What does it take to be a licensed practical nurse?

LPNs provide basic, direct care to patients, under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or physician. They give treatments, take vital signs, administer medications and more. To become an LPN you must have an aptitude for science and math, with interpersonal skills to effectively care for patients and their families. LPNs work long hours under demanding physical and mental conditions. Crucial skills include stamina and the ability to adapt to stress.


To become an LPN, you must attend a licensed practical nursing program, which generally takes 12-18 months. Coursework includes anatomy and physiology, pharmacology and math. Admission into an LPN program is often competitive.

Graduates from an LPN program are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN), which you must pass for licensure as an LPN.

Work environment

LPNs work in many settings including hospitals, long term and rehabilitation care facilities, physicians’ offices, clinics, schools and home care.

Career advancement

LPNs may pursue specialty certification, enhancing skills and knowledge. Specialty certification signifies personal and professional growth and may lead to increased career opportunities.

Often, LPNs return to school to become a registered nurse. LPN to RN transition or bridge programs give credit for previously earned coursework, where applicable. Many programs offer flexible scheduling and online options that accommodate busy personal and professional lives.


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of licensed practical nurses is expected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, with competitive salaries and benefits. An LPN career, though demanding and often stressful, is rewarding, with opportunities for growth and advancement.