If you’re interested in coordinating care, educating the public and helping to treat ill patients, then a career as a nurse might be right for you. And while there are various specializations that nursing professionals can study to qualify for, generally speaking, a nurse begins as either an RN (registered nurse) or LPN (licensed practical nurse).
While they have their differences — most notably in education requirements — both occupations are favorable careers in terms of demand and average salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs earn an average $65,470 per year and LPNs earn in the neighborhood of $41,450 per year. The BLS also states that the RN field is growing at a faster-than-average clip of 19 percent, and the LPN profession at 25 percent, much faster-than-average, due to the increase in specialized health care services.
But as we mentioned, the big difference between the two professions is the education requirements. RNs typically must minimally earn a two-year associate’s degree, but more health care facilities are requiring a bachelor’s degree in nursing, or BSN. LPNs, on the other hand, only need to complete a state-approved program, which typically takes about a year’s worth of time.
RN Degree Requirements
According to the University of California Irvine, the current trend in health care is to employ RNs who have earned bachelor’s degrees in the field. Therefore, it’s recommended that if you want to become an RN and be the most attractive to potential employers, you should go the four-year route and earn a BSN rather than an associate’s degree.
UC Irvine’s BSN program starts with entry-level nursing courses and becomes more complex — including a mix of research and science in the course curriculum — as students advance in the program. Typical first- and second-year courses include “Structure and Function of the Human Body,” “Biochemistry” and “Nursing as a Societal Profession.” In the latter years of the program, students are educated on the more intricate aspects of the profession, such as how to care for patients with special needs, community nursing, and infant illnesses.
After you earn a BSN and achieve the proper RN certification, you’ll qualify to work in hospitals, physicians’ offices and nursing facilities.
LPN Degree Requirements
Unlike RNs, the most common place of employment for LPNs is in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and private homes. And also unlike RNs, the education requirements differ for LPNs. While an RN’s best route is earning a bachelor’s degree, extensive education isn’t necessary for an LPN. Typically, LPNs are just required to complete a one-year program and earn a postsecondary, nondegree certificate.
According to All Nursing Schools, students learn about pre- and postsurgical care, anatomy, nutrition and other aspects of client care throughout the program. They also learn about clinical work, caring for patients with varying disorders, and obstetrics. It’s also worth noting that many LPN degree programs can be transferred into BSN programs if a student wants to pursue the field beyond the LPN level. While there are more education requirements involved in becoming an RN, the earning potential is also much greater than that of an LPN.