Guide To LPN-to-RN Programs (Plus Online Options)

Updated June 24, 2022

Healthcare systems rely heavily on both Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Registered Nurses (RNs) to care for patients and restore their health. If you are an LPN, you may be considering progressing in your career and becoming an RN. There are a variety of benefits to earning the RN qualification so you should think about the process to follow. In this article, we explain what LPN to RN programs are, including online LPN to RN programs, the benefits of becoming an RN, the salary you could earn and the job outlook.

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What is an LPN to RN program?

An LPN to RN program is an accelerated and abbreviated program that expands on the skills developed in the LPN program. It allows you to qualify as an RN in a much shorter time frame because as an LPN, you will already have learned many of the basic practical skills and theory to care for patients. Since the LPN to RN programs aim to enable you to qualify as an RN by the fastest possible route, many schools allow students to sit exams for subjects that they already know well. If the student does well in the exam, these scores can earn credits towards the degree.

When you choose your program, it is important to ensure that it is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). BSN programs can also be accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

There are two types of LPN to RN programs: the LPN to Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)—which is the entry-level qualification—and the LPN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, which is a comprehensive program of study.

LPN to ADN program

The standard ADN usually takes two years of full-time study, but with an LPN to ADN bridge program, you could qualify with an ADN. LPN to ADN programs contain between 60 and 72 credit hours. The course covers the core skills that are involved in patient care and the LPN to ADN program focuses on practical nursing skills. These courses prepare student nurses for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) To gain licensure as an RN, all states require that nurses pass this exam.

You must attend practical training during clinical hours in the program. Courses include from 200 to 500 supervised training hours with patients. Schools may arrange this training for their students or, in some cases, the student must arrange their own clinical hours.

You should note that although you can qualify for RN status with the ADN, the BSN is quickly becoming the preferred qualification, and many employers state that the BSN is a requirement.

LPN to BSN program

A standard BSN takes four years, but through the LPN to RN bridge programs, you can earn a BSN in three years. LPN to BSN programs prepare you for the NCLEX-RN exam and are 120 credit hours.

The program is much more rigorous than the ADN and expands upon the material in the ADN program. The curriculum covers nursing theory, advanced sciences, organizational leadership and management, social sciences, research methods, public and community health. The BSN focuses more on nursing theory than the ADN.

Benefits of earning an RN degree as an LPN

Enrolling for an RN degree and qualifying for RN status is a logical step to take for an LPN. There are many associated benefits to earning an RN degree including:

  • Independence: Legally, an LPN must work under the supervision of a superior nurse or physician. An RN is able to work on their own and because they have a greater level of training and education, they can make more decisions by themselves.

  • Specializations: LPNs tend to work in general settings providing care to a wide range of patients. As an RN, you have the opportunity to choose a specialization and work with the patient population, health condition or work environment that interests you the most.

  • Salary: An RN earns a much higher salary than an LPN. The difference in salary is around $25,000 per year.

  • Career advancement: Once you are an RN, there are opportunities to move into supervisory or managerial positions, or as a Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Educator. You can also choose to advance your education further with a Master of Science in Nursing or Doctorate degree.

  • Job security: RNs are in greater demand than LPNs because of their ability to work autonomously and as specialists. The job demand is expected to grow for RNs.

Related: Learn About Being a Nurse Practitioner

RN salary and outlook

Registered Nurses of all specializations are in high demand and are expected to grow by 12% in the period up to 2028 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is a larger prediction of growth than that of the general job market. A greater number of RNs are needed to enter the healthcare field and to replace RNs in the workforce who are retiring.

Job opportunities arise for RNs as the population ages and lifespans increase. Older people frequently have more health problems than younger people, leading to a higher occurrence of chronic conditions and illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis, coronary disease and dementia in the general population. There is a greater need for RNs in general and particularly in the specializations, such as geriatrics and oncology.

RNs can command a higher salary than LPNs. A common wage for an RN is $28.89 per hour, whereas, by comparison, an LPN salary is $26.47 per hour. Salaries vary according to the location and size of the employer and also depend upon experience and specialization.

Compared to an LPN, an RN is more senior and therefore has more responsibilities. The majority of RNs work in hospitals. In contrast, most LPNs work in residential care facilities and provide basic healthcare.

There are many more opportunities for both employment and job advancement when you hold an RN as you require less or no supervision and can perform more advanced procedures. Below, you'll find some of the nursing jobs that require RN status. For the most up-to-date information from Indeed, please click on the salary link for each job title.

1. Home Help Nurse

National Average Salary: $1,421 per week

Primary Duties: A home health nurse provides care to a wide variety of patients in their own homes. Patients may need care because they have been discharged from the hospital, are elderly, disabled or have a chronic, long-term illness.

2. Neonatal Nurse

National Average Salary: $1,786 per week

Primary Duties: These RNs specialize in caring for newborn babies with health conditions. They also provide education to baby parents and support to babies as they are being born, especially if they are premature.

3. Nurse Practitioner

National Average Salary: $111,345 per year

Primary Duties: A nurse practitioner is a highly trained nurse who performs many of the same duties as a physician. You will need to be a registered advanced nurse and pursue a Master of Science or Ph.D. in Nursing.

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Online LPN to RN programs

LPNs can choose to enroll in an online LPN to RN course as an alternative to the traditional college campus-based program. Colleges and schools have developed online programs—sometimes called "hybrid programs"—to suit the needs of LPNs who continue nursing as they are earning their RN credentials. There are several advantages to opting for an online LPN to RN program which are as follows:

  • Flexibility: Students can fit in their study schedule around their work, family and home life and study at their own pace, full-time or part-time. Some online courses offer live teaching sessions where you must log onto the class at a specific time, but the majority of classes are asynchronous. These types of classes can be accessed at any time and you can interact with your teacher and fellow students in discussion forums or through private messaging. The level of flexibility also extends to enrollment. Most courses allow students to join the course at any point in the year which means you do not have to wait until September to begin.

  • Convenience: You can study in your own home, in the library or anywhere you choose. You do not need to spend time commuting to campus, finding a parking space or walking to class. All you need is access to the internet and you can study.

  • Cost: Most online courses have lower course fees than campus-based courses. You will also save a lot on commuting costs such as fuel and parking permits.

Most colleges offering online programs operate in a similar manner. Students undertake the majority of their classes and examinations online, but they must attend laboratory and clinical experience modules at the campus. Some programs allow students to complete some or all of their clinical experience with a local health care provider.

For the majority of students, learning online presents more advantages than traditional programs. However, if you prefer to have a greater level of peer interaction and the ability to talk to your lecturers in real-time, you should consider a campus-based program.

Since the requirements for RN licensure vary by state, you should check to ensure that the online program you are interested in fulfills them. This is especially important if you intend to enroll in an online program that is not based in your own state. No matter which program you choose, it is vital to select one that is accredited.

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