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The Differences and Similarities Between LPNs and RNs

Published: January 13, 2015 | Updated: September 8, 2020

Modern technology has made taking college classes online not only possible but also an enriching academic experience. Read on below to gain a better understanding of the differences between RNs and LPNs.

Differences Between LPNs and RNs

RN Programs Are Longer than LPN Programs

A registered nurse has a Bachelor of Science degree and is a graduate of a four-year nursing program. RNs learn about pharmacology, physiology, delivery systems, etc. They need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for Registered Nurses in order to practice their profession.

The length of study to become a Licensed Practical Nurse is much shorter. LPNs need only to complete a one-year Practical Nurse program and pass the NCLEX for Practical Nurses.

RNs Handle a Wider Range of Issues than LPNs

LPNs are always supervised by either an RN or a doctor. They cannot make independent medical decisions regarding the care of a patient. They typically prepare and assist patients with feeding, dressing and bathing, insert catheters, collect samples, prepare and give injections, and dispense certain drugs or medications. LPNs, however, cannot administer restricted medicines or intravenous narcotics.

RNs address and handle a wider range of issues. They can administer medicines, create and manage nursing plans as well as assist doctors in examinations and treatments. Because of their longer education and wider range of responsibilities, RNs receive a bigger salary than LPNs.

Most RNs Work in Medical Offices, LPNs Work in Nursing Homes

There are ample work opportunities for both LPNs and RNs. Most LPNs work in nursing homes or assisted care facilities where they become charge nurses. Many RNs work in hospitals and medical offices. RNs can build on their four-year degree with a Master’s degree and thus find increased employment opportunities. LPNs can become RNs by completing the course requirements and passing the NCLEX for Registered Nurses.

Similarities Between LPNs and RNs

Both RNs and LPNs work directly with patients. In varying degrees, they are responsible for the care and well-being of their patients. Both are highly employable in different work settings (hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, etc.). Because their work brings them in constant and direct contact with people, RNs and LPNs have to be sociable, approachable and exhibit a genuine desire to help people.


Charter College offer a number of healthcare programs in Alaska, including a Nursing A.A.S. program. We’ll give you the training you need to excel in a nursing role. Contact us today to learn more about our career programs.