Jobs for licensed practical and vocational nurses (LPNs/LVNs) are on the rise. Learn about how to become an LPN/LVN and what it takes to succeed in this vital healthcare career.

LPN and LVN careers are expected to grow faster than average over the next several years, and the right training can give you the knowledge and skills you need to join their ranks. Here's a rundown of the type of duties that members of these essential nursing careers might perform in an average day on the job:

  • Monitoring patient health by checking blood pressure and other vital signs
  • Providing basic patient care such as changing wound dressings or starting IV drips
  • Listening to patients' concerns and discussing their treatment and care plans
  • Maintaining patient health records and reporting their status to registered nurses and doctors

Where do licensed practical and vocational nurses work?

LPNs and LVNs can find employment in a variety of different healthcare settings. Here's a list of the top destinations for licensed practical and vocational nurses, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Nursing homes and other residential care facilities
  • State, local and private hospitals
  • Physicians' offices
  • Home healthcare services
  • Government agencies

How to Become a Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN)

LPN and LVN careers throughout the country require that candidates complete an approved educational program and pass a licensing exam, among other state-specific criteria. Here's a list of the typical steps followed by aspiring practical and vocational nurses:

  1. Earn your high school diploma or equivalency degree
  2. Enroll in a state-approved degree or certificate program in practical or vocational nursing
  3. Take and pass the national licensing exam
  4. Apply for an LPN/LVN license in your state
  5. Consider optional certifications in areas such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), intravenous (IV) therapy and gerontology

LPN/LVN training programs typically take about a year of full-time study to complete and are typically found at community colleges and technical schools. Some may include online courses for extra flexibility. Accelerated or part-time programs may be available at certain institutions.

Exams and licensing for LPNs/LVNs

All aspiring LPNs/LVNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Licensed Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) before they can work in the field. A state license is also required, although the exact requirements for licensure are set by authorities at the state level. Check with your state board of nursing for more details about how to become an LPN in your state.

LPN/LVN Salary and Career Outlook

For an idea of the type of salary LPN and LVNs might expect, as well as potential job growth in the coming years, take a look at the table below that uses national data from the BLS:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses697,510$48,500
2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Important Skills and Abilities for LPN/LVNs

  • Coordination, or the ability to adjust your actions in relation to the actions of others, can help clinical tasks go more smoothly
  • Problem sensitivity gives you the ability to more accurately keep tabs on patients' conditions by accurately sensing when problems are arising
  • Monitoring a patient's condition as well as your own performance will help you stay at the top of your game
  • Service orientation can be a big help, since those with a natural inclination toward helping people tend to feel more fulfilled in their nursing careers
  • Written comprehension allows you to accurately interpret patients' medical records and the treatment notes left by doctors and other nurses

Resources for LPNs/LVNs

Take a look at the following organizations for career support as a licensed practical or vocational nurse:

  • Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed June 28, 2019,
  • Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, Occupational Information Network, accessed June 28, 2019,
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