Salary and Benefit Differences between LPNs and RNs

Obviously, there are vast differences in the salaries of registered nurses and LPNs. Due to the demand for registered nurses, along with the higher levels of education one must obtain to become an RN, salaries are higher across the country for RNs compared to LPNs. However, since the LPN profession has been a long standing career for many people, is the pay increase for these long term LPNs worth the added training and clinical time that will be required? In order to answer this, we must first evaluate the differences in the roles of these two professions, as well as career outlook and pay scale for those careers.

LPNs typically perform clinical and practical type duties of caring for the sick, injured, and convalescent patients under the observation and direction of registered nurses and physicians. This entails taking vitals, treating injuries with dressings and topical medications, monitoring patient statuses, bathing and general hygiene of patients, as well as an assortment of other basic caring needs for their patients. LPNs are usually employed in such places as physician's offices, nursing homes, hospitals, and even employment agencies.

Although the LPN may find employment in a wide range of working environments, the duties of an LPN remain somewhat constant. Their one year of practical training provides only enough education for the LPN to provide basic care to patients, and does not really give the LPN enough education to pursue a wide variety of career choices. In other words, the job descriptions for LPNs remain very similar in virtually every working environment. [More on LPN Career Opportunities]

Salaries for LPNs vary across the US, and with some variations depending on the working environment. However, LPNs seldom see high enough salaries to provide a comfortable income that would be needed to sustain and support a family. Most LPNs find that their salary is just not enough to support their family and a second household income is required to provide a comfortable lifestyle for their families. According to a March 2007 report on LPN salaries from, the median salary for an LPN is between 32k and 41k in the reported states.

Registered nurses must receive a minimum education of at least an associate degree in nursing. However, due to the enormous range of career opportunities available for RNs, training for many positions and job titles may require bachelors, masters, or even a Ph.D.


Registered nurses are the largest workforce in the healthcare industry. Their education provides them with the knowledge and skills to not only treat the sick and injured, but also how to educate other healthcare professionals and patients as well. They serve as extensions of many physicians, and as decision makers regarding the treatment and long term health needs of their patients. In virtually every setting, RNs take a leading roll in providing effective patient care, administrative decisions, and educational needs of the healthcare industry.

Career choices for RNs far outnumber those of an LPN. Positions as educators, staff nurses, administrators, home health care, and many more, are available for those holding a registered nursing license. Registered nurses can find employment in virtually every sector of healthcare, including patient care and, teaching, and administration.

The salary for an RN depends greatly on many factors. The amount of education, the level of licensure, job title, length of service, and working environment all play a part in determining the income of an RN. While it is nearly impossible to provide salary figures that cover all aspects of the registered nursing career, median figures for new registered nurses across the country can provide a basic idea of what a student can look forward to when first entering a nursing career.

According to, on average a registered nurse can expect from one city to another are above 50k per year. The report also demonstrates a nearly $15k/year increase in salaries of new RNs over experienced nurses. Among employers, nurses can expect higher salaries working for governmental agencies and private contract facilities, while lower salaries were recorded for nurses working in schools and self employment environments. The US Bureau of Labor and Statics shows that in 2004 average nursing salaries fell within the same ranges, but the top 10% of nursing jobs offered salaries upwards of $74k/year.

While the figures demonstrated for nurses may appear to be somewhat lower than expected, one must consider that these figures reflect the pay scales of nurses based on those holding only a basic license of registered nurse. Since nurses have a wide range of educational options available, salaries for positions requiring higher degrees are certainly higher than shown, and may very well exceed 100k/year in many of the employment options available.

What one must understand when trying to decide whether or not they should step into a career of a registered nurse is that the career choices for LPNs may seem to be wide open, but the pay scales for LPNs remain constant and almost certainly will not provide a substantial income for their household. Advancing into the environment of a registered nurse not only immediately increases the employee's salary, it also offers a great many more opportunities for advancement and substantial increases in duties and salaries along the way.

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