LPN Certificates vs Nursing Associate Degrees

LPN Certificates vs Nursing Associate Degrees

Anyone considering pursuing a nursing career needs to complete a nursing program and pass the licensing exams before beginning their professional practice. There are various options to pursue to become a nurse. You might want a bachelor’s degree and beyond as nursing degrees are as varied as the profession itself. Although most aspiring nurses who intend to practice full-time opt to complete the BSN program, there are several other nursing degree options for students who want to first gain experience before taking on the cost of a BSN.


Aspiring nurses might opt to take the easiest and fastest routes: earning a nursing associate degree or a licensed practical nursing (LPN) certificate. Unlike the bachelor’s nursing degrees, which take approximately four years to complete, licensed practical nursing takes one year, while associate nursing degrees take two. Nursing associate degrees prepare nursing students to become registered nurses. On the other hand, licensed practical nurse programs prepare nursing students to become licensed practical nurses.


Both LPN and associate degree programs unlock several career opportunities in the nursing field. The skills and knowledge gained in the different programs prepare students to practice in different health care settings, including clinics, hospitals, and home care facilities. Licensed practical nurses act as nursing assistants with the primary responsibility of helping registered nurses and physicians provide nursing care. 

Are you looking for an entry-level nursing degree but not sure where to start? Well, we got you covered. In this article, we explore the details of LPN certificates and nursing associate degrees, including: 


  1. Benefits of getting an LPN certificate 
  2. Benefits of getting an associate’s degree in nursing 
  3. How to determine whether an LPN certificate or nursing associate’s degree is right for you 
  4. Differences in salary and career outlook with an LPN certificate vs. an associate’s degree in nursing 

Benefits of Getting an LPN Certificate 

LPN certificate programs are a good starting point for entry-level nurses. Most licensed practical nurses later earn a nursing associate’s degree and even progress beyond the associate degree. The career prospects for someone with an LPN certificate are quite varied as the certificate allows licensed practical nurses to explore various opportunities in their area of practice. If you are considering pursuing a licensed practical nursing certificate, you are on the right page. This article explores various details, including the career prospects for licensed practical nurses. 

What is an LPN Certificate? 

An LPN nursing education program prepares nursing students to take the NCLEX-PN exam and obtain licensure to practice as a practical nurse. The LPN program typically takes one year to complete. The LPN program covers various areas of nursing, including the basics of nursing care. Various nursing schools around the country offer these certificates. The licensed practical nursing certificate also prepares aspiring certified nurses to earn their associate degrees, BSN program, and advanced nursing levels required to become a nurse practitioner. 

What Jobs Do You Qualify for with an LPN Certificate? 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statics, LPNs are among the fastest-growing entry-level nursing professions. LPN certificate programs prepare nursing graduates to assist the registered nurse with patient care. Primary responsibilities include monitoring patients, reporting the patient’s status to the registered nurse, performing hygienic procedures, and changing bandages. With the above responsibilities, practical nurses qualify for several job opportunities, including: 


  • Hospice Care Assistants: Licensed practical nurses work in nursing care facilities exclusively for older adults and assist them with various duties. They maintain basic hygiene, ensure the patients take the proper medication, monitor and record the patient’s health status, and educate them on prescribed treatment plans. They also provide companionship to the elderly and assist with physical therapies. 
  • Physician Assistants: LPNs might seek employment opportunities in physician offices. They help prepare patients for examinations, assist physicians in conducting minor surgeries, administer medication, and give injections as directed by the doctor. 
  • Psychiatric Assistants: Licensed practical nurses can work in mental health facilities to provide care to mentally ill patients. The LPNs help develop patient’s treatment plans, conduct health assessments to determine the patient’s progress, ensure safety, and maintain the wards’ hygiene. 
  • Home Care Health Aide: As a home care health aide, LPNs assist home care patients with personal hygiene, evaluating the condition of the patient, accompanying patients on outings, providing companionship to the patients, and providing primary care education to loved ones. 

Who Should Consider an LPN Certificate? 

LPN certificate could be beneficial to students who aspire to pursue entry-level nursing job opportunities to gain hands-on experience before moving into advanced nursing practice. Those who lack the resources to enroll for associate degree programs in nursing should also consider pursuing the one-year LPN certificate.

Benefits of Getting an Associate’s Degree in Nursing 

For several years now, an associate degree in nursing has been considered the minimum requirement for aspiring nurses to enter the nursing profession. However, this norm is increasingly changing as most employers are seeking certified nurses with BSN degrees. With this, most registered nurses have begun wondering whether getting an associate degree in nursing is worth it. High school graduates aspiring to become nurses are increasingly enrolling for BSN degrees than nursing schools’ associate degree programs. Despite this trend, associate degrees have remained a suitable option for individuals intending to become registered nurses. 

Who Should Consider an Associate’s Degree in Nursing? 

With the aging population and increased number of nurses retiring annually, there has been a significant shortage of nurses in the United States. We all know the critical role nurses play in patient care. This is a clear indication that the nursing job market is likely to witness an increased demand for nurses, whether ADN-educated or BSN-educated. Associate degrees take two years to complete, whereas bachelor’s degrees take four years to complete.

Therefore, those wishing to make a quick entry into the nursing profession should consider enrolling for associate’s degree programs. Those considering starting their profession as registered nurses before advancing to higher levels should also consider associate degrees. Licensed practical nurses intending to advance their careers and expertise should enroll in associate degree programs. 

What Types of Jobs Can You with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing? 

Unlike BSN degrees, associate degrees enable aspiring registered nurses to begin their nursing careers after two years. With this, the registered nurses can gain hands-on work experience in the nursing field sooner than prospective nurses pursuing BSN degrees. The associate degree opens up several job opportunities for ADN nurses. Here are some of the career prospects for ADN nurses: 


Registered Nurse: Registered nurses provide general patient care, including giving medication, recording patient history, assessing patient illnesses, and taking patient’s vital signs. Registered nurses usually work in clinics, hospitals, and community health centers. 

Home Care Nurse: Home care nurses work with patients who need acute care in their homes. They give patients medication, provide primary care, aid with mobility, and monitor their health progress. 

Pediatric Nurse: These registered nurses provide primary care to children, including assessing their health conditions. They also provide nutrition guidance to help prevent various illnesses. 

Clinical Associate: They perform basic nursing duties such as handling medical equipment, transporting patients, and obtaining blood specimens. 

Emergency Room Nurse: These registered nurses work in emergency rooms handling patients with acute problems, major injuries, and trauma. 

Nurse Midwife: BSN-prepared nurses might pursue the nurse-midwife career option. Nurse-midwives specialize in childbirth and gynecological health.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate’s Degree in Nursing? 

Associate degree nursing programs generally take two years to complete. However, students pursuing online associate’s degree programs might take a shorter amount of time to complete their degree program.

How to Determine Whether an LPN Certificate or Nursing Associate’s Degree Is Right for You 

There are several ways of entering the nursing career. The fundamental way of gaining practical nursing experience is by either enrolling for a licensed practical nursing certificate or an associate’s degree. The LPN programs and associate nursing degrees are offered in a variety of nursing schools. The two nursing programs benefit entry-level practical nurses and registered nurses and those who desire to advance their nursing careers to higher levels. With this, choosing the right nursing education program to pursue can be quite tricky. Nonetheless, in this article, we strive to make a choice easier for you by analyzing the factors you need to consider when choosing the nursing program to pursue. 

What Should You Consider When Choosing Between an LPN Certificate and A Nursing Associate’s Degree? 

The demand for nursing professionals has rapidly grown due to the increased need for nursing care. Nursing education, either ADN or LPN nursing programs, continues to create diverse opportunities for aspiring nurses. However, the choice between earning an LPN certificate or a nursing associate’s degree depends on several factors. Here are some of the factors you might consider when choosing the nursing program to pursue:



  • Financial Capabilities


Nursing education has increasingly become expensive due to the education trends in the nursing field. This has made it difficult for aspiring nurses to pursue certain nursing degrees, especially BSN programs, which are highly expensive. LPN certificate programs are relatively cheaper compared to associate degree programs. Therefore, if you consider pursuing a nursing program but have financial difficulties, consider enrolling for the LPN program. 


  • Time Frame 


Your time frame is a significant factor when looking at nursing programs. LPN certificate programs generally take one year to complete, while the ADN program takes approximately two years. The question you should ask yourself is whether you want to enter the field as soon as possible or earn a higher nursing degree before beginning your nursing practice. If you intend to enter the nursing field as quickly as possible, you need to enroll for an associate degree. In contrast, if you are considering becoming a registered nurse should pursue an associate degree in nursing.


  • Coursework 


Even though ADN and LPN programs all prepare students to enter the nursing profession, they have different coursework. LPN programs typically cover the introductory aspects of the nursing field. On the other side, ADN coursework tentatively covers advanced aspects of the nursing profession, allowing aspiring nurses to transition to BSN programs. Hence, students intending to transfer their credits quickly to BSN programs should consider pursuing an associate’s degree program. 


  • Career Goals 


Before enrolling in any nursing degree program, you need to first factor in your career goals. What do you want to become after your nursing education? LPN certificate programs unlock careers for licensed practical nurses, whereas ADN programs enable you to become registered nurses. Therefore, those seeking to become registered nurses should enroll in ADN programs as it is the minimum requirement for RN licensure. Aspiring practical nurses should pursue the one-year licensed practical nurse certificate program. The highest-paid nurses in entry-level jobs have earned a BSN degree or completed associate’s degree programs, making the ADN programs ideal for aspiring nurses seeking high-paying nursing careers. 


  • Education Goals 


Most working professionals prefer to advance their careers to higher levels. Advancing your career dictates that you dedicate your time to continuing your education. Starting your nursing education from the lower LPN certificate program makes it difficult to advance your education quickly. Nursing professionals who intend to earn BSN degrees and above should enroll for associate’s degrees as it makes the transition much more straightforward. 


  • Skills and Knowledge 


Licensed practical nurse certificates provide nursing students with the much-needed skills and knowledge to practice as entry-level nurses. The coursework covers mainly the basic aspects of nursing. Associate’s degree programs are designed to provide students with foundational knowledge in the nursing field. Nurses intending to acquire advanced foundational nursing skills and knowledge are highly advised to pursue an associate’s degree in nursing.  

What Is the Quickest Way to Become a Registered Nurse? 

Some individuals spend a substantial number of years trying to find the right career path, while others have a clear vision of what they want to become. Those with the hopes of becoming a nurse might be wondering the quickest route to beginning their nursing practice. With the increased demand for nurses in the United States, nursing has increasingly become the desired career for many. This owes to the promising career outlook for registered nurses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses earn a median salary of $73,300, making it among the highest paying healthcare professions. 


There are several pathways to becoming a registered nurse. For instance, one might opt to pursue an associate degree program. Or you might consider enrolling in a BSN program. The other alternative is by first earning an LPN certificate and later pursuing an associate degree. All these pathways will enable aspiring registered nurses to obtain their practicing licenses after passing their certification exams. The curriculum for all the alternatives differs considerably. For instance, the BSN program takes four years to earn all the credits. Earning a licensed practical nurse certificate takes two years. 


On the other hand, earning an LPN certificate before enrolling for an associate degree program will typically take three years. The curriculum for ADN programs covers the core classes, making it a career-focused nursing degree. This allows aspiring RNs to complete their coursework within two years, allowing them to join the workforce within a shorter time. This makes an associate degree program the quickest way of becoming a registered nurse. 

Why Should You Choose an LPN Certificate If You Are Interested in A Flexible Schedule? 

Flexibility is one of the factors that most nursing professionals consider before pursuing a specific career path. Even though nurses enjoy high job flexibility, several nursing careers require keen nursing skills. For instance, registered nurses working in emergency rooms and acute care settings are likely to enjoy flexible schedules as they receive patients at any time of the day. 


Earning an LPN certificate opens up various job opportunities that require tight schedules. In most cases, practical nurses act as assistants to registered nurses and physicians, allowing licensed practical nurses to engage in various personal practices.

Differences in Salary and Career Outlook between an LPN Certificate vs. an Associate’s Degree in Nursing

According to a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing careers are among the most sought-after nursing professions in the United States. Nursing careers are also considered the most promising occupations with high salaries and satisfaction levels. However, the salary scale varies depending on one’s level of education. Licensed nurse practitioners are the highest-paid nurses, followed closely by registered nurses. Licensed practical nurses earn relatively lower salaries due to their low education levels. Therefore, before choosing any degree program, it is vital to consider the salary prospects related to a particular nursing program. We explore the significant differences in associate degree nurses’ salary and licensed practical nurses on this page. 

What Are the Salary Differences Between LPNs and ADNs? 

The responsibilities of licensed practical nurses have rapidly expanded with the increased demand for medical professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses earn relatively higher salaries than licensed practical nurses. However, licensed practical nurses with advanced nursing education levels make relatively the exact amounts as their colleagues practicing as registered nurses. The salaries also vary depending on the specialty of licensed practice nurses and associate degree nurses. For instance, clinical nurse specialists earn different amounts compared to nurse educators. 


The salaries also differ from state-to-state with the highest paying state being California. The average pay of licensed practical nurses in the United States is $48,840, while the average salary for registered nurses is $75,330, which means licensed practical nurses earn $23.47 per hour. In contrast, registered nurses make $36.22 per hour, a clear indicator of the substantial salary differences between ADNs and LPNs. Licensed practical nurses intending to increase their salaries should opt to pursue associate’s degrees in nursing and BSN programs. 


Similar nursing occupations relatively earn lower salaries compared to licensed practical nurses and registered nurses. For instance, medical assistants, a similar job to licensed practical nurses, earn a median salary of $35,850. Additionally, nursing assistants and orderlies earn a median salary of $30,830, while psychiatric technicians and aides take home $33,850 annually. Occupations related to registered nurses include dental hygienists who make a median pay of $77,090. Others include nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, and nurse practitioners who earn a median salary of $117,670. Remember, most of these occupations require nurses to make master’s degrees in nursing and beyond to advance their careers, leading to higher salaries.

What Is the Job Outlook for Nurses with LPN Certificates? 

The demand for licensed practical nurses is rapidly growing. Currently, approximately 721,700 licensed practical nurses have been employed in the country. The licensed practical nurses act as medical assistants in various health care settings, including nursing homes, private homes, hospitals, and clinics. The job openings for medical assistants are likely to grow by 9% by 2019. The growth rate is relatively faster than the average growth rate for most occupations in the country. 


The demand for healthcare services is expected to increase in the coming years with the aging population, nursing shortage, and increased prevalence of illnesses. Health consumers will highly need the services of licensed practical nurses in home health environments and residential care facilities to care for older adults. Hence, those considering entering the booming nursing profession should enroll in licensed practical nurses’ certificate programs. 

Chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and other chronic disorders have become more prevalent over the past few decades. Licensed practical nurses are highly needed to assist in taking care of patients living with chronic conditions. Also, most medical procedures that were previously done in hospitals are now offered in other healthcare settings such as outpatient health facilities, nursing homes, and hospice care centers. LPNs willing to work in medically underserved areas have higher chances of landing a job than those unwilling to work in rural areas. To increase your chances of gaining employment, obtain certifications in an array of specialty areas such as intravenous therapy and gerontology. 

What Does the Job Outlook Look Like for Nurses with Associate’s Degrees? 

The United States is witnessing an increased demand for medical services due to increased medical problems, especially with the younger people. Registered nurses are highly needed to educate and provide care to patients suffering from various ailments such as dementia, arthritis, obesity, and other severe conditions. The cost of healthcare services has rapidly increased, leading to increased discharge of patients from hospitals. Most of these patients end up in outpatient care centers and long-term care facilities, increasing the demand for practical nurses. 


Also, most terminally ill patients prefer to be treated in residential care facilities or their private homes. While receiving treatment at home, the patients require support to help perform basic tasks, increasing nursing assistants’ demand. With the healthcare sector trend, registered nurses’ employment rate is expected to grow by 7 percent in the next decade. According to BSL, close to 176,000 job openings for registered nurses will be created yearly over the next decade. The openings will mainly be created by retiring RNs and employees transferring to other occupations. The competition for registered nurses is currently high. Associate degree holders should advance their nursing education to remain competitive in the nursing job market.

In Summary  

Although many aspiring nurses begin their nursing education as undergraduate nursing students, the program is not always the only way of starting your nursing practice. There are shorter nursing programs such as associate’s degrees in nursing and licensed practical certificate programs that afford prospective nurses prompt entry into the nursing field. Both an associate’s degree in nursing and licensed practical nurse certificate programs prepare students for entry-level nursing care occupations. Most students are yet to identify the key differences between the two professional nursing programs. 


Licensed practical nurse certificate programs prepare students to become licensed practical nurses. On the other hand, associate’s degrees in nursing are programs designed to prepare nursing students to become registered nurses. The primary responsibility of LPNs is offering nursing assistance to registered nurses and physicians. They provide basic care services to patients in different health settings, including residential health facilities, clinics, outpatient centers, and private homes. Registered nurses, on the other hand, are trained and qualified to provide primary care to patients. 


One of the benefits of earning an LPN certificate is that it’s the quickest way to begin nursing practice. It offers schedule flexibility and allows you to transition to RN programs easily. The ADN program is the fastest route to becoming a registered nurse since it only takes two years to complete, unlike the BSN programs. If you are considering pursuing a career in nursing, there are several factors you need to consider before enrolling in a nursing program. They include time frame, financial costs, and job opportunities. Currently, there is high demand for nursing professionals as job openings for LPNs and ADNs are projected to grow by 9% and 7%, respectively.

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