LVN Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
A licensed vocational nurse's mean annual salary is just below $43,000, but is it worth the education and licensing requirements? Read real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to decide if becoming a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of an LVN Career

Licensed vocational nurses practice basic medical care under the supervision of registered nurses. Consider the following pros and cons to determine if an LVN career is right for you.

PROS of LVN Careers
Excellent career prospects (25% projected job growth from 2012-2022)*
Entry-level positions only require a certificate*
Advancement opportunities include nursing assistant and nurse aide supervisor**
Job satisfaction of helping others***

CONS of LVN Careers
Low pay (average salary of almost $43,000, as compared to the national average salary of $45,000)*
Possibility of long and irregular work hours*
Stress of treating injured and ill patients*
Job duties could include lifting patients and standing for long periods*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **ISEEK, ***Blinn College.

Career Info

Job Description

Also known as licensed practical nurses (LPNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic healthcare to patients. They work in a number of settings, from hospitals and doctors' offices to outpatient clinics and long-term care facilities.

If you pursue a job in this field, you might find that weekend and overnight shifts of eight hours or more are common. During this time you could be responsible for checking patients' blood pressure and temperature or changing wound dressings. You could also help them perform everyday tasks, such as eating and bathing. Other job duties include scheduling appointments or maintaining patient records. You might be in charge of cleaning and preparing equipment in exam rooms or discussing patient conditions with registered nurses as well.

Career Prospects and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected more than 182,000 LVN and LPN positions to be added to the economy over the 2012-2022 decade. This job growth is largely due to the increasing needs of an aging population.

These nurses earned mean salaries of nearly $43,000 as of May 2013. The top 10% in the field made more than $58,000 annually, according to the BLS.

Training Requirements

You'll need to complete a vocational nursing certificate program approved by your state board of nursing before you can work as an LVN. In many cases, these can be completed in as little as one year and are available through vocational schools and community colleges.

Curricula mixes traditional classroom study with training in a clinical environment to give you the interpersonal skills and bedside manner you'll need to work with patients who're injured or sick. Common topics of study include nursing theory, pharmacology and maternal nursing.

Licensing Information

Once you've finished a vocational nurse training program, you'll be qualified to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). You'll need passing scores before you can earn a license from your state board of nursing.

What Employers Are Seeking

LVN positions are available in such facilities as outpatient care centers, hospitals and long-term care facilities, to name a few. Current licensing is mandatory to gain employment. Some employers also request experience in a specific type of patient care. Listed below are some sample job posts from June 2012:

  • A nursing facility in Houston, Texas, was looking for an LVN with good organizational and multitasking skills. Applicants also needed at least one year of experience in a hospital or long-term acute care facility.
  • A charitable organization in Missouri needed an LVN to provide care for at-risk adolescents and children. Nurses with work experience in mental health or residential care facilities were preferred. All applicants needed a current license as well as strong communication and computer skills.
  • A detention healthcare services unit in Texas was seeking an LVN to provide adult nursing care. Applicants needed to be graduates of an accredited nursing school and have current CPR certification and state licensure. Those with Certified Correctional Health Care Provider (CCHP) credentials and emergency, psychiatric or correctional nursing experience were preferred.
  • In Florida, an LVN was needed to work 16-hour shifts in a senior assisted living facility. Applicants needed at least three years of experience and a current license. Those with first aid and CPR certification were preferred.

How to Beat the Competition

Pursuing certification in such specialty areas as pharmacology, gerontology, long-term care or IV therapy is just one way you could add cache to your resume and broaden your horizons. According to the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses and the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service, candidates who pass certification exams in these areas can demonstrate their expertise to future employers.

You might also consider joining one of these professional organizations. Member benefits often include access to job boards, networking opportunities and continuing education resources.

Other Careers to Consider

Nurse Aide

If you'd prefer a career that requires even less education, consider becoming a nurse aide or assistant. Training programs can be completed in anywhere from four weeks to one semester. The pay is not as good for this career; nursing aides, orderlies and attendants earned average salaries of around $25,000 as of May 2011. However, the BLS reported that job opportunities for these professionals were expected to increase 20% from 2010-2020.

Registered Nurse

If you'd like to pursue a career with additional patient care or supervisory responsibilities, becoming a registered nurse (RN) is another option worth considering. You'll need to complete a nursing diploma or associate degree program to qualify for one of these jobs, but you might find this extra investment in your education to be worthwhile. According to the BLS, RNs earned average salaries of more than $69,000 as of May 2011. The job outlook was also favorable. A faster-than-average employment growth of 26% was projected for the 2010-2020 decade.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
    Master's
      • Accelerated BSN to MSN
      • MS in Nursing
      • Master of Science - DNP Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Master of Science - DNP Adult Nurse Practitioner
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
      • Bachelor: Health Science
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
    Certificate
      • Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate
      • Nurse Educator Graduate Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Sacred Heart University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • RN to BSN to Master of Science in Nursing
    Bachelor's
      • RN-BSN - RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Online Programs Available
    3. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
      • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
      • MSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences
      • MSHS in Translational Microbiology
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)
  • Online Programs Available
    5. University of the Southwest

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Healthcare Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Education Specialist - Nursing Education
    Master's
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • RN to Bachelors of Science in Nursing
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Argosy University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Health Services Management (MS)
    Bachelor's
      • Nursing (BSN)
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Trident University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Health Sciences (Ph.D.)
    Bachelor's
      • Health Sciences (BSHS)
      • Health Administration (BSHA)
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Queens University of Charlotte

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Nursing: Undecided
      • Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Administrator
      • Master of Science in Nursing: Clinical Nurse Leader
      • Master of Science in Nursing: Clinical Nurse Leader Certificate
      • Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Educator

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • Accelerated BSN to MSN
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate

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Sacred Heart University

  • RN to BSN to Master of Science in Nursing
  • RN-BSN - RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing

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The George Washington University

  • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
  • MSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences

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Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

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University of the Southwest

  • MBA Healthcare Administration

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Northcentral University

  • Education Specialist - Nursing Education
  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration

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Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

  • RN to Bachelors of Science in Nursing

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Argosy University

  • Health Services Management (MS)
  • Nursing (BSN)

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