LPN to RN Programs

Since registered nurses (RNs) have greater responsibility than licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs), make more money, and are more frequently promoted and placed in positions of leadership, it is common for LPNs to return to school to become RNs. The easiest way to accomplish this is through “bridge” programs, which are designed for working professionals who need the flexibility of evening or weekend classes, or the option of online classes. LPN to RN bridge programs typically take about 18 months to two years to complete, and graduates leave with an associate’s degree of nursing (ADN). Others may choose to enroll in LPN to BSN bridge programs, which will typically take a bit longer, and result in a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree.

Why Enroll in an LPN to RN Nursing Program?

LPN to RN programs are ideal for LPNs who want to increase their level of knowledge, their responsibilities at work, and their rate of pay. LPNs can give basic patient care, like changing bandages and inserting catheters, but they sometimes work under the supervision of RNs, and their duties are restricted. In many states, LPNs cannot give medication or start intravenous drips (IVs), for example. RNs are entrusted with much more responsibility than LPNs, and sometimes specialize in a particular area. Addiction nurses, genetics nurses, or rehabilitation nurses can all be RNs. Because of their more specialized knowledge, RNs also earn a higher salary than LPNs. Additionally, since hospitals typically require an RN license for staff positions, getting an RN license can increase employment opportunities. LPNs often enroll in LPN to RN programs so that they can take on more responsibilities and become more trusted in the workplace. They may also be looking to make more money or to be promoted. LPN to BSN programs are ideal for those who have more time to become an RN, and who want a bachelors degree in nursing as opposed to an associates, since RNs with their BSN tend to make more money and are more often promoted to positions of leadership.

LPN to RN Nursing Program Requirements and Prerequisites

While the requirements to enter an LPN to RN program vary by school, a high school diploma or a GED is typically the minimum requirement. Some prerequisites are also usually required, such as English, math, anatomy and physiology. Each school will also have minimum requirements based on standardized test (ACT or SAT) scores, high school grade point average, and the overall strength of the college application (including the statement of purpose and letters of recommendation). Some schools require applicants to take the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) before being admitted. Applicants for LPN to RN bridge programs must be licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). Some programs require letters of reference from a recent employer, a CPR certification, or a background check.

People wishing to become RNs should have a genuine desire to help others, good communication skills, and physical and emotional stability. They should also be strong students, especially in the fields of biology and other sciences. A career in nursing can be physically and emotionally draining, often with long hours and unstable schedules, but it can also be extremely rewarding. People with compassion, organizational skills, stamina, and excellent people skills will be the most successful in the field.

LPN to RN Nursing Program Coursework

The coursework in LPN to RN nursing programs will vary by program, but most take around 18 months to two years to complete. LPN to BSN programs will take more like three to four years to complete. Typically, students are required take courses like anatomy & physiology, biology, English composition and chemistry prior to admission into the LPN to RN program. Program courses might include:

  • LPN to RN Bridge Course
  • Foundations of Professional Nursing
  • Nutrition
  • Pharmacology for Nurses
  • Clinical Nursing
  • Psychiatric Nursing
  • Maternity and Newborn Nursing
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Applied Principles of Health and Disease
  • Applied Ethics in Clinical Practice
  • Leadership and Management in Healthcare
  • Medical-Surgical Practicum
  • Advanced Clinical Assessment

In addition to the coursework listed above, students in LPN to RN programs may also be required to complete some clinical work, where they will practice hands-on skills. Depending on the program and the student’s work history, the clinical work may be able to be completed at the hospital or clinic where the student works. In some cases with enough prior experience, students may be given clinical credit for their prior work history, or it may be skipped altogether. Students in these programs are also expected to maintain a minimum grade point average in order to graduate with an associate’s degree in nursing.

Online LPN to RN Programs Versus On-Campus Programs

Since most students in LPN to RN schools are working professionals, online programs can be a good option. Accredited online LPN to RN programs provide more flexibility than traditional programs, and they are usually designed for nontraditional students, even allowing students to take one class at a time if needed. Some online programs offer year-round admissions and class schedules, making it easier for working students to enroll and attend class. LPN to RN online bridge programs might be cheaper overall than on-campus programs, especially when taking into consideration the time and money students will save by not having to travel to and from class each day.

Online programs are not for everyone, however. Attending school online requires students to be highly self-motivated and driven, since their schedules can be somewhat self-managed. Traditional on-campus programs offer students the social aspect of meeting and collaborating with their fellow students and asking questions of professors after class, which can be beneficial. While LPN to RN bridge programs online do provide a way for students to interact, electronic interaction is not the same as physically being in the same room with others, and some students can find this isolating. Some nurses will prefer an online option for the convenience and flexibility, and others will prefer the traditional classroom as a means to becoming an RN. With advantages and disadvantages to each, nurses must decide which type of program is best for them.

Career Opportunities for Graduates of an LPN to RN Program in Nursing

After completing an LPN to RN or an LPN to BSN program, graduates will need to pass the RN-licensing exam, or the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). The NCLEX covers the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for entry-level nursing practice and tests the critical thinking ability of the candidate. It is a highly individualized test, meaning that the computer selects each question based on how the previous one was answered. Most questions are multiple-choice, but there are also a few format questions, which may be open response-style, or others that may ask test-takers to identify body part. Once this exam is successfully passed, candidates will be certified to be registered nurses.

Nursing is one of the most popular job fields, and it is in relatively high demand. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2,711,500 registered nurses in 2012 earned a median wage of $65,470.1 Compare that to $41,540, which was the median salary of the 738,400 LPNs and LVNs in the same year.2 The outlook for RNs is also promising. Registered nursing jobs are expected to increase by 19% by 2022, with 526,800 jobs expected to become available.1 In contrast, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects only 182,900 LPN jobs to become available through 2022.2 The job pool for RNs is larger than that of LPNs, which should make it easier for RNs to find a job and to move to other jobs if desired.

The increased demand for nurses is due to the aging of the baby-boomer generation, growing rates of chronic illnesses among the general public, and the retirement of many nurses in the coming years. Nurses who are willing to work in medically underserved and in rural areas will have an advantage in the job market. Longer-term care facilities are expected to have a greater need for nurses than hospitals, and home healthcare is also expected to see an increase, so ADNs who apply for these jobs may have a better chance.

Additional Resources

The National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing – Established 30 years ago, this organization exists to support those who have associate’s degrees in nursing. Find furthering educational opportunities, news and networking opportunities on their website.

Nursing World – The American Nurses Association is a professional organization for all registered nurses. Membership provides opportunities in networking, advancement, and education.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) – Visit the NCSBN’s website to find out about the exams offered, practice analyses, and testing locations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I transfer courses from other colleges or universities to an LPN to RN program?
Most colleges and universities will accept transfer credits from other schools, but will likely require a minimum passing grade for those classes. Check with your school of choice for more information on transferring college credits from other schools.

Should I choose an LPN to RN bridge program or an LPN to BSN program?
For LPNs wishing to become RNs, but who would like to save time and money, LPN to RN bridge programs are an excellent choice. They offer flexibility that traditional programs do not, they are shorter than bachelor’s programs (18 months or two years versus three to four years for a bachelor’s), and they are more cost-effective. But, RNs with their BSN do tend to make more money and be promoted more readily than RNs with an ADN, so for some nurses, it may be worth the extra time and effort to get their BSN in nursing with an LPN to BSN program, which can also offer flexibility for working nurses.

Are in-person clinicals required for LPN to RN programs?
It depends on the program, but most schools do require in-person clinicals. Some schools will take into account the student’s work history, allowing the clinical work to be completed at the hospital or clinic where the student already works. Other programs may allow students with enough prior experience to skip clinical work altogether. Check with LPN to RN schools for more information about their clinical requirements.

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm