Those interested in starting a rewarding career in healthcare can complete a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocation nurse (LVN) program in two years or less. Serving as an LPN/LVN can open the doors to other career opportunities, including a registered nurse (RN). Students planning to maintain a part-time or full-time job while completing their education can enroll in an online LPN/LVN program to achieve their educational goals. The following page outlines the career paths for LPNs/LVNs and the online program options available to students.
Deciding which college to go to is no easy task, so ACO evaluated more than 3,500 colleges to give you the information you need to make the search more manageable. Our 2018 college rankings are based on statistical data from trusted sources, eligibility criteria and various ranking factors
Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
Each college must have at least one online program 1
Each college must have a maximum four-year tuition of $25,000 or a maximum two-year tuition of $5,000
Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition2 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor for all ACO rankings.
1 Best Vocational Programs included data for both online and campus programs.
2 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.
A dash in our Rankings Tool indicates IPEDS data was not available.
Tuition displayed in in-state and per year unless stated otherwise.
Qualified health care professionals are in demand and the first step to entering the field is an online degree for LPNs. Whether the degree is a stepping stone for further education or where you want to grow your career, you can find flexible and quality opportunities at a wide range of schools. First, you need to do your research to ensure the program you choose meets the licensure requirements in your state. We’ve done some of that work for you, looking at a variety of services and features to bring you a list of the best online LPN programs for 2018.
Northland Community and Technical College is a 2-year institution locationed in East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls, Minnesota. This school offers an online practical nursing diploma for distance learners. Northland's online students have academic advisors to ensure you choose the right program to meet your career goals. You will also receive close guidance in your classes, with supervised training experiences in caring for clients in a variety of health care settings and scenarios. You will also learn about administering medication, using diagnostic testing devices, IV pumps, syringes and cardiac monitors. Graduates of this program often pursue careers working in long-term care facilities, rehabilitation hospitals, clinics, acute care hospitals, group homes, childcare facilities and school nursing. Admission to this program is competitive. Prospective students must complete the Northland college admission process and declare their major in practical nursing. You can test out of the required developmental courses with Accuplacer scores of 50 and 60 or higher in arithmetic and elementary algebra, respectively. All distance education students pay the same tuition rates at Northland regardless of their location. Full-time students can complete the 44 credit hours and requirements for the diploma in 3-4 semesters.
Western Wyoming Community College is a 2-year institution located in Rock Springs. This practical nursing certificate is offered in a hybrid format and requires 42 credits for graduation. While most of your training and coursework must be completed on campus, some theory-based courses are available online. Certificate seekers must complete 22 credits of prerequisites in general education areas such as general biology, anatomy, English composition, psychology and algebra. Additionally, the core nursing curriculum can be completed by taking 1 nursing course in the fall, spring and summer semesters). All prerequisite courses must be complete, however, by the end of your spring semester, before fall admission into the nursing program. You must earn a "C" or higher to stay in good standing. Students may obtain credit for previously earned credits from other accredited institutions, advanced placement courses taken in high school and credit by examination.
The Lake Area Technical Institute's hybrid practical nursing program is only open to residents of South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. All required practical nursing courses (except English, math, anatomy and psychology) can be completed online. General education courses may be completed at another regionally accredited school and transferred toward your degree. As a distance learner, you are required to visit the Lake Area Tech campus for clinical training programs. Full-time students can complete the degree in 11 months, while part-time students need about 23 months to finish. By training with the latest medical technology, Lake Area Tech graduates are prepared for a variety of areas within the nursing field such as obstetrical, pediatric, medical, psychiatric, surgical and geriatric. Applicants must complete an online application and the 3-hour ATI-TEAS entrance exam, which you take on campus. Applicants must also submit their high school and college transcripts and have a minimum GPA of 2.5. Nursing students must also have a physical examination and current immunization records. Students can transfer credits toward their LPN degree if they earned a C or higher. Credit for prior learning is also available, including national standardized tests, professional certifications, experience-based credit, military experience and some AP high school courses. All credits must be approved by the registrar and will not count toward your GPA at NJC.
Accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Henderson Community College's hybrid Associate in Applied Science degree in nursing requires a minimum of 62 credits to graduate. Students will need to spend 3-4 days a week on campus which is quite similar to a traditional degree trajectory. As a Henderson graduate, you will be ready to work in health care facilities and clinics, child care centers and doctors' offices. Some students even go on to work as teachers at educational facilities. You will acquire the necessary skills for a variety of nursing positions in the health care industry, including beside care, evaluation of client needs, taking vital signs, applying dressings and keeping records. Admission to the nursing program at Henderson is competitive, and applicants must meet the minimum standards to be included in the qualified applicant pool. Applicants must attend a preadmission conference, complete the standard application and submit official ACT, SAT, and/or HESI A2 results. You must also submit your high school and any post high school transcripts. Full-time students can finish this degree program in 2 years.
Ashland Community and Technical College in Kentucky is a 2-year, open admission institution that offers distance learners associate degrees, certificates and diplomas. Online students can earn a licensed practical nurse diploma (LPN) in a hybrid format. This program will position students for future work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics and doctors' offices. Unlike most other programs at ACTC, admission to the LPN program is selective. All prospective students must submit both a program application and the standard ACTC application. Most hybrid students can finish this 57-credit hour degree over the course of 3 semesters. Applicants must provide proof of immunizations and annual TB skin testing. While in the program, students must also pass a drug screen and background check every 18 months. After completion of the program, graduates can apply to a state board of nursing to sit for the NCLEX-PN national licensing exam.
National Median Annual Salary & Job Growth for Nursing
The bureau of labor statistics provides the following data about job growth in the Nursing industry. As well as the following national median salary data for several different careers in the field of Nursing.
Becoming a licensed practical nurse or licensed vocational nurse can be a stepping stone towards a nursing or medical career, or be a rewarding career path in itself with opportunities to help patients. Below is a map that highlights key milestones an LPN/LVN may reach along the way:
Excelled in natural science, physics, human anatomy, mathematics, and other science subjects; volunteered at a local hospice or hospital
Completed 12-month training program through accredited online vocational school. two to three years.
completed clinical rotations in various practice specialties to obtain hands-on training in the field.
passed the NCLEX-PN licensing exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
obtained certification in specialty area, such as intravenous therapy, pediatric care, or gerontology.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
completed LPN-to-BSN bridge program or pursued a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing.
LPN/LVN Programs: Online Experience
Even though there are clinical components of LPN/LVN training programs, much of the coursework can still be completed online. Online LPN and LVN programs are designed with the same curriculum as those offered in a classroom setting but students are responsible for logging in to an online platform and participating in online discussions.
Students enrolled in online nursing programs can enjoy the flexibility of studying at times that are most convenient for them while maintaining a job or taking care of a family. Eliminating a drive to campus and spending several hours a week in a classroom can make it easier to manage a busy schedule while completing a quality education program.
Online students must complete clinical rotations that may involve spending several hours a week in a laboratory setting or medical setting to gain hands-on experience. Students are responsible for organizing their schedules to take care of the clinical requirements of the program.
Online Program Options for LPNs
Many schools offer a variety of program types for aspiring LPNs and LVNs to fit the needs of different students. The right program depends on an individual’s educational background, career goals, and available time. For example, an accelerated program that can be completed in approximately nine months may be more appropriate for someone without a full-time job or other responsibilities, while a two-year program may be a better match for someone who is working while going to school. Previously licensed LPNs or LVNs may need to take refresher courses to stay current on the latest developments in the industry and renew their license.
Students who want to complete a nursing training program quickly and at a lower cost can complete a diploma program. These programs provide a specialized introduction to the nursing field and provide students with the very basic, job-specific skills needed to succeed in this field.
Individuals who want a solid foundation in the nursing field can pursue an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). The credits earned with this degree program may be used towards a bachelor’s degree for those who aspire to work as a registered nurse (RN). Associate’s degree programs provide broader skills training and a more in-depth education than a diploma program since they are designed to prepare students for a long-term nursing career. Completing this type of degree program online can make it easier for students to fulfill their educational requirements while working part-time or full-time. However, the degree program does include a clinical component where students need to fulfill hands-on training requirements in a lab or hospital setting.
Completing a licensed practical nurse (LPN) certification program takes about one to two years of training at a community college or technical school, and may be the fast track to entering the nursing field without a degree. Those who successfully complete this program may have the option to enroll in an LPN-to-RN or LPN-to-BSN bridge program where they can become a registered nurse. Completing a certification program can be a shortcut to entering the work force but may not fully prepare a student for a bachelor’s degree later — if a bachelor’s degree is the goal, the student may fare better completing an associate’s degree program first. The student must decide what their long-term educational career goals are before enrolling in an associate’s degree or certificate program.
Previously licensed LPNs and LVNs who wish to continue advancing their careers can complete a refresher course in 12 months. The one-year program typically includes 120 hours of theory and 120 hours of clinical practice. It is complete with a final exam. The theory component can be completed online, giving students the flexibility to study at their own pace. Students must register for this program, provide transcripts showing completion of a previous LPN or LVN program, and verify their current licensure. The clinical portion is completed under the guidance of a preceptor at a clinical site and students must provide clinical experience verification forms, a letter of recommendation, and other materials before they can re-activate their license.
Online LPN/LVN: Sample Courses
Coursework for aspiring LPNs and LVNs varies by type of training program or degree program. Diploma programs are more specialized in nature, while degree and certification programs take a broader scope and courses dedicated to specialty areas. Examples of courses offered in some of these programs include:
Fundamentals of Nursing
Introduction of practical nursing principles and skills, including the nursing process and implementation of patient care plans.
Human Anatomy and Physiology
A comprehensive study of the human body and the body’s systems, including the musculoskeletal and nervous system, endocrine system, and histology. Other subjects may include metabolism, the reproductive system, and electrolyte balance.
Overview of common medical terms and medical terminology used in the nursing industry, including appropriate world analysis, pronunciation, and medical terms used in a lab setting or during a surgical procedure.
Legal, Ethical, Cultural and Ethnic Aspects of Nursing
Comprehensive study of the legal system and ethical principles that affect nosing care. Students learn about malpractice and negligence, professional liability insurance, confidentiality practices, and review the American Nurses’ Association Code of Ethics.
State laws mandate all patient care must be documented. Students are introduced to the different methods of documentation and process of documenting care in different medical settings, as outlined by regulatory bodies such as the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).
Checklist: Before Enrolling in an Online LPN Program
There are many accredited and online LPN and LVN programs out there and finding the right match can feel overwhelming. Here are some things to consider when searching for the right fit:
Choose an online school that offers the type of program that will help you reach your short-term and long-term educational goals
Find out about enrollment requirements, such as high school GPA, work experience, or educational background so you can determine whether you are eligible for a particular program.
Determine whether the online school is accredited by The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
Talk to admission representatives and academic advisors about educational tracks and career options for nursing students.
Determine what types of support services are available for online students.
Review financial aid and scholarship opportunities available.
Review tuition cost information and set up a payment plan or make arrangements for student loans or personal loans.
Learn about professional organizations in the nursing field.
Online LPN Programs Accreditation
Graduates of an accredited nursing school program are eligible to take NCLEX-PN exam, required for state licensure as a practical or vocational nurse. Holding a degree or certificate from an accredited school allows students to attend other accredited schools if they choose to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree. In addition, employers typically look for candidates who have completed training at an accredited school since this means the candidate was trained under nationally established guidelines and standards in nursing education. Understanding the importance of completing an accredited training program is the first step towards a successful career in this field.
One of the best ways to successfully enter the nursing field is to keep track of all education and training requirements needed to apply for a license. Mapping out a calendar of deadlines and forecasting the number of months and years it takes to complete various elements of a nursing education can help to keep students on track. This chart is an example of what a typical student’s timeline might look like:
Complete diploma program, associate’s degree or certification program
1 to 3 years
Pass licensing exam (NCLEX-PN)
1 to 3 years
Secure entry-level job
Take refresher courses to maintain licensure
Individuals who know they want to enter the field of nursing can prepare for enrollment in a diploma, associate’s degree program, or certification program while still in high school. They can focus on excelling in math and science courses and study these subjects on their own during the summer after graduation.
Volunteering at an area hospital, hospice, or similar healthcare setting can be a valuable addition to any student’s resume because it gives them experience working with patients indirectly and working in a medical or clinical setting.
LPN/LVN Career Opportunities
Completing an LPN/LVN program can help an aspiring nurse or medical professional succeed in their field. The following are some career options for practical nurses:
Home Health Care Provider
Professionals who are able to travel to a patent’s location and provide home health care services may find this line of work appealing. They are involved with taking care of patients in their home instead of in a hospital setting, educating family members or other care providers, and providing assistance after surgery or during a recovery period.
Some LPNs and LVNs can complete a specialty training program where they can work in the armed services to provide care for injured military members. They may also work in a civilian hospital setting at a particular destination where the military is serving for an extended period of time.
Not all LPNs and LVNs work directly with patients. Some prefer to work behind the scenes on the administrative side, taking care of patient paperwork, filing duties, inventory management, and other administrative tasks for a physician’s practice, hospital, medical center, or healthcare facility. Some LPNs rotate between office tasks and clinical tasks as needed.
Nursing Facility Nurse
Those who wish to work strictly with geriatric patients can find jobs in a nursing facility or hospice. These nursing professionals are responsible for providing basic nursing care to elderly patients, assisting doctors and physicians with assessments and other routine tasks, and overseeing treatment planning processes for their patients.
Mental Health Facility Nurse
Residential treatment centers, rehab centers and similar mental health care facilities hire LPNs to develop treatment plans for patients, conduct basic physical assessments, and provide supervision to nursing aides on staff. These nursing professionals need to have very good communication and interpersonal skills to handle patients with mental health problems or those who are chronically ill.
LPN/LVN Licenses & Certifications
State licensure is required before an LPN or LVN can practice. Every state has its own licensing requirements that are listed on the individual state’s Board of Nursing website. In most cases, individuals can submit an application to the Board of Nursing and pay appropriate fees online.
Specialty certifications are optional and but can increase job skills and credibility. Obtaining additional certification can make the nursing professional more attractive to a future employer.
Wound Care Certification (WCC) provides in-depth training for managing and treating different types of wounds.
Similar Online Nursing Programs
After reviewing the guidelines and requirements in this guide, some students may be wondering whether a career as a practical nurse is right for them. If the life of an LPN or LVN sounds interesting but you’d like to explore more options, consider these other similar programs and career paths:
Training to become a certified nursing assistant may be a better match for those who are interested in providing support to a nurse or medical professionals in a clinical setting. Students learn the practical, academic, and social skills necessary to excel in this field and complete CPR/AED or the Healthcare Provider training, as well as First Aid Training and clinical training requirements. A portion of this program can be completed online.
Becoming a registered nurse (RN) may be an attractive career proposition for those who want to treat patients directly and educate the public about various health issues. An online RN program typically encompasses all areas of the traditional registered nurse program and obtain supervised clinical experience at an approved healthcare facility.
Licensed practical nurses who wish to further their education can complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree online. The online LPN-to-BSN bridge program helps students become eligible for licensure as a registered nurse in their state. The majority of coursework is completed online, although some clinical training requirements for this program take place in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and even research settings after graduation.