Licensed Practical Nurse vs. Registered Nurse Salary: Complete Comparison & Differences Explained


Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and Registered Nurses (RN) are two types of nurses with varying differences. In this article, we’ll look at the pay differences between the two, along with their job duties and schooling requirements.

It’s important to be aware and understand the differences in pay between LPNs and RNs, and also the requirements, before deciding on an educational journey.

LPN vs. RN Hourly Pay

The average hourly rate in the United States for RNs and LPNs varies based on a number of factors, but this is the average for each type of nurse:

  • LPN: $23.47 per hour
  • RN: $36.22 per hour

On average, RNs in the US make $12.75 more per hour than LPNs.

LPN vs. RN Annual Salary

Just like the hourly rate, the annual salary of RNs and LPNs varies wildly based on a number of factors. Looking at general nursing positions for each position, these are the average salaries in the US:

  • LPN: $46,161
  • RN: $66,613

On average, RNs make $20,452 more per year than LPNs in the US.

LPN vs. RN Entry-Level Pay

Entry-level pay for nurses just starting out can vary, depending on speciality and what type of nursing. The average pay for entry-level positions for LPNs and RNs are:

  • LPN: $39,651
  • RN: $58,680

On average, RNs make $19,029 more per year than LPNs in the US.

LPN vs. RN Experienced-Level Pay

With experience comes more pay. As RNs and LPNs advance in their respective careers, their pay will increase over the years. The following shows the average pay for experienced-level LPNs and RNs:

  • LPN: $48,856
  • RN: $73,825

Experienced RNs in the US make an average of $24,969 more than LPNs each year.

LPN vs. RN By State

Pay between LPN and RN varies not only by years of experience and speciality but also by state. The state you’re practicing in can be a big factor in how much money you are making as an LPN or RN.

Lowest and Highest Paying State for LPNs

  • West Virginia is the lowest paying state in the US for LPNs
  • LPNs in West Virginia make $38,940 per year on average
  • Alaska is the highest paying state
  • LPNs in Alaska make $67,620 each year on average

Lowest and Highest Paying State for RNs

  • Alabama is the lowest paying state in the US for RNs
  • RNs in Alabama make $60,230 per year on average
  • California is the highest paying state
  • RNs in California make $120,560 each year on average

The differences in LPN and RN salary also varied dramatically among each state. In Iowa, the difference in LPN and RN salary is $16,710. That’s vastly different from California. In California, the difference in LPN and RN salary is $56,470.

This chart shows the breakdown of LPN and RN pay, as according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from May 2020. Remember to keep in mind that each of these numbers are averages for the state, and within each state the pay can vary drastically from city to city.

StateRNLPNDifference in LPN and RN Salary
New Hampshire$75,970$56,400$19,570
New Jersey$85,720$57,590$28,130
New Mexico$75,700$50,480$25,220
New York$89,760$51,300$38,460
North Carolina$68,950$47,120$21,830
North Dakota$69,630$48,060$21,570
Rhode Island$82,790$59,090$23,700
South Carolina$67,140$43,630$23,510
South Dakota$60,960$39,420$21,540
West Virginia$65,130$38,940$26,190

LPN vs. RN Schooling Requirements

One of the biggest differences between LPNs and RNs is the education requirements. More education means longer time in school and thus more cost. Here is a breakdown of the required schooling and length of time for each LPNs and RNs.

LPN Education Requirements

  • Practical Nursing Diploma
  • As little as 12 months
  • Community college or technical college
  • Classes include nursing, biology, and pharmacology
  • Supervised clinical experiences

RN Education Requirements

  • Professional Nursing Degree (Bachelor of Science in Nursing or Associate Degree in Nursing)
  • 2-4 years
  • Community college or university nursing school program
  • Classes include social, behavioral, and physical sciences, along with pharmacology, research, leadership, and ethical/legal issues
  • Supervised clinical experiences

LPN vs. RN Duties and Responsibilities

nurse portrait

LPN and RN duties vary greatly. By law, LPNs are directly supervised by an RN. The LPN and RN role will change and depend on which area they are working.

In every case, though, the LPN will be under the supervision of an RN and each will have their individual scope of practice.

RNs can perform all the duties that an LPN can, in addition to other duties. Below is an overview of just a few duties, but not all-encompassing, as each state has their own scope of practice.

RN Duties and Responsibilities

  • Full clinical patient assessment
  • Initial and in-depth patient and family education
  • All medication administration, including IV medications
  • Clinical judgment and autonomy
  • In-depth discharge education and instruction
  • The process of initiating blood transfusions

LPN Duties and Responsibilities

  • Limited and specific patient assessments
  • Monitoring RN observations
  • Reinforcing patient and family education
  • Most medication administration (not including IV meds)
  • Ostomy care and cleaning
  • Tube feedings, care, and patency

LPN and RN Career Opportunities

The outlook for both LPNs and RNs is good. With nurses getting older and retiring, there is a need to fill positions in many areas. While RNs have more of a variety of places to work, as they can specialize, there are a vast number of opportunities for LPNs and RNs.


  • Doctor’s offices
  • Nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities
  • Schools
  • Dialysis centers
  • Home health agencies
  • Health departments
  • Correctional facilities


  • Hospitals
  • Inpatient and outpatient surgical centers
  • Insurance companies
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Hospice
  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • Home health care agencies

Is Becoming an LPN Before an RN Worth It?

LPNs are able to get through school much faster, thus spending less money on school. Becoming an LPN can be a way to fast-track your way into the workforce.

Working as an LPN can quickly get you hands-on training where you can get experience and see which areas of nursing appeal to you and which areas you don’t care for. No better way to get experience than working in the field.


There are many factors to take into consideration when looking at the pay differences between LPNs and RNs. While RNs make more money, LPNs are able to get through school much faster, thus spending less money on school.

It’s not uncommon for someone to get their LPN certification, get a job, and then continue their education as an RN while working in an LPN role.

Some people want to get to work as soon as possible. Or perhaps don’t have the funds to go to school for as long as it takes to get a full degree.

Luckily, both the LPN route and RN route are great career choices and can be tailored to a person’s specific needs and wants, depending on where they are currently at in their life.


Written by Joanne Potter

Joanne, BSN and RN, is a writer that specializes in health and wellness. She has fifteen years of experience as a Registered Nurse in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Her years working at the bedside and extensive neonatal knowledge enable her to write with a deep understanding of what patients and families want from their communities. Visit her LinkedIn page.

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