Licensed Practical Nurses


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Some LPN programs do not require a high school diploma, but it is highly recommended, particularly if you want to be eligible for advancement opportunities. To prepare for a career as an LPN, you should study biology, chemistry, physics, and science while in high school. English and mathematics courses are also helpful.

Postsecondary Training

Those interested in a career as an LPN usually enroll in a practical nursing program after graduating from high school. There are about 1,200 state-approved programs in the United States that provide practical nursing training. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 60 percent of all LPNs graduate from a technical or vocational school and 30 percent from a community or junior college. The remainder are enrolled in colleges, hospital programs, or high schools. Most programs last 12 months, with time spent for both classroom study and supervised clinical care. Courses include basic nursing concepts, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, medical-surgical nursing, pediatrics, obstetrics, nutrition, and first aid. Clinical practice is most often in a hospital setting.

Other Education or Training

Many national and state-level nursing associations provide continuing education opportunities to LPNs. For example, the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service (NAPNES) offers online courses such as Intensive Review of Pharmacology, Understanding Palliative Care Nursing, and Critical Thinking. Contact NAPNES and other nursing organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Via the NALPN Education Foundation, the National Association of Licensed Practical Nurses offers voluntary certification for LPNs who specialize in IV therapy and gerontology. The National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service offers voluntary certification for LPNs who specialize in long-term care, IV therapy, or pharmacology. Contact these organizations for more information.

All 50 states require graduates of a state-approved practical nursing program to take the National Council Licensure Examination, which has been developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Nursing students should gain experience by completing several nursing internships or clinical rotations as part of their postsecondary training.

Stamina, both physical and mental, is a must for this occupation. LPNs may be assigned to care for heavy or immobile patients or patients confused with dementia. Patience, and a caring, nurturing attitude, are valuable qualities to possess in order to be a successful LPN. As part of a health care team, they must be able to follow orders and work under close supervision. Other important traits include good observational skills, strong decision-making abilities, and the ability to communication well with others.