They call nurses like us “Heroes.” While platitudes like that are easy enough to say, I think there’s a lot of merit in acknowledging the crucial role that nurses play in the healthcare field and the difficulty inherent to the profession. Our culture puts nurses on a pedestal and rightfully so.
While most of the adoration is reserved for registered nurse (RN) and nurse practitioners (NP) who quarterback patient care and serve as the provider’s right hand, it’s LPNs like you and me that represent frontline healthcare workers. We’ve been in the trenches, and we know a thing or two about administering care. We’re the ones who perform direct, hands-on care with the greatest regularity. We sit with our patients during their most difficult moments, and we parlay with family members and loved ones throughout each episode of care.
Day to day, it’s our names on the dotted line.
The services that we provide are crucial to society, but what are our skills worth on the open market? Given the surging need for well-qualified healthcare professionals, what is the average LPN salary nationwide? What are the expected salary ranges? And most importantly, what do our industry’s future job prospects look like in 2022 and beyond?
Below, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about current LPN salaries across the United States. We’ve taken the time and effort to find the average LPN salary, typical salary range, and median incomes for key states so that you don’t have to!
Becoming an LPN
A quick note regarding job titles. What’s the difference between an LPN and an RN in terms of education and licensing?
LPN stands for Licensed practical nurse. As LPNs, it is our duty to:
- Administer direct care
- Carry out doctor’s orders in a timely manner
- Observe patient status
- Take vital signs
- Administer medications
- Change wound dressings
- Apply basic treatments
- Coordinate between families and providers
While the requirements to become an LPN differ very slightly on a state-by-state basis, the role generally requires a one-year certificate degree which focuses on the application of practical nursing skills.
Becoming an RN, on the other hand, generally requires a full bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. RNs typically hold a more administrative role in whatever care setting they practice. In some cases, an RN may possess more specialized healthcare knowledge by virtue of their education and background.
The Average LPN Salary Nationwide
Now that we’ve gotten some light housekeeping out of the way it’s time to tackle the burning question: what kind of salary can an LPN expect to earn? How does that amount differ at the beginning of our careers compared to the end? The answer varies ever so slightly depending on the source that you use, but for comparative purposes, entities like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Salary.com, and Nursingprocess.org will give you similar, high-quality answers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for our profession in 2020 was $48,820 per year. That is the equivalent $23.47 per hour. According to Salary.com, that number has inched up over the past twelve months with the median salary now sitting at $49,300 per year.
The aforementioned numbers equal a comfortable center in terms of LPN wages, but that lonely number isn’t representative of the bigger picture. The BLS goes on to say that the lowest earning LPNs nationwide make approximately $35,570 annually, which breaks down into $17.10 an hour. Conversely, our profession’s highest earners make $31.50 an hour, or $65,520 per year.
One factor that affects an LPN’s potential earnings is their relative experience. Generally speaking, those of us who are new to the field make somewhere in the neighborhood of $17.06 an hour, or $35,490 a year. As expected, that number rises as you gain both direct patient experience and tenure.
Another reason for such wide variance in potential salary is the setting in which we work. LPNs are found in wide variety of professional settings, including:
- Nursing homes
- Rehabilitation centers
- Assisted living facilities
- Private practices
- In-home care scenarios
- Public schools
- Research-based entities
Unsurprisingly, your salary is very much dependent on the professional environment that you find yourself in. For example, LPNs who work at a private practice tend to make less on average with wages clocking in at $21.90, or approximately $45,000 annually.
Those of us who work in the long-term care environment are in the middle of the spectrum at $24.62 an hour, or $51,200 . Those of us who are lucky enough to find employment in a niche industry, such as higher education, will reap the most rewards. A friend I know working at a junior college made a whopping $29.12 an hour, breaking the $60,000 a year mark.
State-by-state Breakdown of LPN Salary Guide
Location, location, location!
Location also matters immensely when analyzing yearly LPN salaries. When it comes to median yearly income, Washington State leads the pack at $25.73 per hour or roughly $53,000 per year. New York State is second at $24.01, or approximately $49,000. In general, the more populous states, such as California or Texas, have the most lucrative market for LPNs overall.
At the bottom of the list are Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina. An LPN working in North Carolina can expect to make in the neighborhood of $33,251 per year, on average.
Future Job Outlook
All said and done, the current job market for LPNs is strong, but you want to know the expected LPN salary . . . and what can we expect going forward? The BLS projects a surging 25% growth over the next year. That means more than 182,000 new LPN jobs added nationwide!
Record growth is expected to continue in the long term as well. From now until 2026, a steady growth rate of 12% is expected, with opportunity and job safety remaining high. While we can’t say exactly what will happen in terms of salary increases during that time period, given that our profession is in such high demand —and LPNs play such a crucial role in the industry— we’d fully expect that wages will continue to rise incrementally with national need.
Nursing is more than just a job; it’s a calling. For those of us on the front lines, the future of the industry looks bright and secure. If only we were paid like actors and rock stars!
Finding a job with decent median pay should be fairly easy for LPNs at all stages in their career. The bottom line? If you’ve ever thought about entering the profession, now’s the time. You’ve got all the information you need to get started!