5 Main Differences Between an LVN and an RN

Nurse helping a patient in bed

Congratulations on making the decision to enter the expanding healthcare field. If you’re investigating your options for a nursing degree, understanding the difference between a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or a registered nurse (RN) can be overwhelming. Check out the main differences below so you can make an informed decision.

1. Schooling

RNs require a formal education. Some colleges and universities offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, and those programs tend to be very competitive. If you already have a four-year degree, or plan on getting one, you can then enroll in a two-year RN certification program after you graduate. You can also receive an associate’s degree in nursing through an accelerated program.

Students who are looking to enter the workforce quickly and need an LVN job in Los Angeles may be happy to learn that an accelerated program takes just over a year to complete. There are also courses at affordable community colleges that offer LVN to RN bridge courses if you want more opportunities after you are already working in the field.  

2. Licensing

Both LVNs and RNs are required to become licensed before they can work in the field. RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN exam and LVNs the NCLEX-PN exam.

3. Job Functions

An LVN works under the direct supervision of a nurse or nursing team to help with patient care. In fact, LVNs are legally entitled in most states to undertake many of the same tasks as a nurse, including:

  • Measuring and recording vitals
  • Collecting fluid samples
  • Administering medications through an IV
  • Changing wound dressing
  • Monitoring a patient’s reaction to medication
  • Advising patients’ families regarding ongoing care

An RN, in general, legally requires less supervision. However an LVN, depending upon the facility, may end up doing many of the tasks common to an RN.

4. Work Environments

LVNs and RNs are both in demand in all types of long-term and residential care facilities, hospitals, outpatient care facilities, clinics and doctors offices, nursing homes, and public health agencies. Essentially, LVNs are equally qualified to work in the same types of clinical environments as registered nurses.

5. Salaries

While RNs have historically had greater pay opportunities, especially if they’re new to the field, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that vocational nurse salaries will increase by 16 percent between 2004 and 2014. LVNs may also see immediate pay increase opportunities by achieving credentials in specific disciplines like pharmacology and gerontology.

Starting out as an LVN does not in any way limit your long-term career opportunities and will get you working in quickly. The right LVN school will get you in the field and gaining key professional experience much more quickly, and affordably, than starting out as an RN.

If you’re ready for a career change, or if you’ve just finished high school and want to join the workforce as quickly as possible, contact us to learn how, in just 13 months, you will be embarking on your new adventure as a healthcare professional. It’s always free to start your conversation with us.


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