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Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse

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Overall Score
(6.6 out of 10)

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Median Salary


Unemployment Rate

6.7 percent

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This Job is Ranked in
Best Health Care Jobs #23
The 100 Best Jobs #38

There is no health care professional who doesn’t perform an essential task, but licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses have a suite of responsibilities that are truly basic but absolutely imperative for receiving quality medical care. They check vital signs, perform enemas, install catheters, dress wounds, deliver medicine, massage muscles, assist patients in maintaining their hygiene, help with feeding (for infants to the elderly), start IVs, monitor medical equipment and so much more. The nature of their work means that licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses often have the most intimate, hands-on relationship with patients of any other in this industry’s sphere. Having bedside manner isn’t just a catchphrase for this job, it’s a necessity for the patient’s well-being and for the nurse’s career advancement.

Despite a convoluted name, the true differences between a licensed practical nurse, or an LPN, and a licensed vocational nurse, or an LVN, are ones of semantics and location. LVN is the term used for this occupation in California and Texas. Within the nursing hierarchy, LPNs and LVNs usually supervise nursing aides and orderlies, but work under registered nurses and nurse practitioners.

In this profession, new qualified personnel are almost always needed, but this is particularly the case as the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts more procedures will move away from the hospital setting and into outpatient care and nursing homes. Between 2012 and 2022 there could be 182,900 new positions, growing at a rate of nearly 25 percent. The BLS also predicts there will be a staggering 363,100 additional openings for LPNs and LVNs as older nurses phase into retirement.


The BLS reports the median salary for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is $41,540, which is an OK salary, but not a fantastic one compared to other health care jobs. While nursing care facilities and home health care services are the largest employers of LPNs and LVNs currently, they aren’t the top-paying industries. These types of nurses actually make better money working for junior colleges and insurance carriers. The five best-paying cities for LPNs and LVNs are all in California: San Francisco, Oakland, Salinas, Vallejo and San Jose.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $48,380
Median $41,540
25th Percentile $34,990


The road to becoming a licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse starts with a state-approved educational certificate program that usually lasts a year. The program includes courses in nursing, biology and pharmacology, combined with supervised clinical work. After graduation, but before starting work, LPNs and LVNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination, also known as NCLEX-PN. Some LPN and LVNs also choose to obtain further licenses for various skills or specialties, like IV therapy. For more information on the certificate programs and proper licensing, visit the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses Association’s website.

Reviews & Advice

There should be strong opportunity for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses in a variety of settings, but some of the best opportunity exists in residential care and extended care facilities. Many of the procedures that used to take place in hospitals have now been sequestered to these settings, and so LPNs and LVNs should consider finding work there. Opportunities also exist in the home health care field to assist geriatric patients, and it’s smart for job longevity and advancement to specialize in a branch of health care that focuses on long-term care like gerontology.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility fair Average
Stress Level poor Above Average
Flexibility fair Average
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Last updated by Jada A. Graves.

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