Difference Between LPN and RN

Most people aspiring for a career in the nursing field often look for courses that would equip them to become LPNs or RNs. There are other specialized nursing occupations of course, however, these two are the most common as there is a high demand for them. However, the difference between LPN and RN nurses may not be immediately clear to some. A student must carefully consider the job descriptions of each and compare it with his or her personal goals and objectives before committing to a course. This article will help you understand the difference between LPN and RN nurses, and will hopefully help you decide which one you want to be.

Difference Between LPN and RN

difference between lpn and rnFirst of all, let’s break down what LPN and RN means. LPN stands for licensed practical nurse, while RN is short for registered nurse. From here on out, we’ll refer to each occupation by their acronym.


In regards to education, a LPN undergoes a shorter training course of more or less a year of nursing school before being qualified to take the licensing exam. On the other hand, a RN must complete a course that is much longer and more extensive – anywhere from two to four years, depending on the program.

A LPN is educated on the fundamentals of biology, pharmacology and patient care. A RN studies the same subjects, but spends more time learning about each subject on a more advanced level. RN programs also involve more subjects about the wider aspects of patient care, including communication, psychology, leadership, and many others.

Exam Requirements

Another difference between LPN and RN nurses is the licensing exam that a graduate must pass in order to work in the medical field as a professional. LPNs are expected to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nursing or NCLEX-PN before being able to work as a practical nurse. RNs on the other hand, must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nursing or NCLEX-RN in order to be a licensed nurse.

Job Responsibilities

Because the period and scope of their education differ, LPNs and RNs also have varying roles in the work place. A LPN usually deals with more fundamental aspects of patient care including dressing wounds, inserting catheter, or monitoring changes in the body temperature. A LPN is also expected to help an injured or ill patient eat, move, sit up, stand up, or move, especially if the patient’s motor skills are affected by the medical condition.

RNs are tasked with larger responsibilities when it comes to patient care. This includes more complicated parts of a treatment program including adjusting medication doses. Since a RN has more knowledge in the medicine, he or she is more capable of advising patients and their families on how to go about managing a treatment program prescribed by a physician.

LPN Duties RN Duties
  • Collect patient medical history
  • Input information into computers
  • Clean and prepare medical equipment
  • Prepare/give injections or medication
  • Collect samples for laboratory tests
  • Measure/record patients’ vital signs
  • Providing emotional support
  • Inform patients and family about medical instructions
  • Monitor food and fluid intake
  • Assisting with daily needs
  • Schedule appointments and billing
  • Supervising CNAs
  • Moving patients, managing IVs, immunizations
  • Prepare or perform physical exams
  • Analyze and maintain health histories
  • Inform patients and family about medical instructions
  • Order, analyze, and evaluate diagnostic tests to assess patient’s health
  • Observe and record symptoms and changes in patient’s health
  • Change patient treatment plans as necessary
  • Direct and supervise CNAs and LPNs
  • Implement nursing care plans with nursing team
  • Monitor patient diet and physical activity
  • Prepare and administer medications or wound care
  • Analyze patient information and make critical decisions when necessary


And of course, since RNs are tasked with more responsibilities than their LPN counterparts, not to mention that their education is harder to complete, they are also paid accordingly as well. Here is a chart that will show you just how much a LPN and RN can earn respectively.

LPN Salary RN Salary
Percentile: Annual salary (2014):
10% $31,640
25% $35,780
50% (median) $42,490
75% $49,450
90% $58,710
Percentile: Annual salary (2014):
10% $45,880
25% $54,620
50% (median) $66,640
75% $81,080
90% $98,880

The Road to Becoming a Nurse: Difference Between LPN and RN

Many LPNs use their prior education as a stepping stone to become a full-fledged RN. There are many courses that offer LPN to RN paths through various programs – may it be through an Associate of Science in Nursing course or a Bachelor of Science in nursing course. LPN to RN programs usually require one to three years of working as an LPN before being accepted into the course. There is also usually a test of academic skills that should be passed before a prospective student can be accepted into the program.