The most basic difference in terms of time commitment is that an RN typically takes 4 years whereas an LPN takes about 2 years. Most of what a newly hired RN will do day to day is similar to an LPN so many people ask “Why get my RN?”. While that is most certainly true it fails to recognize the wealth of benefits that RN’s experience throughout their nursing careers.
One important benefit that RN’s get over LPNs is that they start out by being expected to see the big picture with the patient and read more into what the conditions says about the patient’s status. To be sure a good LPN will do this, but because it is not always an expectation, an LPN doesn’t always develop their skills as intentionally. Another benefit is that RN is that you will be put in a leadership role with the LPNs even if the work you are doing is mostly the same. This prepares you to take on more responsibility and ultimately gives you greater license to care for the patients. This also is an important stepping stone to an administrative role in a hospital. While an LPN or RN may not want this initially, getting the RN will give you the flexibility of moving into that role if you change your mind.
While maybe not the most important benefit an RN will usually may more than an LPN. LPNs average about $40,110 annually as compared to the RN’s $57,000. Clearly if you are worried about the extra cost of 2 more years of school the salary difference will pay for itself quite quickly. If you use your RN to move into an administrative role you can expect salaries of $70,000-$90,000 which may be appealing to some nurses especially near the end of their careers.
While this post is limited in it’s scope, it behooves any nurse to read up and consider if whether and LPN or an RN is best.