Going from CNA to LPN

The transition from CNA to LPN may be easier than you expect at your school. The hardest part may be making sure your program — whether online or campus-based — has an opening and you don’t get placed on a waitlist for your classes and course of study.

Let’s look at the distinctions that separate Certified Nursing Assistants or CNAs from Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), also referred to as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs).

Both CNAs and LPNs similarly work under the direction and supervision of physicians or RNs, and both are an integral part of caring for patients. There should be no CNA vs LPN hostility.

However, LPNs carry out bigger responsibilities and have more independence than CNAs do. Naturally, an LPN earns more.

According to the May 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage of LPNs is $42,910 annually ($20.63 per hour), compared to just about $26,020 per year ($12.51 per hour) for CNAs.

Steps to go from CNA to LPN

If you’re a CNA wanting to advance your career, here are the steps that you need to go through.

Complete an accredited LPN program

Start fresh and finish an LPN program. This program is open to individuals with at least a high school diploma or GED credentials.

A large number of state-approved LPN or LVN programs are offered at vocational schools and community colleges all over the US.

The number of years to complete a program and the requirements vary by state. Fulltime students normally complete the program in two years of combined classroom study and supervised clinical training.

The classroom coursework generally includes Nursing and Patient Care concepts, Anatomy and Physiology, Pediatrics, Obstetrics, Surgical Nursing, Psychiatric Nursing, Administering Drugs, Delivering First Aid, and Nutrition.

Try a CNA to LPN bridge program online

It may be called bridge, ladder, or completion program in your area, and is open exclusively for CNAs.

CNA to LPN bridge programs are often competitive, so be prepared with your documents to prove your CNA working experience and pass a test.



A CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification and drug test result are usual admission requirements. The bridge program is designed to significantly cut the program’s study time since it recognizes the CNA work and training that you already have.

It normally takes between 9 months to one year to complete the classroom courses, laboratory hours, and clinicals. Expect to have courses in Anatomy and Physiology, Nursing Ethics, Nursing Fundamentals, Nutrition, Psychology, Special Needs Nursing, Wound Care, and Infection Control when going through a certified nursing assistant to licensed practical nurse program.

CNA to LPN programs online are popular because this mode of education is convenient for working nursing aides or assistants. If you intend to obtain your LPN education this way, the next step will be necessary.

Obtain clinical training

Inquire from the school where you intend to take your online LPN program if they will facilitate the clinical aspect of your training.

Most online schools have special arrangements with facilities where you may train. If this is not the case, make sure you prepare for this aspect ahead of time. Locate hospitals and healthcare facilities in your area which offer clinical training.

Earn a license

To become a licensed practical nurse and be able to work as such, you have to take and pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).

The test is administered by the National Council State Boards of Nursing. There is a $200 licensing exam fee required. Inquire from your own state’s nursing board for additional licensing requirements.

Having passed the NCLEX-PN, a licensed practical nurse must continue updating their skills and knowledge. Continuing education is required to maintain and renew an LPN license.

How much does an LPN program cost?

As you scout for schools and inquire about tuition fees, you will realize that there are various LPN programs being offered.

The best thing is for you to inquire from your state’s Board of Nursing about the programs that meet the board’s criteria and approval. Tuition usually ranges between $1,000 and $30,000 depending on the program and school. Vocational schools are the cheapest with tuition ranging from $1,000 to $2,000.

Going from a CNA to an LPN definitely requires additional work, expense, time and commitment.

It may take you away from a present employment or your family may need to sacrifice on a lot of things for a while. But this is an upward movement in your career.

You’ll find better employment opportunities in a range of patient-care settings such as in hospitals, clinics, research laboratories, skilled nursing facilities, and nursing homes.



There will be a striking increase in job opportunities as the country is currently experiencing a rapid growth in the over-65 population. I hope this helps with your decision to go from CNA to LPN.

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