The healthcare industry in the US is fast becoming a lucrative field, with numerous job opportunities and high salary potential. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow by 15% in the years from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the 4% average for all occupations. This growth will add nearly 2.4 million new jobs in the field of medicine.

If you are planning to go for this highly rewarding career field, now is the right time. One of the potential ways to enter into the healthcare industry is through the field of nursing. Entry level degrees for nursing careers include Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs or degrees that lead to the credential of Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Please note that it is not mandatory to be a Licensed Practical Nurse to enroll in an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). However, an LPN-to-ADN program can open up numerous career possibilities.

Learn more about this career path in the following guide on LPN to ADN degrees.

What is an ADN Degree?

An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a nursing program that takes around 2 to 3 years to complete. It is usually offered in community colleges and vocational schools and enables aspiring nurses to form a solid foundation in nursing education. An ADN degree is considered a quick and affordable way to start a nursing career and is typically used as a stepping stone for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

Students who get into the field of nursing with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) perform basic medical procedures such as taking patients’ medical histories, consulting medical teams and physicians on medical cases, assisting in performing diagnostic tests, analyzing test results and educating patients on how to manage a chronic condition or major injury.

It must be noted that graduates of an ADN degree will have to clear the NCLEX-RN exam in order to be able to practice. After that, the exact responsibilities of a nurse with an ADN degree would depend on the employer’s organizational structure as well as the work environment. ADN nurses may be able to find work in hospitals, outpatient care centers, nursing care facilities or even in the home of patients.

What is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)?

A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is a trained medical professional who works on the frontlines of nursing and deals with patients on a daily basis, under the supervision of registered nurses or doctors. Their main duties include taking vital signs, administering medicines, collecting samples for testing, ensuring patient comfort and reporting to senior medical staff on the status of patients.

The duties of an LPN would vary according to the work setting and the state in which they are employed. For instance, they may be responsible for reinforcing information provided by registered nurses about how family members ought to care for their relatives. They may also perform tasks such as helping to deliver and care for infants, collecting samples for routine tests and feeding patients who need help with eating.

Advantages of Getting an LPN Degree or an ADN Degree

As the demand for nursing professionals grows in the vast healthcare field of the US, more and more individuals are entering this field to avail the many opportunities it offers. Students with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or with a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) credential, each enjoy their own set of advantages. Prospective nurses should take into account their personal career goals before deciding on what path to take to enter the field of nursing.

For instance, students who have financial obligations or families to take care of can choose to get an LPN credential, since it is the quickest way to enter the field and start earning a living. On the other hand, students who intend to go for higher learning opportunities and more advanced career paths, should go for an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) as it leads to an RN licensure. The following section explores the advantages of each educational path.

Advantages of Earning an LPN Credential

In order to get an LPN certificate, aspiring nurses need to complete only one year of study. In addition to that, this role offers a certain amount of scheduling flexibility, since most of the work is done in shifts. However, it must be noted that nurses are usually on their feet for most part of the day and may have to work night shifts as well as weekends. Moreover, graduates of an LPN certificate program can go for an LPN-to-RN fast-tracked program, which lasts for around three years.

Advantages of Earning an ADN

One of the biggest advantages of earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is that it offers a quick entry into the field of nursing. Most ADN-to-BSN programs are only nine months long and help prospective nurses advance their careers with a bachelor level degree. In addition to that, nurses with Associate Degree in Nursing can earn more than a Licensed Practical Nurse and typically qualify for more career advancement opportunities.

Education Differences between an LPN and an ADN

There are many differences between LPN programs and ADN degrees in terms of coursework, length of the degree and future career potential. Candidates can find these courses at hospitals, high schools or local community colleges. These programs are designed to qualify graduates to appear for the National Council Licensure Examination.

The curriculum of an LPN program generally explores entry-level concepts that enable students to work under the supervision of Registered Nurses (RNs), while ADN program coursework prepares students to take the NCLEX-RN exam.

Let’s take a look at some of the main differences between these two programs.

  • Institutes Offering the Program: LPN programs are offered mostly at community colleges, high schools and hospitals, while ADN degrees are mostly offered at community colleges.
  • Length of the Program: The length of a typical LPN program is one year, while students can complete an Associate Degree in Nursing in 2 to 3 years.
  • Coursework: The coursework for an LPN program is entry-level nursing care subjects, while for an ADN degree, the coursework would be a lot more comprehensive.
  • Cost: The cost of an LPN program is usually a lot less than that for an ADN program.

Career Differences between an LPN and an ADN

The duties of a nurse with an LPN credential vary slightly from those of an ADN degree holder. Both nurses have job descriptions that involve monitoring patients, hygienic processes, changing bandages and reporting patient status to senior medical personnel. However, there are several differences in the details. For instance, LPNs can insert IVs, but they are not licensed to give IV push medications or oversee blood transfusion. On the other hand, RN’s with an ADN degree are qualified to perform these tasks. Students who intend to go for an LPN credential should read up on their state’s regulations, as they tend to vary from state to state.

Salary and Job Outlook with an LPN Credential vs. an ADN

The salary outlook varies significantly for those with an LPN certificate as compared to those who have an RN license following an associate’s degree.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses made an annual median pay of $48,820 in May 2020. On the other hand, the median salary for Registered Nurses was $75,330 in the same time period.

The top paying industry for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses was the government, paying an annual median income of $51,700. This was followed by nursing and residential care facilities, which paid an annual median income of $49,430 and hospitals, which paid an annual median income of $46,560.

The top paying industry for registered nurses in the US was also the government, however, the salary potential was far greater, with an annual median income of $84,490. The second highest paying industry for registered nurses was hospitals, with an annual median income of $76,840, followed by ambulatory healthcare services that paid an annual median income of $72,340 and nursing and residential care facilities that paid $68,450.

The job outlook for both nursing paths was slightly different, with Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses enjoying a 9% employment growth in 2019-2029. On the other hand, registered nurses enjoyed an employment growth rate of 7% in the same time period.

Why get an LPN to ADN Degree?

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) who want to advance their careers and explore better and higher-paying opportunities should consider going for the LPN-ADN path. Having an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) can lead to becoming a registered nurse in the US, which has a significantly higher salary bracket than licensed practical nurses. In addition to that, once you become a registered nurse, you can explore higher education opportunities and move towards getting a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, which is now considered a staple degree in the field of nursing.