Programs

You might also consider taking an online program to become an RN. This is because many LPNs who want to progress to RN licensure are currently working, so online programs usually provide a better fit for their job requirements.

Online programs are usually asynchronous, so you can juggle your schoolwork with your nursing responsibilities. Plus, many online LPN-to-RN programs allow you to test out of certain classes. You can take tests, then get class credit if you can prove you already know the content of a particular class, helping you to get your degree that much more quickly.

Many online programs are also eligible for tons of great financial aid, and the vast majority don’t have waiting lists since admissions are handled on a rolling basis throughout the year.

Plus, as an already-registered LPN, you won’t have to worry about any physical or practical requirements to obtain your degree. It’s all digital, removing the need for a commute to a brick-and-mortar university!

RN Program Requirements

There may be tons of RN degree programs available, but their requirements are somewhat strict. Most RN degree programs will require:

  • A high school diploma or equivalent, like a GED
  • You must also already have an LPN license
  • You’ll need to have a certain number of clinical experience hours. Different schools have different requirements, but a good rule of thumb is to expect one year of working experience as the bare minimum
  • Proof of your BLS/CPR certification
  • Proof that you complete and certain nursing courses and general education courses. Again, this is all dependent on the university in question
  • Good GPA of 2.7 or above on average

The admission requirements are usually a little lower for ADN degrees, but not by much.

RN Degree Costs

You’ll also want to think about how much a degree costs. There are lots of factors that can affect the overall cost for a certain school:

  • Location – schools in bigger, more populated cities are usually more expensive
  • Content – more rigorous programs may also be more expensive
  • In-person programs are usually pricier
  • Reputation – particularly well-known programs may be more expensive

In general, expect to pay anywhere between $30,000-$60,000 for your full degree over time. Online programs are often a little more affordable – you may even be able to pay off your tuition as you work as an LPN.

Plus, you can always look into scholarships and other financial aid options. There are tons of great opportunities to lower your tuition as a nursing professional.

After Obtaining Your Degree, Acquire RN Certification

Getting a degree is just the first step to becoming an RN. You’ll then have to get a nursing license – this is accomplished by passing the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX-RN. It’s basically the RN version of the same licensure exam you have to take to become an LPN.

Note that this does involve paying an exam fee and getting scheduled for a particular testing date. This gives you time to study for the exam material (there are plenty of online resources as well), plus pick a date that works well for your schedule.

Once your date arrives, you can take the test. If you pass, you’ll receive RN licensure!

Recap: How to Go from LPN to RN

As you can see, the path from LPN to RN is relatively straightforward, even if it may take several years.

  • Apply for and be accepted by an RN degree program: either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree
  • Get your degree from an accredited university
  • Apply for the NCLEX-RN
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN
  • Begin working as a registered nurse

You can get started on your path to RN certification by finding a great school using resources like Try them today and I’ll bet you won’t be disappointed.

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