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Licensed Practical Nurses

At a Glance

  • Work under the supervision of doctors or registered nurses
  • Keep detailed records
  • Usually wear a uniform and safety gear (i.e., masks and gloves)
  • May work days, nights, weekends, or holidays
  • Training usually lasts one to two years
  • Have a license

Career summary

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) care for people who are sick, injured, or have disabilities.

Licensed practical nurses may also be called licensed vocational nurses.

Licensed practical nurses work under the direction of a doctor or registered nurse (RN).

Most LPNs provide basic bedside care to patients. They take vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration. They discuss health care with patients and listen to their concerns. They also help to maintain patient records.

LPNs observe patients and report any negative reactions to treatments or medications. They collect blood and other samples from patients for testing. In some work settings, they perform routine lab tests. They prepare patients for more complex tests and exams and explain how procedures work and answer questions.

LPNs answer patient calls. They monitor patients and provide basic care such as changing bandages and inserting catheters. They treat patients for bedsores, apply dressings, and assist with meals. They also apply hot water bottles and ice packs.

In nursing homes and other care facilities licensed nurses help patients bathe, brush teeth, and get dressed. They may help evaluate the needs of residents and assist others in developing care plans.

In private homes LPNs may prepare meals. They may also teach simple nursing tasks to family members.

In doctors' offices and clinics, LPNs often make appointments, keep records, and perform other clerical duties. They also set up exam or treatment rooms.

In some states, licensed practical nurses may give medications to patients. They may also start intravenous (IV) fluids.

In all settings, experienced LPNs may supervise nursing assistants and aides.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to licensed practical nurses.

Common work activities

Licensed practical nurses perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, licensed practical nurses:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Licensed practical nurses frequently:

It is important for licensed practical nurses to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for licensed practical nurses to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Licensed practical nurses need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a licensed practical nurse, you typically need to:

Education after high school

You can get practical nursing training at a professional-technical school or two-year college. A few high schools and hospitals also offer this training.

Most practical nursing programs take one year to complete. They include classroom study and supervised clinical practice (patient care). Classroom study includes anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and first aid. As part of your patient care studies, you learn to administer drugs to patients.

Work experience

You can volunteer in a nursing home or other medical setting to gain practical experience. Work experience as a nursing aide is also very helpful.

On-the-job training

While you are a student, you get clinical work experience in a hospital or clinical setting. You work under the supervision of an experienced nurse.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be medical care technicians. Training lasts seven to 52 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

LPNs should have a caring, sympathetic nature. Employers prefer to hire LPNs who have a strong desire to help others and a genuine concern for patients' welfare. Because work with the sick and injured can be stressful, employers look for LPNs who are emotionally stable. The ability to follow orders and work under close supervision are also important. Applicants must have passed the state licensing exam to qualify for LPN positions.

Employers also look for applicants who are dependable and have strong patient assessment and critical thinking skills. Certification in Basic Life Support (BLS) and/or CPR is often required of applicants.


Volunteer to work in a hospital. It's the best way to network and gives you an opportunity to show your interest in serving people to a potential employer. Paid jobs as a nursing assistant or orderly are also available. Courses in English, writing, and other communication skills are considered helpful for gaining entry to and advancing in this field. Courses in math, biology, chemistry, and physics are important. Willingness to work with diverse groups is a plus. The ability to be flexible and a willingness to learn are also important.

Costs to workers

Many licensed practical nurses join a professional association and pay dues. Costs for comfortable shoes and uniforms vary depending on one's personal preference. Additional expenses include continuing education reference books to keep up with changes in the field.

#Pulled in CTW info 2/2/11, cj. Saw numerous job listings mentioning need for CPR or BLS certification so added 3/28/14 cj.


Licensed practical nurses must be licensed by the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission. Licensing requirements include:

There is a state license application fee of $85. The annual renewal fee is $85.

Nurses must show proof of 531 hours of active nursing and 45 hours of continuing education every three years when they renew their license. If licensed practical nurses have not yet enrolled in and completed the survey for the Nursys national database, they must do so when they renew their license.

For more information on additional licensing requirements, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Nursing Care Quality Assurance
Customer Service Center (external link)

PO Box 47864
Olympia, WA 98504

#Updated POB #; rest of info ok, 3/12/13 cj. No changes 5/6/14 lh. Checked licensing info; updated POB, rest ok, 3/28/14 cj. updated fees 1/21/15 lh no change 1/25/16 lh. Updated fees 11/1/17 cj. Added info about Nursys enrollment and survey 11/29/17 as is requirement as of 1/1/18 cj. Added personal data ?'s; unable to confirm fees so left as is; rest ok, 4/16/18 cj. Licensing info ok, 4/15/19 cj.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (SOC 29-2061)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $20.48 $23.35 $26.75 $29.84 $33.32
Monthly $3,549 $4,047 $4,636 $5,171 $5,774
Yearly $42,590 $48,560 $55,650 $62,070 $69,300
    Bellingham Hourly $19.65 $21.13 $23.47 $26.51 $29.96
Monthly $3,405 $3,662 $4,067 $4,594 $5,192
Yearly $40,856 $43,961 $48,832 $55,159 $62,320
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $21.52 $23.78 $26.63 $29.36 $31.04
Monthly $3,729 $4,121 $4,615 $5,088 $5,379
Yearly $44,753 $49,454 $55,386 $61,072 $64,574
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $17.98 $20.59 $22.78 $24.85 $28.55
Monthly $3,116 $3,568 $3,948 $4,307 $4,948
Yearly $37,393 $42,832 $47,387 $51,689 $59,384
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $20.14 $24.22 $27.24 $29.95 $31.69
Monthly $3,490 $4,197 $4,721 $5,190 $5,492
Yearly $41,900 $50,389 $56,660 $62,298 $65,911
    Longview Hourly $20.08 $21.94 $25.08 $28.56 $30.64
Monthly $3,480 $3,802 $4,346 $4,949 $5,310
Yearly $41,778 $45,633 $52,173 $59,396 $63,750
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $19.41 $20.53 $22.19 $23.85 $26.02
Monthly $3,364 $3,558 $3,846 $4,133 $4,509
Yearly $40,379 $42,699 $46,152 $49,605 $54,115
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $19.96 $23.01 $26.52 $29.94 $34.50
Monthly $3,459 $3,988 $4,596 $5,189 $5,979
Yearly $41,521 $47,876 $55,170 $62,278 $71,768
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $22.48 $25.63 $28.55 $31.51 $36.21
Monthly $3,896 $4,442 $4,948 $5,461 $6,275
Yearly $46,776 $53,307 $59,371 $65,539 $75,318
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $20.80 $22.83 $26.25 $29.34 $31.18
Monthly $3,605 $3,956 $4,549 $5,085 $5,403
Yearly $43,259 $47,481 $54,594 $61,038 $64,855
    Vancouver Hourly $20.97 $23.25 $26.26 $28.91 $30.62
Monthly $3,634 $4,029 $4,551 $5,010 $5,306
Yearly $43,613 $48,353 $54,612 $60,145 $63,707
    Walla Walla Hourly $18.68 $23.59 $26.91 $29.47 $31.50
Monthly $3,237 $4,088 $4,664 $5,107 $5,459
Yearly $38,857 $49,083 $55,968 $61,309 $65,523
    Wenatchee Hourly $16.97 $20.03 $23.22 $27.15 $29.89
Monthly $2,941 $3,471 $4,024 $4,705 $5,180
Yearly $35,299 $41,670 $48,302 $56,490 $62,182
    Yakima Hourly $20.59 $22.25 $24.97 $29.07 $32.13
Monthly $3,568 $3,856 $4,327 $5,038 $5,568
Yearly $42,840 $46,287 $51,932 $60,470 $66,830
United States Hourly $16.19 $18.98 $22.23 $26.02 $29.88
Monthly $2,806 $3,289 $3,852 $4,509 $5,178
Yearly $33,680 $39,470 $46,240 $54,110 $62,160

Wages vary based on the LPN's experience. Wages also vary by area of the country and employer. For example, LPNs who work in home health care services tend to earn more than those who work in doctors' offices.

Benefits also vary by employer. Most full-time LPNs receive typical benefits. These include paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Part-time LPNs rarely receive benefits.

Employment and outlook

State Outlook

#Between 2014 and 2024, it is estimated that for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses there will be 76 openings annually due to new positions and 229 openings annually from workers leaving this career.

#Updated outlook 06.16 sd

There is a demand for qualified applicants in the state. This trend is expected to continue. Opportunities will grow due to a combination of factors: the increase in outpatient care centers, the expansion of health services as a result of new medical techniques and drugs, and an aging population. Most job growth is expected to occur in residential care facilities, physician’s offices, home health care agencies, and clinics.

#Info still seems accurate so left as is, 4/16/18 cj.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses (SOC 29-2061)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 7,439 10.3% 16.1% 699
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 160 1.9% 13.4% 11
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 141 2.8% 8.6% 11
    Benton and Franklin Counties 185 11.9% 15.0% 18
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 457 7.2% 11.9% 39
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 545 15.0% 15.2% 57
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 632 10.6% 14.1% 60
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 461 10.8% 14.6% 44
    King County 2,105 10.1% 19.6% 196
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 242 3.7% 13.8% 19
    Pierce County 1,304 14.0% 15.2% 134
    Snohomish County 565 9.0% 12.4% 51
    Spokane County 595 9.1% 13.9% 54
United States 728,900 10.7% 5.2% 66,300

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will be very strong. Nursing homes and other care facilities will offer the most new jobs for LPNs. In part, this is because the number of elderly people in need of long-term care is rising. In addition, there is an increasing number of patients released from the hospital who have not recovered enough to return home.

Fast growth is also expected in home health care services. This is in response to two factors. One, the number of older people with disabilities is growing. Two, people prefer to be cared for in their own homes. In addition, technological advances will make it possible to bring more complex treatments into the home. This is true for doctors' offices and clinics as well, where more complicated procedures can now be performed. As a result, employment of LPNs is expected to grow quickly in doctors' offices, clinics, and emergency medical centers.

Job openings will also occur as people retire. Job prospects will be best for those willing to move to rural and other underserved areas of the country.

Other resources

American Nurses Association (external link)
8515 Georgia Avenue, Suite 400
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Explore Health Careers: Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse (external link)
Health Occupation Students of America (external link)
548 Silicon Drive, Suite 101
Southlake, TX 76092
National Association for Home Care & Hospice (external link)
228 Seventh Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
National Student Nurses' Association (external link)
45 Main Street, Suite 606
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Nursing (external link)
From Johnson & Johnson
Washington Center for Nursing (external link)
1101 Andover Park West, Suite 105
Tukwila, WA 98188
Washington State Nurses Association (external link)
575 Andover Park West
Suite 101
Tukwila, WA 98188


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster