How to Become an Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Career Path Guide

If you want to become a licensed practical nurse, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits.


If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for working in this field:


• You have an interest in helping others

• You are willing to work in a career that is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding

• You would enjoy working with people and operating medical and computer equipment

• You want to work in a healthcare setting

• You would enjoy collaborating with and advising other professionals

• You are kind, empathetic and patient

• You are able to demonstrate and model professional behaviour

• You have initiative, confidence and self-awareness, but know when to seek guidance


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a licensed practical nurse. We've also included helpful occupationals information, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse

Nursing is a regulated profession in both Canada and the United States. The educational requirements for this profession depend primarily on the region in which the nurse is going to work.


Becoming an LPN in Canada (RPN in Ontario)


To become a Licensed Practical Nurse in Canada (or Registered Practical Nurse - RPN in Ontario), you must be a graduate of an approved practical nursing education program, which is typically 2 years in duration, and includes a combination of classroom and laboratory instruction, and clinical experience in various health care settings.


Becoming an LPN in the United States


In the United States, you must complete an LPN training program, which may be offered at a technical school, vocational school or community college. These programs are typically 1-2 years in duration.





General Job Description

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs)* are responsible for providing basic medical care in a healthcare setting. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors. 


Some licensed practical nurses may be limited to performing certain tasks, while others may carry out many nursing responsibilities independently; the level of responsibility of LPNs can vary, depending on the region in which they work, the setting in which they work and their level of experience.


For example, in some American states, LPNs with proper training can give medication or start intravenous (IV) drips, while in other states LPNs cannot perform these tasks.


In many settings, licensed practical nurses that have years of professional experience often work in leadership roles. Experienced LPNs are often responsible for assigning care duties to health care aides and other unlicensed staff.


*In Ontario, licensed practical nurses are known as Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs)



Typical Job Duties

Although the specific job duties of licensed practical nurses can vary, they are generally responsible for the following:


• Monitoring the health of patients (by checking their blood pressure for example)

• Administering basic patient care, including changing bandages and inserting catheters

• Keeping records of patient health, to ensure continuity of care

• Ensuring the basic comfort of patients, which may include helping them bathe or dress

• Providing patients with an explanation regarding the care they are receiving

• Listening to the concerns of patients

• Collecting samples for testing and do routine laboratory tests

• Working on a multidisciplinary team with a variety of health professionals

• Advocating for clients

• Educating the public about good health practices



Who Employs Licensed Practical Nurses?

Licensed practical nurses may be employed on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis by a variety of organizations involved in administering health care services, and may work in any setting where health care is delivered. Such organizations and settings include:


• Hospitals (public or private)

• Physicians’ offices

• Community care agencies

• Residential homes

• Clinics

• Schools

• Occupational health departments

• Long-term care organizations (hospice and palliative care organizations)

• Residential facilities

• Correctional facilities





Certification Needed to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse

LPN Certification Canada:


To become licensed as a Licensed Practical Nurse in Canada, you must graduate from an approved Practical Nurse Education training program and pass the Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Examination (CPNRE). The CPNRE is a national examination that measures the competencies required of nurses at the beginning of their practice.


LPN Certification United States:


In all of the American states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) must have a nursing license. 


To become a certified as an LPN in the United States, you must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN for Licensed Practical Nurses). Other licensing requirements vary by state.



Competencies for a Career as a Licensed Practical Nurse

Becoming a licensed practical nurse means that you have the knowledge, skill, judgment and attitude needed to perform your job duties with competence, thus ensuring that you provide safe, effective and ethical nursing care. Below is a list of competencies relevant to a career as an LPN.


• Able to display initiative, confidence and self-awareness

• Able to recognize when to seek assistance and guidance

• Able to demonstrate and model professional behaviour

• Able to initiate, maintain and terminate a therapeutic nurse-client relationship in an appropriate manner

• Able to provide client care in a non-judgmental manner

• Able to foster an environment that encourages questioning and exchanging information

• Able to understand and respect the roles of other health-care team members

• Able to adhere to standards of practice and legislation for the profession

• Able to establish and maintain a safe and caring environment for patients, family members, and staff

• Able to maintain client confidentiality in written, oral and electronic communication

• Able to complete comprehensive health assessments of clients throughout the lifespan

• Able to provide health-related information and access to resources

• Able to evaluate the effectiveness of nursing interventions by comparing actual outcomes to expected outcomes



Licensed Practical Nurse Salary Level

The actual wages and salaries of library assistants can vary greatly, typically depending on the following factors:


• Their level of education and experience

• The amount of responsibility inherent in their job

• The size and type of their employer

• Whether they work part-time or full-time hours

• The structure of their financial benefits package 

• The region in which they work

• Their salary negotiating abilities

• Many other factors


Salary in Alberta: According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average salary level of Albertans working in the “Licensed Practical Nurse” occupational group is $47,644 per year.


Salary - British Columbia: According to WorkBC (Province of British Columbia), those working in the “Licensed practical nurses” occupational group earn an annual provincial median salary of $56,826.


Salary - United States: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the “Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses” occupational group is $46,240 per year.



Current Job Postings

Our job board below has "LPN" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.



Typical Work Environment

Working Conditions: Working with sick and injured people can be quite physically, emotionally and mentally stressful. LPNs typically work on their feet for much of the day, and they often have to lift or help lift patients who have trouble moving in bed, standing, or walking.


They may also be required to move large items or equipment. Licensed practical nurses may also have to work with hazardous materials, and may be exposed to communicable diseases.


Work Schedule: According to the Untied States Bureau of Labor Statistics, most licensed practical nurses work full time, although about 1 in 5 worked part time (2012 figures).


Because medical care takes place at all hours, LPNs may work shifts that include evenings, nights, weekends and holidays. LPNs may be required to work shifts that are more than 8 hours in duration.


Work Setting: Licensed practical nurses work in a variety of settings where health care services are administered. This includes nursing homes and extended care facilities, hospitals, physicians' offices, and private homes.


LPNs typically wear scrubs, which is a type of medical clothing that usually consists of a loose shirt and drawstring pants.



Similar Occupations in Our System

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to licensed practical nurse, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.



Health Care Aide

Massage Therapist

Orthopaedic Technician

Registered Nurse




Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a licensed practical nurse.


Occupations in Alberta:Licensed Practical Nurse.” (March 19, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 19, 2020.

Healthcare: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses.” (December 16, 2019). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved February 19, 2020.

Explore Careers:Licensed practical nurses.” (December 11, 2018). WorkBC website - Province of British Columbia. Retrieved February 19, 2020.

Careers:Become an LPN-RPN.” (n.d.). Canadian Council for Practical Nurse Regulators website. Retrieved December 30, 2019.

Practical Nursing Blog:How to Become an LPN: 5 Steps to Earning Your Scrubs.” Kirsten Slyter (February 11, 2019). Rasmussen College website. Retrieved December 30, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a licensed practical nurse can be found on our Nursing Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant University Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for eventually working in this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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