There are many different paths to take in the field of nursing. One of the most common and popular is the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) route. LPNs perform basic patient care, typically under the supervision of Registered Nurses (RNs) and doctors. They can work in a wide variety of facilities, including outpatient facilities, rehabilitation clinics, long-term care homes, and much more.
One of the great things about becoming an LPN is that it’s a perfectly viable career choice all on its own, but it can also serve as a great stepping stone to other areas of nursing (becoming an RN, for instance). Your experience as an LPN will serve you well in any healthcare facility you work for in the future, and it’s a great foundation for a lifelong rewarding career in the medical profession.
Another piece of good news is that becoming an LPN doesn’t require you to go to an expensive four-year college or spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on your education. It’s a good way to advance your career in the medical field in a relatively short time frame without spending a lot of money. Plus, like most other healthcare professions, the long-term growth outlook for the LPN career field is good.
How Long Does It Take to Become an LPN?
While this varies, most people finish their LPN program in one or two years. There are accelerated programs available that may allow you to earn your LPN certification in an even shorter time frame, though.
But what kind of education do you need to become an LPN? What are the certification—and recertification—requirements like? How much does it all cost? Let’s dive in and take a closer look at what it takes to become an LPN.
What Education Do You Need to Become an LPN?
Before even applying to an LPN program, you’ll need your high school diploma or a GED. This is the first educational requirement for becoming an LPN.
The next step is to enroll in an accredited LPN training program. These are available through many vocational schools, community colleges, and other facilities. The key here is to make sure you’re attending an accredited program; otherwise, you won’t be able to be board-certified at the end of your educational journey. Most programs are accredited through the National League of Nursing Accrediting Agency (NLNAC).
LPN programs themselves vary in exact curriculum but generally cover similar topics. You’ll study the fundamentals of nursing, including basic patient care and safety protocols. Human anatomy and biology will also be a part of your studies, as well as things like pharmacology (using and administering medication) and adult and child nursing.
LPN Certification Process and Requirements
After graduating from your accredited LPN training program, a candidate will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) exam. You’ll need to pay a fee (about $200.00, although this varies by state) to register for the licensing exam, and then it can be scheduled within the authorization window and taken at various centers around the country.
If you don’t pass the NCLEX-PN exam on the first attempt, you can try again for additional fees. In certain states, you can work under a temporary permit while you’re waiting to take the test the first time, but this privilege isn’t granted to candidates who don’t pass on the first try.
How Much Do LPN Certification Programs Cost?
The cost of LPN programs varies widely by state and the program itself. According to practicalnursing.org, the average national cost for LPN programs sits between $10,000 and $15,000. However, some programs can cost significantly less, around $4,000 or $5,000, and some can cost upwards of $30,000.
What makes up this cost? Tuition is the main factor, or the classroom time and educational fee. In some cases, other costs are wrapped up in the tuition itself, or they may be charged separately. That includes things like textbooks, equipment, scrubs, and NCLEX-PN testing fees. Keep in mind that there can also be fees for things like parking, cafeteria fees, technology fees, and more.
If the cost of nursing school seems overwhelming, don’t worry—there are various options available to help mitigate the cost. There are scholarships, federal or state grants, and loans. Work-study programs are another option, in which the student works a part-time job while enrolled in school and the money made at the job goes toward educational expenses.
You may wonder how much LPNs make compared to the cost of the education required to become one. According to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay rate for licensed practical nurses is $24.08 an hour, which is about $50,000 a year. Compared to the cost of LPN school—a few thousand dollars, in some cases—this is a great return on investment.
How Long Does It Take to Get an LPN Certification?
Most LPN programs take about a year to complete, although—as is the case with other areas of the LPN career—this can vary depending on a variety of factors like the school or program you choose, the curriculum, and whether or not you pass the NCLEX-PN test on the first try. There are accelerated programs that allow you to complete the program in as little as six months, and other programs that may take two years or more.
Note that in order to become an RN, you’ll need at least an Associate’s degree in nursing, if not a four-year Bachelor’s degree. This is one of the reasons that the LPN career is so attractive to many nurses. Even if the educational requirements seem like they’ll take a long time, it’s far shorter than the requirements for becoming a Registered Nurse. That means it’s a good way to get your foot in the door of the nursing field before continuing on and advancing your career if you so choose.
How Often Do You Need to Get Recertified?
Re-certification is an essential part of remaining employed as an LPN. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for how often you must get recertified; it depends on the state in which you’re licensed. You’ll need to check with your state board of nursing to find out the exact requirements for being recertified.
Regardless of the state you live and work in, you’ll need to complete continuing education units (CEUs) in order to remain current on your skills and learn about new developments and procedures in the world of nursing. CEUs can include things like training courses offered by your employer, reading approved articles or watching approved videos, and attending lectures and seminars.
How to Get Started
Certification programs, testing, recertification… it can all get a bit overwhelming for someone looking to break into the nursing field and become an LPN. Let’s break down the steps for getting started as a licensed practical nurse.
- Obtain your high school diploma or GED. If you don’t have one of these, it’s the first step toward becoming an LPN.
- Choose an accredited nursing school and enroll in an LPN program. There are accredited programs all across the country, offered at community colleges, vocational schools, and other facilities.
- Complete your program. Most programs take about a year to complete, although there are accelerated tracks that allow some students to complete the program in as little as six months.
- Sit for the NCLEX-PN exam and pass it. You’ll need to pass the NCLEX exam for Practical Nurses before you’re able to get board-certified and start practicing as a nurse.
- Find a job and continue to get recertified as your state requires. Now you’re ready to start your nursing career as an LPN. Remember that depending on your state’s requirements, you’ll need to get recertified by completing continuing education units on a regular basis.
How long does it take to become an LPN? About a year, give or take, in most cases. You’ll need to complete an accredited LPN program and pass the NCLEX-PN exam to start working as an LPN, and then you’ll need to be recertified on a regular basis as your state requires.
Remember: the growth outlook for this type of career is very good. That’s due to several factors, including an aging population that will need more healthcare as well as chronic illnesses requiring more hands-on-deck to help with. Plus, the LPN career is a great stepping stone toward other areas of nursing, including specialized positions, Registered Nurses, and many others. And with a relatively low cost for the education required to become an LPN compared to a good starting pay rate, becoming an LPN is a cost-effective choice and a wise personal investment for many aspiring nurses.
Are you interested in becoming an LPN? BOS Medical can help. We place nurses in healthcare facilities across the state of Georgia, and we’re excited to partner with you on your career journey. Contact a member of our team to learn more about our staffing service and what we can do for you.