Many people make the move from being a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) to a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) to advance their career in the field of nursing. Working as a CNA can be very helpful for someone looking to advance their career in the nursing field. Gaining experience in a healthcare facility or a nursing home while learning about basic patient care, managing patient relationships and working with other nurses can be very valuable as a CNA progresses through different roles in nursing and healthcare.

What Does an LPN Do?

An LPN is the next step up the nursing career ladder for a CNA, and according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the job outlook for LPNs is strong through 2026 with an expected growth of 12 percent. LPNs work under a Registered Nurse (RN) as part of a nursing team and have a larger scope of practice and more responsibilities than CNAs. These include:

  • Assisting with minor medical procedures
  • Administering oral and intravenous medication
  • Collecting patient data and monitor patient conditions
  • Collect blood, urine, sputum specimens
  • Take vital signs
  • Change wound dressings
  • Care for items such as catheters, tracheotomy tubes and ventilators

CNA to LPN Education Programs

Before signing up for an LPN program there are some key things to research and consider. First, it’s important to know the difference between programs that offer an LPN certificate or one that provides an Associate Degree. The former can be achieved more quickly, but the benefit of an Associate Degree is that those credits can be transferred and used toward further education should you choose to progress to a more advanced position. This is extremely important for people who want to advance from an LPN to RN.

Each program will have its own set of requirements, but the following are common for a CNA to LPN bridge program:

  • Minimum of 18 years old
  • Admissions application, fee & tuition payments
  • Currently employed as a CNA with a successful work track record
  • CNA diploma or certificate
  • CPR certificate
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Grade point average of at least 2.0

While anyone can start CNA courses as a virtual blank slate, some states require prerequisite courses for LPNs that can include things like anatomy, physiology, math and more. Regardless of location, aspiring LPNs will need to pass the Test of Essential Academic Skills or TEAS exam to prove they have the academic skills necessary to succeed in the program.

Every individual should do some research find the right LPN program for them. The links below may prove helpful in finding an online bridge program or a local CNA to LPN program:

After finding a local accredited LPN program, the next step is being trained to become an LPN through a combination of classroom work and clinical experience in hospitals. There are a variety of options for these programs including:

  • CNA to LPN bridge programs (usually available at community colleges)
  • Specific vocational training schools
  • Online bridge programs

Online vs. On-Campus LPN Training

While online CNA to LPN programs are attractive, these programs will still require students to work with a training facility to administer hands-on training. Regardless of the type of program pursued, the curriculum will include some standard LPN subjects such as:

  • Nursing care for families
  • Mental health nursing
  • Nursing foundations
  • Surgical nursing
  • Communication
  • Gerontology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Health assessments
  • Clinical skills lab
  • Medication administration

Most full time LPN train9ing programs take around 12 months to complete and include around 40 credit hours of coursework.

The NCLEX Exam

Once an accredited program has been completed, the next step is to register and pass The National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). The National Council of the State Boards of Nursing requires an authorization letter from the applicant’s state to register for this examination and pay about $200. Registering and scheduling the exam can be done here. The exam itself is five hours long will have a minimum of 85 questions.

After passing the exam, the aspiring LPN can then apply for a license in their state. If they fail to pass, there is a 45-day wait before being allowed a second attempt at the exam. Depending on the state, there may be additional requirements for those who fail on their first attempt.

LPN Licensure

Anyone who has passed the NCLEX can then apply for licensure in the state they wish to practice. There are a variety of other requirements that may also come into play depending on the location. This can include things like notarization, background checks, and character references.

Once all these hurdles have been cleared a “permanent license” is issued, though they aren’t technically permanent. Maintaining licensure often requires continuing education, renewal fees, and verification of out of state licenses being in good standing. LPN licenses are fairly easy to transfer from state to state through an endorsement process. Many bordering states form nurse licensure compacts which allows LPNs to work across state lines. Check with the state licensing boards for specific details on where these compacts exist.

Advantages Of Becoming an LPN

Becoming a licensed practical nurse offers a number of very significant benefits which is why so many CNAs make the transition to become an LPN.

Increased pay. LPNs make substantially more than CNAs. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average salary of an LPN is roughly 50% higher than that of a CNA.

StateCNA AnnualLPN Annual% Difference
Alabama$23,050 $34,520 49.8%
Alaska$37,950 $52,480 38.3%
Arizona$30,470 $50,290 65.0%
Arkansas$23,970 $35,300 47.3%
California$33,560 $51,170 52.5%
Colorado$32,040 $44,750 39.7%
Connecticut$32,970 $53,560 62.5%
Delaware$29,740 $47,350 59.2%
District of Columbia$34,170 $50,980 49.2%
Florida$25,930 $41,050 58.3%
Georgia$24,840 $37,040 49.1%
Hawaii$33,440 $45,070 34.8%
Idaho$26,450 $38,470 45.4%
Illinois$27,770 $42,680 53.7%
Indiana$26,070 $39,720 52.4%
Iowa$28,300 $37,410 32.2%
Kansas$25,290 $37,790 49.4%
Kentucky$25,920 $37,550 44.9%
Louisiana$21,880 $37,820 72.9%
Maine$27,250 $40,310 47.9%
Maryland$30,470 $49,900 63.8%
Massachusetts$32,340 $52,060 61.0%
Michigan$29,200 $42,600 45.9%
Minnesota$32,560 $40,620 24.8%
Mississippi$22,790 $35,230 54.6%
Missouri$25,360 $37,630 48.4%
Montana$27,070 $37,580 38.8%
Nebraska$27,650 $37,840 36.9%
Nevada$34,480 $52,850 53.3%
New Hampshire$31,000 $46,150 48.9%
New Jersey$29,400 $51,350 74.7%
New Mexico$27,050 $46,990 73.7%
New York$35,080 $44,250 26.1%
North Carolina$24,680 $41,510 68.2%
North Dakota$32,880 $37,900 15.3%
Ohio$26,740 $40,460 51.3%
Oklahoma$24,770 $36,800 48.6%
Oregon$32,190 $47,360 47.1%
Pennsylvania$30,010 $42,390 41.3%
Rhode Island$30,540 $51,120 67.4%
South Carolina$24,810 $39,050 57.4%
South Dakota$25,970 $34,270 32.0%
Tennessee$25,090 $36,200 44.3%
Texas$26,390 $43,120 63.4%
Utah$26,150 $39,380 50.6%
Vermont$29,720 $42,390 42.6%
Virginia$27,920 $39,640 42.0%
Washington$30,410 $47,140 55.0%
West Virginia$25,990 $33,660 29.5%
Wisconsin$28,830 $42,350 46.9%
Wyoming$29,970 $41,740 39.3%

Sources: Bureau of Labor & Statistics May 2018 and

Specialized knowledge. Depending on your program and/or where you work as an LPN you’ll have the opportunity to gain specialized knowledge that can increase your marketability within a specialized nursing role or as you advance your career to another role such as an RN.

Greater career and educational opportunities. Growth in nursing is projected to continue into the mid-2020s, and with the ability to manage CNAs there are even greater opportunities for LPNs. In addition to increased job placement opportunities, credits from an Associate Degree can also be used towards a Bachelor of Science in nursing or an RN program which both offer even greater pay and placement opportunities.

As mentioned above, there are many areas an LPN can practice and gain specialized skills and unique experiences to increase your marketability. Some example practice areas include pediatrics, labor and delivery, neonatal, trauma ICU, gerontology, emergency room and rehabilitation. Obviously, there are many career doors that can be opened by making the transition from a CNA to an LPN.