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Guide for Licensed vocational nurses – Salary and career

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The need for quality healthcare in the United States is always urgent and in the last five years, has been exponentially increased. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities for careers as a vocational nurse are likely to increase by 11% in the coming decade. If you are interested in becoming a registered vocational nurse, now is the best time to get started.

However, make sure you have all the information before you jump onto filling up application forms at nursing schools. This comprehensive guide tells you everything you need to know about becoming a licensed vocational nurse.

For starters, who is a licensed vocational nurse?
A Licensed Vocational Nurse is also known as a Licensed Practical Nurse. They are responsible for assisting medical professionals including registered nurses, mid-level medical practitioners and doctors in administering basic medical care to patients.

Essentially, the duties of a licensed vocational nurse include the monitoring of a patient’s vital signs, including patient heart rate or blood pressure. They are also required to assist physicians and registered nurses during patient examinations and keep a recording of a patient’s health information. Additionally, they are required to administer vaccinations or draw blood samples as per instructions provided by senior medical staff. Let’s understand the duties of a licensed vocational nurse in detail.

Table of contents

Duties and responsibilities of a licensed vocational nurse

A licensed vocational nurse works in a hospital, nursing home, or other medical care facilities, usually under the direct supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or physician.

Whatever the setting, duties, and responsibilities typically include:

  • Providing care for patients as the first point of contact
  • Taking and monitoring patient vital signs, including blood pressure, pulse rate, respiratory rate, and temperature
  • Providing comfort to patients through care, including keeping them warm, bathing, and dressing
  • Changing bandages, inserting catheters, and giving injections.
  • Preparing patients for treatment and surgery
  • Drawing blood
  • Discussing health care concerns and issues
  • Reporting vital signs and condition updates to doctors and registered nurses

Do you have it in you to make it as a licensed vocational nurse? Let’s understand the skills required to be a successful licensed vocational nurse.

Here is a list of skills you need if you want to build a career as a licensed vocational nurse.

Being a first respondent

As a first respondent to situations in a medical institution, a licensed vocational nurse must have the ability to think on their feet and effectively communicate any situation to registered nurses and doctors.

Ability to be on foot for long periods of time

Licensed vocational nurses usually have a minimum shift of 8 hours. They are usually required to be on their feet during these hours. They are required to be in good health and must be physically fit to work long hours.

Empathy for patients and their loved ones

Because they are usually required to be around patients and the family members/guardians/loved ones of patients, licensed vocational nurses need to have excellent empathetic skills in order to ease the worry of patients and relatives.

The ability to work calmly under pressure

Hospitals can be chaotic, especially in times of emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important that licensed vocational nurses have the ability to remain calm and not crack under pressure.

Time management to care for multiple patients and fulfill various duties

Because they might be required to care for several patients during their shift – they must have the ability to manage their time well and make sure all patients are comfortable. They might also be required to fill in paperwork and other additional tasks that must also be completed during their shift.

Knowledge of medical terminology

Having a fair grasp over medical terminology can shave off precious seconds of wasted time and save lives during an emergency. It also allows licensed vocational nurses to monitor and keep an eye out for any worsening symptoms of the patient.

An understanding of confidentiality issues

Licensed vocational nurses need to be well adept with compliance requirements and must maintain doctor-patient confidentiality

Attention to detail

Licensed vocational nurses must be able to flawlessly execute tasks assigned to them and ensure there is no confusion and that the right drugs are administered to the right patient, that all charts are in order and that the patients are comfortable.

Ability to delegate tasks and oversee orderlies or assistants

Because they are required to work with a multitude of hospital staff including orderlies and assistants, a licensed vocational nurse must have the ability to build a rapport with other hospital staff in order to work as a team. This includes managing their own tasks as well as delegating tasks to orderlies and assistants.

Where can a licensed vocational nurse find employment?

Based on projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the United States will need an additional 203,200 nurses each year from 2022 through 2031. The United States spends about 16% of its annual GDP on healthcare. This means the number of healthcare and medical facilities is likely to increase significantly in the coming decade. Here is a list of places where licensed vocational nurses can secure a job.

  • Medical Hospitals
  • Surgical Hospitals
  • Convalescent Hospitals providing care to long term patients
  • Home Care Agencies
  • Outpatient Clinics
  • Doctor’s Offices
  • Ambulatory Surgery Centers
  • Dialysis Centers
  • Blood Banks
  • Psychiatric Hospitals
  • Correctional Facilities including juvenile homes and prison
  • Institutions offering vocational nursing programs

Vocational Nurse vs. Registered Nurse: Let’s understand the difference between the two.

While both vocational and registered nurses are essential for patient-care, each of these careers have significant points of difference in terms of pay, responsibilities etc. Let’s understand these differences briefly.


Licensed Vocational Nurse

Licensed Registered Nurse


Also known as a licensed practical nurse. Such a person usually works in hospitals or healthcare facilities caring for sick, injured or disabled patients; this usually refers to bedside care. Vocational nurses will work under registered nurses.

A registered nurse will usually work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Besides caring for sick, injured or disabled patients they are usually responsible for setting up a caring plan for said patient. They have vocational nurses working under them.


12 to 18 month diploma in vocational nursing with options to transfer to full time nursing degrees.

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) – Takes 4 years to complete
  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) – Takes 2-3 years to complete
  • Nursing Diploma or Certificate – Takes 1-2 years to complete


  • Monitoring vital signs including temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, height, weight etc
  • Caring for patients in all ways possible – changing, bathing, inserting catheter, refreshing bandages etc
  • Reporting any changes in vital signs to a registered nurse or a doctor.
  • Preparing a care plan for the patient.
  • Administration of medication.
  • Managing vocational nurses.
  • Consulting with mid-level practitioners and doctors
  • Running diagnostics on patients

Areas of work

  • General medical and healthcare institutions including hospitals
  • Blood banks
  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • Offices of doctors
  • Correctional facilities i.e. Juvenile homes, prison etc
  • Dialysis centers
  • General medical healthcare institutions
  • Surgical hospitals
  • Military and armed forces
  • Correctional facilities including prison and juvenile homes
  • Government agencies
  • Schools and other educational institutions
  • Administrative and support services
  • Summer camps
  • Home health care services


Usually starts from $32 per hour

Usually starts from $43 per hour

Nurse shortage leading to more opportunities

The United States Nursing workforce is aging and a large population of nurses is expected to retire in the coming decade. The country expects to see a significant shortage of nurses in the next ten years. As per studies, some of the States are already charting out shortage trajectories with the most alarming numbers.

  • California – Expected to see a shortfall of 44,500 nurses by 2030
  • Texas – Expected to see a shortfall of 15,900 nurses by 2030
  • New Jersey – Expected to see a shortfall of 11,400 nurses by 2030
  • South Carolina – Expected to see a shortfall of 10,400 nurses by 2030
  • Alaska – Expected to see a shortfall of 5,400 nurses by 2030

How much money does a licensed vocational nurse make? What is the salary of a licensed vocational nurse?

A licensed vocational nurse earns more than other health technicians and technologists. They also earn better than the annual average salary for all U.S. occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for an entry level licensed vocational nurse is $47,480. Of these, the lowest 10% are likely to be earning less than $34,560 while the highest 10% are likely to be earning more than $63,360 annually.

On an average, a licensed vocational nurse is likely to make $32 an hour. This number might vary based on the number of work experience. Here is a handy comparative table.

Work experience in years

Average hourly pay

Entry level – up to 1 year

$30-32 per hour

3 to 5 years

$34 per hour

More than 10 years

$36 per hour

Because of the shortage of nurses, most licensed vocational nurses make a good amount of money working over time. Overtime pay can easily add to their annual pay by an average of $8,000.

Location is also an important factor contributing to nurse salaries. According to Indeed.com, this comparative table tells you which States are likely to pay higher or lower than the national average.


Pay per national average

Utah, Oregon, Wisconsin and Maine Pay can range from 25% to 27% more than the national average
Washington, Alaska, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska Pay can range from 15% to 24% more than the national average
Nevada, Indiana, Minnesota and Vermont Pay can range from 10% to 15% more than the national average
Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and South Carolina Pay can range from 5% to 10% more than the national average
New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California, Kansas, Illinois, Georgia, Massachusetts, Virginia, West Virginia and Arkansas Pay range similar to national average or might be 1% to 5% higher than the national average
Texas, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina and Rhode Island Pay range significantly lower than national average by -5% to -14%

Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee

Pay range upto -25% lower than national average

Benefits for Licensed Vocational Nurses

Apart from their salary, licensed vocational nurses are also liable to receive the following benefits –

  • 401(k)
  • Insurance
    •  Health
    •   Dental
    •   Disability
    •   Life
    •   Vision
  • Reimbursements
    • Travel
    • Tuition
    • License
    • Mileage
  • Paid benefits
    • Housing
    • Time off
    • Sick leaves
    • Training
    • Discounts
    • Referrals

Salary satisfaction rate

As per a survey by Indeed.com, licensed vocational nurses have an average salary satisfaction rate of 48%.

Opportunities for growth

Licensed vocational nurses can opt to train as registered nurses to earn a higher salary i.e. an average ranging from $43 per hour to $51 per hour and around $12,000 annually for overtime. According to a study by BLS, the average annual salary for a registered nurse is $77,600. This number can be much higher in the private sector. Additionally, registered nurses make more than 43% of the national average pay in the State of California.

How to earn more money as a licensed vocational nurse?

While pay and benefits for a licensed vocational nurse can vary based on their location, one of the recommended ways to make more money is to apply to become a registered nurse and earn advanced certifications. Specialised care is known to pay a lot more than general medical care. Here is a list of speciality areas that will provide excellent growth opportunities to someone with licensed vocational nursing experience.

  • Aesthetic nurse
  • Burn nurse
  • Critical Care Nurse
  • Hospice nurse
  • Informatics nurse
  • Intensive Care nurse
  • Newborn nurse
  • Neonatal intensive care nurse
  • Orthopedic nurse
  • Psychiatric nurse
  • Telehealth nurse

How to become a licensed vocational nurse?

The minimum qualification to apply for training as a licensed vocational nurse in the United States is having a high school diploma or a GED. If you have a high school diploma or a GED certification, you can enroll in any licensed vocational nursing program. These programs can last from 12 months to 20 months. Students training for such a program can also keep an eye out for transfer of credits to full time registered nurse training programs that are usually four year programs.

Where can you enroll for licensed vocational nursing programs?

Community colleges, technical schools and online programs offering licensed vocational nurse training are available across the United States.

Additional requirements to become a licensed vocational nurse

Licensed vocational nursing programs don’t just require completion of credits. To complete such programs, students will be required to demonstrate specific skills needed to perform the duties and responsibilities of a licensed vocational nurse.

To become a licensed vocational nurse, a candidate will be required to pass the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCLEX-PN) exam; post which they can apply for a professional Licensed Vocational Nurse certification. This exam is a requirement to becoming licensed and being qualified as well as being considered for job opportunities .

License renewal for licensed vocational nurses

Some states may require licensed vocational nurses to verify as well as renew their license from time to time. Usually, there is a processing fee involved – but that will vary from state to state.

Licensed vocational nursing as a profession is booming and is likely to have a higher demand by 2030. By registering to become a licensed vocational nurse, a candidate can land a satisfying job in healthcare and can even grow to specialising in specialty healthcare.

If you looking for a job as a licensed vocational nurse near you or across the US, browse the nurse-specific job board.


What is the highest pay for LVN?

The highest pay for LVN varies by location and experience. But for reference, a U.S. News report states that top earners in the LVN profession can make $59,770 a year.

How much do LVN make hourly in California?

Per Ziprecuiter, the average LVN salary in California is $28.53 an hour.

Is LVN or RN better?

Depends on what your aspirations are. However, typically, RN is considered better as they have a higher level of education, can perform more complex tasks than LVNs, and on average makes more money.

What is the difference between LVN and LPN?

LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse) and LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) are different terms used in different states for the same role. They prefer the term LVN in California and Texas, while the rest of the country calls them LPN.

What is difference between CNA and LVN?

CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) assist with basic patient care and activities of daily living, while LVNs provide medication and basic treatments.

How much do LVNs make in Houston TX?

Per salary.com, The average LVN salary in Houston, TX is $53,037/year.

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