LPN versus RN school

Pre-nursing students often ask me for advice on what kind of nursing program they should apply to.  But the answer will always vary depending on your specific situation.

Should you always get your RN first?

Not necessarily.  Nursing school is tough, regardless of whether you get your LPN or RN.  There are a lot of factors to consider, such as time, money and competition.


Typically, LPN school will be shorter than RN school, about 12-18 months.  Depending on how quickly you need to start working, LPN might be a good career to start in.  There are a lot of bridge program options that you can take advantage of to become an RN later.  However, if you have the time to complete 2-4 years (plus pre-requisities) of schooling right now, then going straight for your RN might be the best plan for you.


Since LPN school is usually shorter, it is also usually less expensive.  You can sometimes find LPN programs through state or local vocational programs, as well as for-profit type schools.  Like you might guess, the for-profit schools are going to be more expensive.

RN programs are also available in State schools, Private schools, or for-profit schools.  As you might guess, they tend to be more affordable at a community college or state school, and a little more expensive at the private and for-profit schools.  Since there is so much variety on how long RN programs can take (2-4 years, depending on degree, and not including pre-requisities), you’ll need to check with each specific program to get the exact cost.

If you get your LPN first, you can sometimes keep working while you start a LPN to RN bridge program which can definitely help with the finances.  On the other hand, LPNs don’t usually make as much money as RNs do.


Depending on what city you live in, there can be a lot of competition to get into nursing school.  There are a lot of factors that can contribute to the level of competition, including population, tuition rates, and number of available schools in the area.  Typically it will be more difficult to get into a community or state school for your RN, and easier to get accepted into a for-profit school.  This increased competition at state schools is partly due to the lower cost and generally better reputations.  If competition is especially fierce in your area, then you could even consider applying to a school in a different area…as long as your personal situation would give you the flexibility to move, of course.

Ultimately, there are a lot of possible pathways you could use to become a nurse.  So even if you find yourself having difficulty getting into your first-choice school, make sure that you remember to examine all of your options.  Don’t get locked into a dead-end pathway!  If you really want to become a nurse, then you’ll be able to find a way.

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