Nursing Salaries: How Much Does a Practical Nurse Make?

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  • LPNs must complete a year of education and pass the NCLEX-PN licensing exam.
  • Practical nurses work in various settings, including nursing homes and hospitals.
  • The average practical nursing salary is less than the average salary for registered nurses.

Licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, work in various settings to provide basic medical care. People in this career usually assist registered nurses and physicians.

Some of the responsibilities of this nursing job include monitoring patients' health by taking vitals, updating records, and discussing care with patients. They may also administer medication and provide care such as inserting catheters. In addition, practical nurses provide patients with basic comfort and may dress or bathe them.

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What Is the Average Practical Nurse Salary?

The median annual LPN nurse salary was $48,070 as of May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Practical nurse salaries may depend on where you live and your level of education.

The type of work you pursue will also impact your salary as a licensed practical nurse. Some practical nurses work as LPNs or LVNs in hospitals, nursing homes, or physicians' offices. Others work in schools as school nurses, or within patients' homes as home nurses or hospice workers.

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
Median Salary (May 2021): $48,070

School Nurses
Average Salary (July 2022): $47,960

Home Nurses
Average Salary (August 2022): $66,970

Highest-Paying Practical Nurse Jobs

High-paying nursing jobs, such as a registered nurse or nurse practitioner, require more education. You must earn a bachelor's or master's degree and obtain licensure.

Highest-Paying Practical Nurse Jobs
Practical Nurse Job Average or Median Annual Salary
Licensed Practical Nurse $48,070 as of May 2021
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies $30,290 as of May 2021
Registered Nurses $77,600 as of May 2021
Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners $123,780 as of May 2021
Charge Nurse $76,820 as of August 2022

Data from the BLS and Payscale

How Much Do Practical Nurses Make in Your State?

Practical nurse salaries differ depending on where you live and what specialty you pursue. Some areas of the country with higher costs of living, such as New York and California, tend to see higher LPN salaries. Salaries may be lower in the Midwest, although this depends on the job.

Median Salary for Practical Nurses by State (2021)

Editor's note: Some of the salary numbers above may be based on relatively small samples, and potential salaries could vary widely depending on the employer.

The Highest-Paying States for Practical Nurses (by Median Salary, 2021)
LPN or LVN Nursing Assistant Forensic Nurse School Nurse
1. California
2. Alaska
3. Washington
1. Alaska
2. New York
3. California
1. New York
2. California
3. Idaho
1. New York
2. New Hampshire
3. New Jersey

Data sourced from the BLS and ZipRecruiter

Job Growth for Practical Nurses

The BLS projects employment of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses to grow 6% from 2021-2031. This is about as fast as the average of 6% for all occupations. Residential care facilities and home environments will especially need LPNs and LVNs to help take care of the aging baby boomer population.

However, employment in nursing jobs that require more education is expected to grow much faster than average. For example, the BLS projects the employment of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners to grow by 40% from 2021-2031.

What Practical Nursing Specialties Pay the Most?

According to the BLS, LPNs and LVNs who work in government facilities earn the highest median salary of the career at $52,210 per year as of May 2021. Unfortunately, government workplaces provided the fewest practical nurse jobs of all industries as of May 2021.

Most LNPs and LVNs work full time under the direction of RNs and doctors to provide basic care for patients. They may monitor and keep records of patients' health and assist with bandaging patients or inserting catheters.

Other industries they may work in include:

  • Nursing and residential care facilities: $49,620
  • Home healthcare services: $48,350
  • Hospitals: $47,000
  • Offices of physicians: $46,870

Does More Education Lead to a Higher Practical Nurse Salary?

Bachelor's in Nursing Salary

If you wish to advance your nursing career, you might pursue a bachelor's in nursing, or a BSN. It takes most students four years to complete a BSN.

After earning a BSN, you can become a registered nurse (RN). RNs earn more than LPNs on average. About 56% of RNs held a BSN or higher degree in 2019, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Registered nurses must hold an associate degree or bachelor of nursing, take the NCLEX-RN, and obtain licensure through their state.

Frequently Asked Questions About Practical Nurse Salary

Is a practical nurse the same as an RN?

No. A practical nurse is not the same as an RN. Registered nurses usually hold an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing, whereas practical nurses only need an LPN certificate.

RNs typically have more responsibilities than LPNs, as well as more freedom and less oversight in their workplaces. LPNs usually assist RNs and doctors, while RNs provide more direct care to patients.

In addition, RNs earn more than LPNs. RNs earned a median annual salary of $77,600 as of May 2021, while LPNs and LVNs earned a median $48,070, as per the BLS.

What is the difference between a practical nurse and a CNA?

Certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, typically have less responsibility than practical nurses. CNAs may assist patients with basic tasks such as eating and bathing. On the other hand, LPNs can monitor patients' health, update records, and administer medication. Most CNAs work in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, while LPNs may work in doctor's offices or hospitals.

Practical nurses also need more education than CNAs. They must complete an LPN certificate program, which takes one year, and pass the NCLEX-PN exam. Practical nurses must also obtain state licensure. CNAs do not need a degree. Training usually takes at least four weeks and does not require a licensing exam.

What is an LPN salary?

The median salary for licensed practical nurses was $48,070 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. However, practical nursing salaries vary based on location. The state with the highest-paid practical nurses was California, with an average salary of $65,140 per year. The lowest 10% of these workers made less than $37,150, and the top 10% made over $63,790 per year. Travel nurses may also earn more money than other practical nurses.

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