Nursing is a rapidly growing career field. This is due to several factors, the biggest being that a majority of nurses are set to retire soon, and positions are opening up that need to be filled. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of licensed practical nurses (LPN) and licensed vocational nurses (LVN) is projected to grow at a much faster rate than the national average for employment growth. There were 728,900 jobs for LPN/LVNs in 2018, with the most substantial portion (38%) working in nursing or residential care facilities. Prospects are especially favorable for licensed practical nurses willing to work in rural and medically underserved areas or those willing to earn certifications in specialty areas such as IV therapy.

There are different types of nursing occupations, each with their own educational requirements and job responsibilities.

For those who are thinking about longer-term career goals, many opportunities are available for a licensed practical nurse to advance through education bridge programs.

Those wanting a practical nursing online program have many options. With almost 400 accredited online nursing schools alone, you can receive a high-quality education at schools for practical nursing. However, no accredited vocational nursing school offers wholly online LPN programs, so you can expect to do some of your work on-site at the school for certain classes or in a local clinic or hospital for your clinical hours.

In this guide, you can:

Frequently Asked Questions

The main difference between these two types of nurses is actually just the name. They are essentially the same job, but the term LVN is used in California and Texas, while the rest of the United States uses LPN. Depending on the state you live in, some minor responsibilities may vary.
Yes. A licensed vocational nurse is the first level of nursing. They are licensed but require a less intensive education program than other RNs.
It depends on the circumstances. While no state requires this, some LPN/LVN programs may require or strongly encourage you to have a current CNA certificate to enter their practical nursing online program.
While a fair amount of coursework can be completed online, no LPN/LVN programs are 100% online because these programs require hundreds of hours of clinical work.

Students can expect a strong practical nursing online program to have the following:

  • A reasonable NCLEX-PN pass rate, preferably with pretesting support
  • Accreditation, but at minimum, approval from the National Council of State Boards of Education
  • Suitable clinical practicum locations
  • Professional faculty with nursing experience
While a school itself can be accredited, you may want the practical nursing program you choose to be accredited as well. There are currently four accrediting agencies for nursing programs, but only the ACEN (formerly NLNAC) or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing accredits LVN/LPN programs. A fifth newer and lesser-known accreditation agency is the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation or NLN CNEA.

Featured Online Colleges to Become an LPN/LVN in 2019-20

With so many accredited online schools for practical nursing, how do you decide which one is right for you? On the following list of featured schools that offer a practical nursing online program, you can find information about the school itself, insight into its LPN/LVN programs and how each school supports online students. This can give you a good overview of how a school might meet your needs as you pursue an LPN/LVN program.


Holmes Community College

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Holmes Community College prepares nursing students by providing university transferable credits of core program requirements so that they may be successful in their nursing future. They also offer to customize your schedule if there is a class you need but don't see available.

Featured Resource:

The school offers SmarterMeasure, which is a program to determine if online learning is your best option and if their practical nursing online program is the right fit. After determining your abilities, the program offers resources to help you succeed.

LPN/LVN Program at Holmes Community College

  • The A.A. in Pre-Nursing program prepares students to begin their career as an LPN right after graduation or to transfer into a BSN program
  • Two years, four semesters with a total of 65 credits
  • Fully approved and accredited by the ACEN

Lake Area Technical Institute

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Lake Area Technical Institute's practical nursing program curriculum is very comprehensive, and the school indicates that their program has a 100% job employment rate for graduates in South Dakota. The school also offers the option to add on six more classes equaling 21 credit hours; this results in an associate degree for those in the LVN program who eventually want to work as RNs.

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Because the school admits students that already have a path decided, LPN/LVN nursing students go through the practical nursing program with a cohort that provides a family atmosphere of support. The faculty is also very involved, and the school will often pay instructors to teach a remedial course one-on-one after school so it doesn't interfere with a student's ongoing LPN program work.

LPN/LVN Program at Lake Area Technical Institute

  • Practical Nursing E-Degree Program with two program tracks
  • The full-time track typically takes 11 months to complete
  • The part-time track may take 23 months to complete
  • Forty-seven credit hours plus approximately 496 clinical hours
  • Fully approved and accredited by the ACEN
  • Based in South Dakota, the school aims to serve students within 18,000 sq. miles, therefore, the practical nursing online program is only available to residents of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.

Somerset Community College

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Somerset Community College offers practical nursing online programs and options for a variety of degree paths and strives to provide schedules that meet the needs of all their students, including offering credit for life experiences. They also offer a 100% acceptance rate.

Featured Resource:

Support services for students with disabilities exist to help them be successful both on campus and in their practical nursing program. After students enroll, they meet with the disability services team to work out accommodations such as additional time to test or an interpreter in the classroom. The goal is to help the student have equal access to classes at the college.

LPN/LVN Program at Somerset Community College

  • Practical Nursing Program can be completed in 11 months
  • A.A.S. in Practical Nursing with additional general education requirements
  • Theory/skills presented in lecture/lab format
  • Selective admissions with limited enrollment
  • Three options for practical nursing program times,all of which consist of 49 - 53 credit hours
  • Fully approved and accredited by the ACEN

Northwest Technical College

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Northwest Technical College prides itself on being flexible, challenging and inspiring. They offer multiple entry and exit points with options to stack credentials and can help you transfer your A.S. to Bemidji State University to get your B.S. in Nursing. Their practical nursing online programs claim to have a 100% placement rate.

Featured Resource:

At NTC, vocational nursing school students can have access to an LVN program advisor and an online success coach to support you in all aspects of your licensed vocational nurse program, from course selection to exploring career opportunities.

LPN/LVN Program at Northwest Technical College

  • LPN Step-In program is an A.S. degree program that lasts three semesters and is 64 credits
  • Afterward, graduates can apply for licensure as an RN
  • Applications accepted one time per year, with the program starting in the spring
  • Can start with the Practical Nurse Diploma and 38 credit hours before this program
  • Fully approved and accredited by the ACEN

Northland Community and Technical College

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Northland Community and Technical College offers online program options for a range of high-demand fields, including nursing. They hold themselves to high standards and have identified five institutional learner outcomes that all graduates should achieve through attending their school.

Featured Resource:

The school uses the QM rubric, a research-based tool that holds the practical nursing online program and school as a whole to a standard that is designed to certify the quality of the online and blended courses so that they can continue to improve.

LPN/LVN Program at Northland Community and Technical College

  • Diploma in Practical Nursing with 44 credits
  • Program start dates determined by demand with a competitive admission process
  • Fully approved and accredited by the NLN CNEA (National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation)
  • Due to the Minnesota State Board of Nursing requirements, all onsite requirements and clinicals may not occur outside of Minnesota or North Dakota

LPN/LVN Program Overview

  • Medical Terminology

    When participating in a practical nursing online school, you can expect to learn an abundance of medical terminology to prepare you for your career as a practical nurse. This terminology is needed to communicate effectively with doctors, nurses, and patients, as well as to write your reports. Knowing this terminology can play a critical part in your success as a licensed practical nurse.

  • Anatomy

    Human biology and anatomy courses can help you identify cell and muscle function along with the different parts of the body. You can also expect to learn about tissues, membranes, organs and systems and how they function. Understanding these things is essential in working with patients to help identify their symptoms and pain points. As a licensed vocational nurse, you'll need to know this information when it comes to tasks such as inserting an IV, catheter or nasogastric tube.

  • Psychology

    Learning psychology basics is important to understanding patient needs, especially when they cannot communicate with you. Knowing how the mind works in addition to how the body functions allows for better patient care as you may be able to anticipate their needs. You can expect to learn both normal and abnormal psychological conditions at schools for practical nursing.

How to Become an LPN/LVN

Becoming an LPN/LVN can be achieved through a few paths. The amount of time it takes to complete your online LPN program depends on the type you choose and how much time you can devote to it. The general steps to becoming an LPN/LVN are listed below.

If you know you want to continue your career down the line, you may want to choose to earn an associate degree in nursing rather than doing the certification program. Both allow you to be an LPN/LVN, but an associate degree program has an added benefit. Although this route can take twice as long, it may be easier to transition to be an RN or even an NP with an associate degree.

If you want to stay on the path of being a licensed vocational nurse, you can further your career by earning a specialty certification, which may give you more opportunities to work in areas such as Emergency Room LPN. Specialized skills are also helpful to become certified, such as an Advanced Life Support certification.

Career Outlook

With the growing need for nurses, especially the high need in certain locations and specialties, these online LPN programs are promising for students preparing for a career as an LPN/LVN. Keeping in mind that hospitals are not the leading employers of LPN/LVNs may help with knowing where to focus your job application efforts. Below, we cover precisely what an LPN/LVN does and how to work toward becoming one.


What Does an LPN/LVN Do?

As an LPN/LVN, your main job is to support registered nurses and doctors as they care for their patients. You may also need to provide support to patients' family members. As a licensed practical nurse, you are directly involved with patients' most basic care and aim to ensure that they are well cared for. Basic job duties vary by state, but may include:

LPN/LVN Certifications and Exams

The National Council Licensure Examination is the main exam that all students must take and pass to gain licensure and work as a licensed practical nurse.

Requirements: Once you finish your online LPN program, you must contact your state's nursing regulatory body to request authorization to test. Each NRB has its specific requirements for testing. Once that is approved, you can then register to sit for the test. Your test must be completed within the validity dates of your authorization.

Exam Format: Six-hour time allotment, alternative item format (more than just multiple-choice, including fill-in-the-blank and other assessment options), and computer adaptive where items are based on each candidate's ability

Certification Terms: In most states, the exam can be taken up to eight times per year with a 45-day waiting period in between attempts. Upon passing, you receive a permanent license. Each state determines the renewal period and amount of continuing education that is required to maintain your license, if any.

Earning certifications in various skills can help you appeal to multiple employers. Over 20 different types of certificates are available to licensed practical nurses, with IV Therapy as one of the most popular. It is one of the post-licensure credentials that is often required by employers.

Requirements: Pay the registration fee and the testing fee, and then pass the test with 80% or higher score

Exam Format: Multiple-choice, time-limited

Certification Terms: The certificate is valid for three years from the issue date

As one of the available 20 certifications, the Long-Term Care certification is another popular one, which may be because the highest number of licensed vocational nurse jobs are in nursing homes. Becoming certified in this area may make you more marketable to those employers.

Requirements: Pay the registration fee and the testing fee and then pass the test with 80% or higher score

Exam Format: Multiple-choice, time-limited

Certification Terms: The certificate is valid for three years from the issue date

Professional Organizations

Joining a professional nursing organization can give you the opportunity to connect with others who are pursuing the same or similar career path. Being part of a nursing organization can also provide you with the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals. Here are a few organizations you can join:

This organization is dedicated to the professional development of nursing students and has 60,000 members nationwide. Read More
By giving a voice to nurses and working to advance the voice of the profession, this organization works to transform health policy and practice. Read More
This organization, founded in 1949, works to serve the nursing community and promote nursing education. Read More
Not only can you join as a member and enjoy one of the oldest associations that advocates for LPN/LVNs, but you can also earn certifications from this organization to further your nursing career. Read More

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