LPN vs. ADN: What’s the Difference Between an ADN and LPN?

Considering a career in nursing? Most students in your position often look toward earning their bachelor’s in the field, but fortunately, this discipline has multiple opportunities that don’t require dedicating a four-year degree. To become a licensed practical nurse (LPN), you only have to devote a year to studies, whereas to earn your associate degree in nursing (ADN), you’ll need two years of schooling.

One of the differences between these two career paths is where they go—an LPN program prepares you for a career as a licensed practical nurse while an ADN program prepares you to become a registered nurse (RN). An LPN assists doctors and RNs. LPN responsibilities include:

  • Sample collection
  • Taking vitals
  • Giving patient care
  • Reporting patient statuses to physicians and RNs

An LPN often finds work within a long-term care facility, hospital, or doctor’s office. These healthcare professionals earn median annual salaries of $48,820. To gain access to work, you must graduate from a certified program and pass the appropriate LPN licensing exam.

If you opt to pursue an ADN, on the other hand, once you’ve earned your degree you can take the NCLEX-RN or National Council Licensure Examination for RNs. Passing this exam qualifies you for RN licensure. Normal responsibilities of an RN include:

  • Examining patient records
  • Tracking symptoms
  • Administering medications
  • Collaborating with patient healthcare teams

An RN typically works at a hospital and earns an average annual salary of $75,330. Graduates of an ADN program normally continue their education to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Advantages of Earning Your LPN Certification or ADN

Demand for professionals in the nursing field continues to grow. Diverse opportunities exist for nursing students earning either the LPN certification or ADN. Both paths have different advantages. Consider your goals after schooling to see which path is right for you.

For instance, if you have existing financial or familial obligations, you might opt for an LPN certificate from an online program, as this is the fastest way to get into a career and start making money. On the other hand, if you want greater wages and roles with more responsibility, choose the ADN program, which leads to earning your RN license. Below are some advantages of both paths.

LPN Advantages

  • Just one year of schooling
  • Flexible work schedules
  • Graduates can take an LPN-to-RN fast-track program which takes about three years

ADN Advantages

  • The fastest method of becoming an RN
  • Most ADN-to-Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, programs only take nine months to complete
  • Earn more than your LPN counterparts
  • Have access to more opportunities

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Educational Differences Between the LPN Certificate and ADN

LPN students must complete around a year of study, full-time. You can find these courses offered at your local community college, hospital, or high school. After completing coursework, you’re eligible to sit for the NCLEX-PN or National Council Licensure Exam for LPNs.

In the LPN program, you’ll learn entry-level concepts that teach you the skills to work under an RN. ADN programs, on the other hand, have a two-year timeframe. The coursework is similar to that of students in a BSN program. Those who go on to the BSN nursing degree program usually need only focus on coursework in the liberal arts.

You can usually find ADN nursing degree programs at community colleges. Graduates can take the NCLEX exam for RNs.

To recap, LPN certificates:

  • Can be obtained at a community college
  • Require one year of coursework
  • Cover entry-level nursing topics

It’s a good idea to research your state’s requirements for obtaining an LPN versus an ADN to RN license. As a rule, LPNs can only perform certain specific duties. They can’t work in an emergency room or other critical care setting. They also must work under an RN.

LPNs who want to sit for the NCLEX-RN at some point have to enroll in an LPN to RN program. Contrarily, the ADN nursing program leads to this exam, qualifying these professionals to perform the same duties as RNs who hold the BSN.

Career Differences: LPN vs ADN

LPN certification allows students who’ve completed the program to only assist RNs with patient tasks. Some of these tasks include:

  • Overseeing patients
  • Bandage changes
  • Hygienic procedures
  • Patient status reports for on-duty RNs

An LPN is allowed to insert an IV, but LPNs can’t give medications via IV or administer blood transfusions. RNs are allowed to do these tasks. Depending on your state, an LPN may need to seek IV certification. If you’re considering a career as an LPN, check on your state’s healthcare regulations because the privileges of LPNs vary by state.

An LPN normally works in a nursing home, long-term care facility, hospital, or physician’s office. Some states allow unlicensed medical staff to report to an LPN, while an LPN then reports to an RN. A lot of ADNs go on to become an RN, providing and coordinating care for patients, assessing various conditions, managing medical histories, administering drugs and other treatments, and collaborating with physicians and other members of the healthcare team.

An ADN-turned-RN normally reports directly to a doctor.

Salaries and Career Outlook for an LPN vs. an ADN

The need for medical professionals in nearly all fields of medicine continues growing. In the last few years, the responsibilities of an LPN have grown, as have RN responsibilities in an effort to free doctors from performing low-importance tasks. The BLS predicts job growth for LPNs to increase by 9% through 2029. This nursing career also brings, as mentioned above, a $48,820 median salary.

An LPN can further their career by re-enrolling in a nursing school with an LPN-to-RN bridge program. This bridge program lets LPNs expand opportunities with a degree in about 16 months. Note: While a graduate of a bridge program has greater career opportunities, a graduate won’t have the leadership opportunities of RNs holding a BSN.

A student who earns an ADN degree qualifies for an RN license. RN demand is growing due to the expanded responsibility. The BLS predicts an increase of 7% in job growth through 2029 for these roles. ADN-to-BSN bridge programs help graduates find advanced opportunities. A graduate of an ADN program who becomes an RN can expect a median annual salary of $75,330.