What is a LPN

LPNs (also known as Licensed Practical Nurse, or Licensed Vocational Nurse) are licensed health care professionals who are trained to handle bedside care of patients dealing with illnesses, injuries and disabilities under supervision of registered nurses, physicians and other health care professionals. They are an essential component of any healthcare team. The nature of their work means LPNs usually have the most intimate, hands-on relationship with patients than any other healthcare professionals. Read more about how to become a LPN.

Work Environment

Licensed practical nurses work in a variety of different health care settings including hospitals, continuing care facilities, physician clinics, community health centres, urgent care centres and in clients’ homes. However, nursing care facilities employs the most number of LPNs, with over 200,000 jobs or 29% of all LPNs in the US. Working as a nurse can be stressful and tiring considering they have to be on their feet all day, and they have to lift patients out of bed and assist them to walk.

Work Schedule

Majority of LPNs or LVNs have to work full-time hours while the reminder worked part-time or on variable schedules. They are required to work evenings, weekends, and holiday hours as hospitals and nursing care facilities open all hours of the day. Nurses are commonly required to work 12 hour shifts, sometimes 2-4 days in a row, and then a few days to rest.

How Much Does a LPN Make?

The average annual licensed practical nurse or LPN salary is $42,910. The best paid in the industry makes more than $58,020, while the lowest paid earned just shy of $32,000. The highest employment of LPNs and LVNs are found in hospitals and nursing care facilities. Because of fierce competition, these nurses average around $43,960 annually. The best paying industries for this profession are in insurance carriers and junior colleges, making around $50,000. Although Connecticut holds the top spot for the highest paying state for LPNs and LVNs, but the best paying cities are all in California: San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Barbara, San Jose and Sacramento.

Average LPN Salary vs. Related Occupations

Compared to other healthcare professions, LPN’s salary fall in the middle of the pack. They make an average salary of $42,910 which is less than registered nurses ($68,910), nurse practitioners ($95,070), and nurse anesthetists ($157,690). However, they do make more than certified nursing assistants ($26,020), and medical assistants ($30,780).

Job Outlook

Like certified nursing assistants and other nursing professions, the demand for LPNs and LVNs is growing at a faster than average pace. In fact, from 2012 to 2022, the growth rate for new jobs is estimated at 25%. This would result in 182,900 new jobs over these 10 years, allowing these licensed professionals to work within the growing numbers of hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and other institutions throughout the country. Main factors driving this growth are an aging population, an increase in the number of LPNs retiring, and a rise in basic healthcare needs.

Because it takes only one year to become licensed as either a LPN or LVN, this is an appealing career for individuals wanting to work in the medical industry without having to proceed through a lengthy education. The degree is relatively simple to obtain, and after passing an exam for licensing purposes, individuals are already prepared to work. Consequently, this has led to the popularity of this profession that will eventually employ almost 1 million Americans.

LPN Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$42,910 per year
$20.63 per hour
Top 10% Salary$58,020 per year
$27.90 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$31,300 per year
$15.05 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2013705,200

What Affects The LPN Salary

LPNs and LVNs are essential to the care of patients in various healthcare settings. Their responsibilities are basic but yet absolutely vital for quality medical care. The growing healthcare industry is encouraging for individuals seeking to enter this profession, provided that employment continues to increase at its projected rate in the coming years.

A quick look at the salary trend for licensed practical nurse reveals a consistent increase in wages year over year. In 2004, LPNs were only making $34,000 per year. The annual salary increased by about $1500 the next year and follows this pattern until 2009. The salary growth continues from there but at a slower rate than before. One major reason for this slow down in growth is contributed by the financial crisis in 2009, when the US economy took a major hit. However, the future of LPN remains bright as the demand outpaces the supply, hence the growth will accelerate again once the economy fully recovers.

As jobs increase, salaries are likely to fluctuate as the result. There are a number of factors that can impact the salary of licensed practical nurses, some of which include experience, education, industry expertise, and location.

Experience and Education

Experience often means the transition from nursing care facilities to more specialized facilities. This is especially true because there are no training programs beyond initial licensing for a LPN position. Obviously, this means that experience is the primary factor that can lead to higher earnings in this field of work.

Obtaining extra certifications is fairly common among LPNs nowadays. Certifications such as wound care, basic cardiac life support, basic life support, advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support, neonatal resuscitation, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation are popular among those who wish to have better job opportunities and higher wages.


Top paying industries are those with the lowest concentration of LPNs. Once licensed, these nurses begin work in nursing care facilities, hospitals, and physician’s offices. However, the average salary for these locations are generally lower. LPNs with more experience tend to secure positions in the highest earning industries including junior colleges, insurance carriers, and agencies/brokerages, with an annual wage ranging from $49,280 to $51,370.


Coastal states with the highest levels of employment are also those that pay the highest annual salaries to LPNs and LVNs. Due to higher populations in these areas, more hospitals and healthcare facilities are required to satisfy the increase in demand for experienced LPNs and LVNs. Among the top paying states are Connecticut, Alaska, and Nevada.

However, the top paying metropolitan areas for this profession are almost all exclusively found in California. To no surprise, California has the highest living standards of all United States. Nonmetropolitan areas with the highest paid LPNs and LVNs are found in California, Alaska, and Connecticut.