What is a LVN

LVNs (also known as Licensed Vocational Nurse, Pediatric Licensed Practical Nurse, LP Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse or LPN) are licensed health care professionals who are trained to handle beside care of patients dealing with illnesses, injuries and disabilities. Few medical professionals have as much direct contact with patients as LVNs. They provide basic health care, under the supervision of doctors and registered nurses. A key responsibility is monitoring vital signs (pulse, blood pressure, respiration rate, and body temperature).

LVNs collect blood and tissue samples for laboratory testing, dress wounds and replace bandages, treat bedsores, administer enemas, and give massages. They  help patients stand, walk, eat, bathe, and change clothes. LVNs also maintain equipment and update patient records. In some states, these nurses are allowed to administer medication and intravenous fluids, perform lab tests, and assist doctors in delivering babies.

They are the designation given to licensed practical nurses in the state of California and Texas. For more on job description, please visit our LPN job description page.

Work Environment

LVNs are employed in a variety of workplaces including hospitals, continuing care facilities, physician clinics, community health centres, urgent care centres and in clients’ homes. Most of these sites are modern medical facilities, with the equipment and materials LVNs require to perform their duties. However, you will find the biggest percentage of licensed vocational nurses in nursing care facilities.

Nurses hired by home health-care agencies spend much of their time in patients’ residences, as well as in schools and workplaces. They may be challenged by unpredictable situations. Working as a nurse can be stressful and tiring considering they have to be on their feet all day, and they have to lift patients out of bed and assist them to walk.

Work Schedule

About three-quarters of LVNs in the United States work full-time, 40-hour weeks. As these professionals are needed at all times, some have late-night and early-morning shifts. Some work on weekends, while others are part time.

Mean Annual LVN Salary

The average annual licensed vocational nurse salary is $42,910. The average salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and dividing that value by the total number of workers in this profession. The lowest 10% of  licensed vocational nurse salaries are less than $31,300. The top 10% of licensed practical nurse salaries reach more than $58,020.

LVN Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$42,910 per year
$20.63 per hour
Top 10% Salary$58,020 per year
$27.90 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$31,300 per year
$15.05 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2013705,200

LVN Job Outlook and Prospects

U.S. government analysts predict that the number of positions for LVNs will increase 25 percent between 2012 and 2022. Such a rate would be 14 percent greater than that projected for the average profession, making this one of the six fastest-growing medical occupations.

As is the case with other health-care providers, the demand for LVNs continues to grow because of the nation’s expanding elderly population. The number of seniors who require nursing care, in their homes and at long-term residential facilities, rises every year. The biggest growth in the field during the coming decade is expected to be in outpatient facilities, though hospitals and nursing homes also will need more LVNs.

What Affects The LVN Salary

LVNs are essential to the care of patients in various healthcare settings, helping physicians perform their services more quickly and easily. The growing healthcare industry is encouraging for individuals seeking to enter this profession as well, provided that employment continues to increase at its projected rate throughout the coming years.

A quick look at the salary trend for licensed practical nurse reveals a consistent increase in wages year over year. In 2004, LVNs were only making $34,000 per year. The annual salary increased by about $1500 the next year and follows this pattern until 2009. The salary growth continues from there but at a slower rate than before. One major reason for this slow down in growth is contributed to the economic downturn of 2009, when the US economy as a whole took a major hit. However, the future of LVN remains bright as the demand outpaces the supply, hence we believe this growth will accelerate again once the economy fully recovers.

As jobs increase, salaries are likely to fluctuate as well. There are a number of factors that can impact the salary of licensed vocational nurses, some of which include education, specialization, industry, and location.

Education and Specialization

A high school diploma or GED is needed to pursue a career in this field. Another requirement is successful completion of a one-year LVN certificate program at a community college, technical school, or career center. Programs accredited by a state board of nursing are recommended. In some cases, hospitals and schools offer this training.

Students in certificate programs receive clinical experience and study subjects like pharmacology, anatomy, physiology, nutrition, first aid, pediatrics, obstetrics, and patient care. Many LVNs obtain two-year associate’s degrees, which feature general-education courses such as math, English, social science, and the humanities.

Obtaining extra certifications is fairly common among LVNs nowadays. Certifications such as wound care, basic cardiac life support, basic life support, advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support, neonatal resuscitation, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation are popular among those who wish to have better job opportunities and higher wage. Experience also is a factor in the salary, with those who have worked in the field for more than 20 years earning in excess of $50,000 a year.


About 30 percent of LVNs work in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. Others are found in hospitals, doctors’ offices, outpatient clinics, ambulatory surgery centers, dialysis facilities, blood banks, prisons, and private residences.

Nurses employed by universities, insurance companies, grant-making and charitable organizations, and research facilities typically make a bit more than the average LVN salary. Those who work in residential care facilities, or for home-care agencies, also usually earn more money than LVNs in hospitals and doctors’ offices.


LVNs in Connecticut made an average of $59,560 per year, at last report. Next on the list were Massachusetts, $58,060; Washington, D.C., $57,980; New Jersey, $57,350; and California, $57,170. It should be noted that the cost of living is also higher than the U.S. average in many of these places.

Among nonmetropolitan areas, southeast Alaska was in first place, with an average LVN salary of $61,150. In general, however, rural locations offer lower-paying jobs than those available in metropolitan areas. Texas had more jobs in this field than any other state, according to a recent survey. It was followed by California, New York, Florida, and Ohio.

LVN Salary: Top 5

Top Paying Metropolitan AreasTop Paying StatesTop Paying IndustriesStates with Highest Employment Level
San Francisco- Redwood City, CA: $60,550Connecticut: $53,560Junior Colleges: $49,320Texas: (75,780 jobs) $43,120
Oakland-Freemont-Hayward, CA: $59,540Nevada: $52,850Insurance Carriers: $48,450California: (61,950 jobs) $51,170
Salinas, CA: $58,950Alaska: $52,850Grantmaking and Giving Services: $47,490New York: (48,520 jobs) $44,250
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $57,850Massachusetts: $52,060Scientific Research and Development Services: $45,950Florida: (42,980 jobs) $41,050
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $57,820New Jersey: $51,350Lessors of Real Estate: $45,620Ohio: (40,400 jobs) $40,460
LVN salary state by state