How Much Can I Make as an LPN/LVN?
After about a year of training, you’ll be ready to consider well-paying nursing jobs—and have a foundation for future learning and earning.
Licensed practical/vocational nursing (LPN/LVN) is a job you can jump into quickly. Most LPN programs can be completed in a year or two, even if you attend class part time. You’ll be well compensated for your education, especially compared to other roles that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) current Occupational Outlook Handbook, the mean (average) expected annual salary for LPNs/LVNs is $48,500. By comparison, a BLS study of occupations (not just nursing) by typical entry-level education shows that those holding a postsecondary non-degree award typically earn around $37,670.
That means your LPN/LVN education can go a lot further and help you earn a lot more than other jobs—healthcare or otherwise—with similar educational requirements. Plus, working as an LPN/LVN gives you the chance to gain experience in the nursing field. If you’re eager to advance your career, you can use your LPN/LVN education and experience to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and get your registered nursing (RN) license down the road.
“Many RNs start off as LPNs,” explains Michelle Paul, an RN and content specialist with staffing agency Clipboard Health. “It’s often more financially helpful to be employed as an LPN while in an RN nursing program.”
Keep in mind that actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, geographical location, years of experience, and a variety of other factors.
What’s My Earning Potential?
Like other nursing jobs, an LPN/LVN’s salary is often based on where exactly they work. According to the BLS, LPNs/LVNs working for home healthcare services often earn more money—an average of $49,900 per year—than LPNs/LVNs in other settings. In a close second are jobs in skilled nursing facilities, which the BLS reports pay around $49,780 annually.
Like most fields, advancing your education can help you boost your earnings even higher. For LPNs/LVNs, this normally means earning RN licensure. An LPN-to-RN program can help you reach that goal. It’s an educational program designed specifically for LPNs looking to build off their existing education and offers students a pathway to either an ADN or a BSN degree. With a degree in hand, you can pursue licensure as an RN and position yourself for a higher salary.
Depending on the program, you may be able to attend school part time so you can study for your new degree and license while you work.
How do LPN/LVN Salaries Compare?
LPNs/LVNs make an average of $48,500. Check out the table below to see how that compares to other healthcare careers.
|Nursing Career||Median Annual Salary|
|Physical Therapist Assistant||$58,520|
Is There Demand for this Career?
There is a demand for LPNs/LVNs in certain fields. While RNs often fill the majority of hospital roles, LPNs/LVNs are needed in skilled nursing facilities, home healthcare, and other settings. Home health LPNs/LVNs are predicted to be especially in demand since the home health industry is projected to grow overall.
Not only is the aging of the baby boomer generation creating an increased need for nursing care, but home healthcare has many advantages. It’s popular among patients and cheaper for insurance companies, two things that will fuel its continued growth. LPNs/LVNs are a major player in home healthcare, both now and as the field continues to grow.
Overall demand for LPNs/LVNs has declined in recent years as the educational standard has shifted to RNs, says Justine Nelson, a former LPN who has worked as an RN for the past 12 years. She says that while there are fewer roles for LPNs/LVNs in hospitals than there used to be, there is still a demand for nurses at all levels.
Many people work as LPNs/LVNs while pursuing their RN license.
“Over the past few decades, many hospitals have switched to hiring RNs over LPNs, reducing the number of LPN jobs over time in a variety of facilities,” Nelson says.
That’s not to say that starting out as an LPN/LVN is a bad idea. The job offers valuable, hands-on nursing experience, a good salary, and a starting point for future growth.
“Many LPNs are only LPNs for a short time while they finish getting their RN licenses,” Nelson says.
The nursing field as a whole continues to face a nursing shortage as demand for qualified staff increases while nursing programs struggle to keep up, according to Nelson. Nurse burnout often results in high turnover rates for nurses, fueling demand.
What is the Job Growth for the Field?
The BLS anticipates LPN/LVN employment will grow 9% through 2029, which is much faster than average. Be aware that national long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions.
Where you work could also have a huge impact. The BLS reports that a lot of that 9% growth might be found in outpatient settings and rural areas. According to the BLS’ job outlook report, many procedures that once could be done only in hospitals are now being done outside of hospitals, creating demand in other settings, such as outpatient care centers. Job prospects should be favorable for LPNs and LVNs who are willing to work in rural and medically underserved areas.
How Much Competition Will I Face for a Job?
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses looking for jobs in physician offices and outpatient care centers may find they face some competition because these facilities usually offer regular weekday hours and a more comfortable workplace environment.
Hospitals and other around-the-clock facilities need LPNs/LVNs on nights, weekends, and holidays, which may not be as appealing to some job seekers, making competition less fierce.
What Kind of Institutions Hire LPNs/LVNs?
Aspiring LPNs/LVNs have a range of options when it comes to their work location. The BLS reports the following industries employ the largest number of LPNs/LVNs:
However, that doesn’t mean those are your only options.
“While skilled nursing facilities and home health are popular settings for LPNs to work, LPNs also work in hospitals and medical/physician offices,” says Nelson. Remaining open to the possibility of travel could greatly expand your job options as well. “There are also many LPNs who work as a traveling nurse.”
How Can I Advance My Career?
In most fields, furthering your education can help propel you to the next phase of your career. It’s no different for LPNs/LVNs. Earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) will allow you to apply for your RN license. This can advance your career and increase your pay.
Can I Increase My Earnings?
There are several ways to increase your earnings as an LPN. One popular way is to pick up overtime shifts. In fact, a 2019 Medscape report on RN and LPN/LVN compensation says that 37% of LPNs/LVNs reported supplementing their income with overtime shifts. How much your earnings can increase with overtime will depend on how many shifts you pick up, but for many nurses it can add up.
For example, the BLS reports average hourly wages for LPNs of $23.32. Since overtime pay is 1.5 times your regular pay, that means LPNs/LVNs make an average of $34.98 an hour while working overtime. That’s $279.84 for an eight-hour shift. If you picked up two overtime shifts every month, you’d earn an extra $6,716.16 in a year.
Can I Earn a Certification?
You can earn a certification in a specialty line of work as an LPN/LVN. Certifications are a great way to show you have experience and knowledge as a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse. They can also boost your career opportunities and earning potential.
Adding a certificate may boost your earning potential.
Gerontology certification, for example, trains LPNs/LVNs to work with the elderly. This and other certifications are available from the National Association of Licensed Professional Nurses (NALPN) Education Foundation. LPN/LVN certifications are also available from the National Association of Practical Nurse Education and Services (NAPNES). NAPNES certifications include: