It can be a difficult decision to choose which type of nursing license to pursue. Licensed Vocational Nursing (LVN), Registered Nursing (RN), and Advanced Practice Nursing (APRN) licensure all come with their own benefits and drawbacks.
Most nurses begin their careers as either an LVN or RN. If you’re trying to decide between these two licenses, you might be curious about the difference between an LVN vs RN salary.
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In this article, we’re going to discuss how an LVN vs RN salary measures up to each other and why, plus some ways to maximize your salary as an LVN.
Is There a Difference Between an LVN and LPN License?
There are no major differences in the job duties between an LPN and an LVN. The only true difference is the name. California and Texas use the term LVN, while the rest of the country uses the term Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). They are considered interchangeable.
Both LPN and LVN programs prepare you to take the same licensing exam, the NCLEX-PN.
If an LVN wanted to work in a state that uses the term LPN, then they would apply for Licensure By Endorsement in the same way any LPN would. There are no extra steps for LVNs.
Average LVN vs RN Salary in the United States
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median LVN vs RN salary in 2019, which is the most recent report available, is as follows:
LVN: $47,480 per year or $22.83 per hour
RN: $73,300 per year or $35.24 per hour
Both positions have an above-average job outlook for the period 2019 through 2029. LVNs actually take a slight lead in this one with 9% expected growth versus 7% expected for RNs.
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The Differences Between RN and LVN Licenses
Most of the variation between an LVN vs RN salary comes down to the differences in scope of practice allowed by their respective licenses.
Both RNs and LVNs complete specialized education programs and must pass a nationwide licensing exam. However, RNs go to school for 1-3 years longer and this allows them a greater scope of practice than an LVN.
The activities that both RNs and LVNs are allowed to perform vary by state. Here are some general similarities and differences in job functions and responsibilities:
Activities That Both RNs and LVNs Can Do
- Administer oral, rectal, ophthalmic, and topical medications
- Monitor tube and IV sites
- Perform and document physical assessments
- Measure and record vital signs
- Assist patients with feeding, dressing, hygiene, and transfers
- Treat basic wounds or change dressings
- Collect specimens such as capillary blood, stool, and urine
- Insert urinary catheters
- Care for patients with ventilators and tracheostomy tubes
- Insert, care for, and feed patients with nasogastric tubes
- Care for and feed patients through gastrostomy tubes
- Perform CPR
- Communicate reports during shift changes
Activities That Are Usually Only Performed by RNs
- Administer IV medications (Some states allow LVNs to become certified.)
- Complete admission assessments (Some states do allow LVNs to do this if an RN co-signs the assessment.)
- Develop nursing care plans
- Take verbal orders from a doctor
- Administer blood products
- Pronounce time of death in long-term care or hospice facilities (only some states allow RNs to do this)
- Access or flush PICC lines, subcutaneous ports, or central lines
- Administer insulin drips, cardiac medication drips, or total parenteral nutrition
- Give chemotherapy medications or administer dialysis
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How Can LVNs Earn More?
Even though an LVN doesn’t earn quite as much as an RN, there are some ways for you to maximize your salary as an LVN.
Get Certified in a Specialty
While LVNs don’t have quite the same range of specialties available as RNs, there are still certifications open to them. The National Association of Practical Nurse Education and Service (NAPNES) provides access to several certifications including the following:
- IV Therapy
- Long-term Care
- Wound Care
Maximize your job offer:
Consider Changing Locations
Salaries for all types of nurses vary greatly by state. LVNs/LPNs in West Virginia can expect lower hourly rates ($17.40 on average) while those in Massachusetts and Rhode Island enjoy top rates ($27.79 on average).
The cost of living also varies greatly between states, so the salary shouldn’t be the only consideration but it is a factor.
💰 LPN salaries
Consider Travel Nursing
Similar to considering relocation, you can also consider travel nursing as an LVN. Travel nurses make more than other nurses as they go where there is high demand. Their salaries also often include stipends for housing, meals, or mileage.
Pursue Additional Education
Many LVNs continue on in school to receive RN or even APRN licenses. The benefit of first practicing as an LVN is for the experience and receiving LVN pay while going through school. Additionally, some healthcare employers offer tuition assistance or reimbursement, so they may pick up some of the cost of your education.