Difference between RN and LPN DegreeThere are two types of nurses. There is RN, registered nurse, and LPN or LVN (depending on jurisdiction), licensed practical nurse or licensed vocational nurse. Often you will see them working side by side or perform the same tasks. What are the differences between the two nurses? How are the trainings different, the tasks different and the advancement opportunities different? Knowing this information will also assist you in determining which nursing career is right for you. Studying to be nurse can be done at a career college or online depending on the plan you choose.

Registered Nurse

Registered Nurses attend school to achieve one of three degrees, either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing, Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, or a Master’s of Science in Nursing. Upon completion of schooling they must pass a licensing exam to obtain a nursing license.

Working Environment
A Registered Nurse works independently. They can treat patients, educate patients, provide advice and emotional support to patients and family, record medical histories, record medical symptoms, help with diagnostic tests, analyze test results, operate medical machinery, administer treatment and medications, assist with follow up and develop plans of care.

A Registered Nurse can continue training to become a Nurse Practitioner or a Nurse Anesthetist and there are many management options available as well.

License Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse

License Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse go through one year training at a career college or community college. They also must pass the NCLEX-PN licensing exam after completing a state approved practical nursing program.

Working Environment
License Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurses work under the direction of a Physician or a Registered Nurse. They can provide basic bedside care, measure vital signs, prepare and give injections and enemas, monitor catheters, dress wounds, give alcohol rubs, give massages, assist with bathing and other palliative care, collect samples, perform routine lab tests, record fluid intake and output, clean and monitor equipment and assist a Physician or Registered Nurse with other tasks.

License Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurses typically advance by continuing their education and achieving their Registered Nurse status.


According to Rasmussen College of Nursing the difference between a RN and LPN/LVN is three fold. It lies in the Scope, Responsibilities and Advancement.


RNs skills are focused on patients whose conditions are not stable or on patients whose conditions are more complex than can be cared for by an LPN. They can work independently and act as advocates and health educators for patients, families and sometimes communities.
LPNs skills are focused on basic nursing on stable patients and focus the majority of their attention trying to improve the health of patients while working under the supervision of a physician or a RN.


RNs responsibilities are as stated above. In addition to the work they perform they often supervise or oversee LPNs, Nurses Assistants, and Nurses Aides.
LPNs are restricted to palliative care, record keeping, basic tests and procedures and care of wounds.


RNs can have a BSN or MSN and work to become a Nurse Educator or work in an advanced practice specialty such as Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nurse Practitioners, Midwives, Nurse Anesthetists or move into healthcare management.
LPNs that are experienced can supervise Nursing Assistants and Nursing Aides but the best path to promotion is to continue to achieve the RN title.

The differences between an RN and LPN/LVN may be small to some it’s important to know in advance so that you pick the appropriate avenue for your college studies. Consider what you want to do as a nurse when making your decision. Let that be your guide. Good Luck.

There are many schools that offer nursing courses to choose from. To see these and others, visit the Nursing Schools directory today.