Licensed practical nursing is a rewarding career field, and it can also be very lucrative. Healthcare professionals have some of the highest earning potentials in the job market. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPNs) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVNs) have the advantage of needing only a nursing diploma to get started in the field. However, unlike many diploma programs, it will easily pay the bills. This brings up the two questions: exactly how much is an LPN salary and how to earn more as an LPN?
As listed by the BLS, LPNs made a median annual salary of $41, 920 in the year 2013, which is about an hourly wage of $20.15. The lowest paid 10% of LPNs made $31,300 annually or about $15.05 hourly. The highest paid 10% made $58,020 annually or about $27.90 hourly.
The highest paying jobs in this field are located at colleges and insurance fields. In the scope of regular nursing practice jobs, the highest paying jobs are in nursing homes and home health. Larger cities also tend to provide high wages for Licensed Practical Nurses, especially those in California.
What Determines an LPN Salary
Licensed Practical Nurses must graduate from a post-secondary diploma program for licensed practical nurses. In the program, nurses will take courses in human anatomy, pharmacology, math, and nursing skills. The LPN program will usually take a year to a year and a half to complete. At the end of the program, students are eligible to take the NCLEX- PN, which is the national licensing exam for practical nurses. Students must pass the LPN exam in order to earn the job title licensed practical nurse or licensed vocational nurse (job title in California and Texas) and find a nursing job. Starting salary for a newly licensed LPN is about $15.05 an hour or about $31,300 a year.
Many hiring employers prefer to hire nurses with some experience in the field. Based on nursing experience, Licensed Practical Nurses get different pay.
- Nurses just out of school with only clinical experience as a part of their educational program will make the least amount of money.
- With a couple years of experience, an LPN can expect to be paid around $17.00 an hour or a little over $35,000 a year.
- A nurse in mid-career, with 5 to 10 years of experience as a nurse can expect an Licensed Practical Nurse salary at the national mean, which is $20.15 an hour or almost $42,000 a year.
An exceptionally experienced LPN with 15+ years of experience can expect to be paid the highest at around $23.52 an hour or almost $49,000 a year.
- Employers may also pay more if you have experience in the specific field they are hiring for.
Different industries have different wage earning potential for Licensed Practical Nurses or Licensed Vocational Nurses.
The highest pay ranges are for nurses who work in non-traditional industries.
- The highest paid nurses work at insurance agencies and brokerages, and they average about $51, 370 a year, which is almost $10,000 more than the national average.
- Nurses working at colleges make $49,600, which is about $7, 700 more than the national average.
- Other areas where nurses make a higher mean wage than average are with insurance carriers, scientific researchers, and in real estate.
Traditional Nursing Industries
- In the more traditional nursing industries, LPNs who work in homes health are the highest paid at an average of $44,970 a year. That’s $3,000 more than the national average.
- Practical nurses who work in assisted living facilities are also well-compensated at an average yearly wage of $44, 230.
- LPNs who work in general hospitals make the closest to the national average at $42,000 a year.
- The lowest paid nurses work in doctor’s offices. These nurses make $39, 260, which is about $2,700 less than the national average. However, Licensed Practical Nurses in private offices are often compensated with other benefits such as a regular 8 to 5 work schedule as opposed to shift work. Also, they generally do not work on weekends or holidays as is the case with LPNs in nursing homes and hospitals.
Licensed Practical Nurses are often paid differently in some areas in order to compensate for a higher cost of living, larger workloads, or a shortage of LPNs in the area.
Nurses will make the most money in metropolitan areas of the country. For example, in Reno, Nevada LPNs make an annual mean wage of $55, 130, which is about $13,200 more than the national mean wage.
However, in smaller towns and rural areas, LPNs will make lower salaries. In eastern Georgia, they earn an average of $35, 650 a year, which is close to $6,500 less than the national average. Difference in pay can be due to a lower cost of living in nonmetropolitan areas as well as fewer patients to care for.
Best Paying States for Licensed Practical Nurses
Licensed Practical Nurses are paid the most in the states of Connecticut, Alaska, Nevada, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Pay in these areas is substantially higher than the national average.
Connecticut: In 2013, LPNs in Connecticut make an annual salary of $54, 690, which is about $12, 500 more than the national median salary.
Alaska: In Alaska, LPNs make $54,010 yearly. That’s almost $12,000 more than the national annual median salary.
Nevada: Licensed Practical Nurses in Nevada make an average annual salary of $53,490, which is about $11,500 more than the national average yearly salary.
Massachusetts: In Massachusetts, LPNs earn an average yearly wage of $53, 020. That’s close to $11,100 more than the national median wage.
New Jersey: New Jersey LPNs make a mean annual salary of $52,080, which is about $10,000 more than the national average.
Top Paying Cities for Licensed Practical Nurses
The cities that pay the highest wages for Licensed Practical Nurses are all metropolitan areas of California. Wages in these cities may reflect a higher cost of living.
San Francisco, California: In San Francisco, LPNs make the highest mean wage in the country at $62,330 a year.
Oakland, California: LPNs in make the second highest mean wage at $62, 190 a year.
Santa Barbara, California: LPNs in Santa Barbara earn the third highest mean yearly wage at $58, 620.
San Jose, California: In San Jose, LPNs earn the fourth highest average yearly wage at $58, 120.
Sacramento, California: In Sacramento, LPNs earn the fifth highest annual wage at an average of $58,090 a year.
LPNs do have the opportunity work in special areas and even get special licenses in certain fields.
- Many LPNs who work in doctor’s offices will have special knowledge, such as Ob/Gyn, pediatrics, or internal medicine. These nurses will general be paid the average annual salary for nurses employed in physician’s offices, $39, 260.
- LPNs can work in specialized hospitals such as those for mental health patients or drug rehab facilities. These nurses earn about as much as the national average salary at $ 41, 670.
- Licensed Practical Nurses or Licensed Vocational Nurses can work as neonatal nurses in hospital. These jobs typically make about $42,000 a year.
- LPNs can specialize in areas such as intravenous therapy, gerontology, and long-term care. Specializations can increase earning potential, especially for newly licensed nurses.
LPN salary can vary greatly depending on experience, industry, location, and area of specialty. However, most Licensed Practical Nurses are employed by general hospitals and in doctor’s offices. These areas have the highest need for nurses, and they also come with good benefits packages. Salaries in these areas are generally close to the national mean, but they can also be the most rewarding. In general, LPNs can have high potential for earning if they work to find the right job in the right area.
Average Licensed Practical Nurse Salary vs. Other Healthcare Jobs
Due to the nature of the job and the training required, LPNs make a very competitive salary in the healthcare field. Licensed Practical Nurses make a median pay of $41,920 a year, which is more than certified nursing assistants and home health aides, who earn median annual salaries of $23,400 and $20, 820, respectively. Medical assistants also make less than LPNs with a median salary of $29, 370 a year. LPNs make about the same amount as surgical technologists, who average $41,790 a year. LPNs make less than registered nurses, who earn $65, 470 per year and nurse practitioners who bring in $96, 460 a year.