Many Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurses (LPN/LVNs) eventually wish to advance their education to become Registered Nurses (RNs). Depending on the time, budget, and educational credits already earned, the LPN may be able to start work as a registered nurse in less than a year! Most universities have nursing schools that offer specific LPN to RN bridge program pathways that take into account the student's prior education and experience. These are much more affordable and take far less time to complete than a traditional 2-year or 4-year RN program. LPN to RN bridge students can graduate with an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) and can apply for state licensure and ultimately find employment as an RN.

2021 - Best Online LPN to RN Programs

With many healthcare employers looking to hire registered nurses, enrolling in an LPN to RN program is an advantageous career move. While there are many LPN to RN program options, most students wish to choose the best program available to them. We have ranked our top online LPN to RN picks below, based on factors like NCLEX-RN pass rates, program attributes, and more. Whether you are an LPN looking to earn an ADN or a BSN, these highly ranked schools are sure to help you meet your RN goals. For more information on our top LPN to RN program rankings, see our Methodology Page.

Allegany College of Maryland

Allegany College of Maryland (ACM) offers an online LPN to RN program that culminates in an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN). This highly flexible program is designed to work around the employed LPN, with lectures and coursework delivered in a fully online format with supervised clinical rotations arranged in the student's local area. Students enrolled in ACM's program take courses in Maternal/Child Nursing, Advanced Medical-Surgical Nursing, Psychiatric Nursing, and much more to bridge the gap from practical nursing to registered nursing.

Find out more:

Quick Facts:
  • Authorized in 6 states: Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Texas
  • Delivered in an asynchronous format, with 3-4 mandatory synchronous meetings per semester
  • Financial aid available
North Dakota State University

Those looking for a Spring-entry LPN to BSN program can opt to enroll in North Dakota State University's mostly online offering. NDSU's program builds upon the LPN's education and experience so that they can become baccalaureate registered nurses. Most students enroll in around 6-9 credits per semester, and the curriculum includes courses in Expanded Family Nursing, Evidence-Based Practice and Research in Nursing, and Complex Issues in Adult Health, amongst others. The clinical portion of the program is carried out in the Fargo/Moorhead area of North Dakota.

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Quick Facts:
  • Program length is 6 semesters (including summers)
  • Clinicals must be completed in North Dakota
  • Students outside of North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Montana should check with the NCSBN to see if their state accepts distance education programs
Sampson Community College

North Carolina's Sampson Community College offers an LPN to RN pathway that currently accepts 10 lucky students each Fall. This online/hybrid program is open to LPNs with at least 2 years of employment experience in a medical-surgical hospital unit or skilled nursing facility. While most of the curriculum is delivered online, enrolled students also participate in 144 hours of clinical practice supervised by an experienced RN. In just 2 semesters of study, students will have earned an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN).

Find out more:

Quick Facts:
  • Clinicals are arranged in the student's local area but must take place within North Carolina
  • Applicants are selected through a documentation and testing process
  • Applications from the previous year will not be carried over to the next year; applicants must resubmit the LPN to ADN Online Packet
University of Arkansas

U of A Online's LPN to BSN program provides students with the theoretical and practical foundation needed to succeed in the world of registered nursing. This fully online program can be completed in just 2-3 years and requires 120 credit hours. Faculty and program advisors are committed to facilitating student-centered learning to produce RNs who improve patient outcomes. Graduates even have the option to have their name engraved in the U of A Senior Walk.

Find out more:

Quick Facts:
  • Flexible degree pathways with part-time and full-time plans available
  • Most classes taught in 8-week terms
  • Clinicals arranged in the student's geographical area
Western Kentucky University

Western Kentucky University offers an LPN to ASN program for practical nurses looking to advance in the field. WKU's curriculum emphasizes professionalism, evidence-based nursing care, safety, and ethical behavior to prepare skilled and caring RNs. Enrolled students take courses in Medical-Surgical Nursing, Microbiology, Maternal-Newborn Nursing, and more to total 61 program hours. Upon completion, graduates are well-prepared to sit for the NCLEX-RN examination.

Find out more:

Quick Facts:
  • Program is delivered mostly online, with one face-to-face meeting each week
  • Program can be completed in less than one year (3 semesters)
  • Flexible scheduling allows students to continue working full-time if they wish

Should an LPN/LVN Become an RN?

The answer in many cases is "Yes! Absolutely!" Keep reading to find out why.

Phasing Out LPNs?

Many healthcare facilities, including hospitals, have already started phasing out the LPN position, with the intention of making it obsolete. Some lucky LPNs already employed for many years prior have likely been "grandfathered" into their jobs, however, they may have been asked to earn an RN degree to keep their job. This is mostly due to many RNs seeking employment and the inability to assign patients solely to an LPN, as LPNs legally require direct RN supervision. Eventually, the LPN position is likely to be completely eliminated.

Career Flexibility

RNs have a lot more options for places to work versus LPNs. Hospitals, clinics, physician's offices, insurance companies, pharmaceutical sales, education, and many more options exist for RNs. Some of these jobs may still employ LPNs, but the positions will be far less common and certainly won't pay as well.

RNs also have the ability to specialize in certain areas. While LPNs can be found working in various areas of healthcare, RNs can gain advanced education and formal certification to find work with the patient populations they are most passionate about. For instance, RNs can work with babies as a NICU nurse, help those with mental illnesses and addictions as a psychiatric nurse, or serve their communities as a public health nurse, amongst many other specializations.

Learn more about Nursing Careers & Specialties for RNs

More Money

Many LPNs wish to advance to RN careers due to the increased salaries. See the below salary table outlining the increase in pay from an LPN vs RN by state.

State LPN Annual Salary RN Annual Salary Percent Increase
Alabama $38,230 $59,470 56%
Alaska $58,250 $89,310 53%
Arizona $54,090 $77,000 42%
Arkansas $39,570 $60,780 54%
California $56,200 $106,950 90%
Colorado $51,210 $74,240 45%
Connecticut $56,970 $81,220 43%
Delaware $52,860 $74,800 42%
District of Columbia $53,370 $92,350 73%
Florida $44,400 $66,210 49%
Georgia $41,690 $68,950 65%
Hawaii $50,930 $98,080 93%
Idaho $44,280 $67,110 52%
Illinois $51,080 $73,890 45%
Indiana $44,310 $64,860 46%
Iowa $42,820 $59,130 38%
Kansas $43,240 $61,030 41%
Kentucky $41,920 $63,100 51%
Louisiana $39,480 $63,970 62%
Maine $45,610 $67,610 48%
Maryland $53,650 $76,820 43%
Massachusetts $58,990 $92,140 56%
Michigan $49,040 $71,330 45%
Minnesota $47,020 $78,920 68%
Mississippi $37,930 $58,490 54%
Missouri $42,580 $65,130 53%
Montana $43,770 $67,450 54%
Nebraska $43,160 $64,470 49%
Nevada $57,140 $85,620 50%
New Hampshire $52,510 $72,760 39%
New Jersey $56,290 $82,750 47%
New Mexico $47,560 $71,730 51%
New York $48,770 $85,610 76%
North Carolina $44,610 $64,850 45%
North Dakota $46,410 $65,740 42%
Ohio $43,430 $66,820 54%
Oklahoma $41,260 $63,080 53%
Oregon $53,240 $91,080 71%
Pennsylvania $48,120 $70,390 46%
Rhode Island $59,130 $78,420 33%
South Carolina $40,890 $64,940 59%
South Dakota $38,630 $58,340 51%
Tennessee $40,120 $61,320 53%
Texas $46,990 $72,890 55%
Utah $48,130 $65,670 36%
Vermont $49,720 $69,160 39%
Virginia $44,850 $69,790 56%
Washington $55,420 $82,670 49%
West Virginia $36,770 $61,780 68%
Wisconsin $45,290 $71,470 58%
Wyoming $46,790 $67,360 44%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, data extracted on 12/3/2020

LPN vs RN: The Differences

The Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is a nurse who has completed nursing prerequisites plus a one year LPN program. The LPN cannot work in the same settings as a registered nurse and they often find themselves limited to only a few places for employment. However, the registered nurse can work in the same settings as the LPN, usually in a supervisory role, and have the training and authority to complete many more tasks.

For this reason, LPN programs may be less desirable than RN programs, but they are usually still available in most states. Many LPN programs are being phased out of schools because LPNs are being hired less and less in the healthcare marketplace. However, many choose to start their nursing careers as LPNs due to the shorter educational requirements in order to begin working sooner, and then enroll in an LPN to RN bridge program later on.

The LPN to RN program may be a shortcut method of being accepted into nursing school and much faster than attending traditional ADN or BSN programs. As for employment opportunities, most facilities do not require a Bachelor's degree to get hired, but may require it within a set amount of years or employment. See RN to BSN.

Check out our breakdown of the two career paths with RN vs LPN.

What Are the Benefits of LPN to RN Programs?

When compared to traditional ADN or BSN programs, many benefits exist for the LPN to RN bridge program.

Short Waiting List

Attending a trade school or community college which offers the LPN program may be less expensive and shorten or eliminate the waiting list that is common for popular ADN and BSN programs. And once completed, the LPN qualifies for the LPN to RN bridge program. Because many students do not consider becoming an LPN as a stepping stone to becoming an RN initially, the waiting list for the bridge program is often much shorter than traditional RN programs.

Short Program

LPN to RN bridge programs typically take a year or less for students looking to graduate with the Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN), and around 2 years for the Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) option. Because students have already completed a year of nursing school in their LPN program, they essentially enter the bridge program in the second year of a traditional RN program. Students then just need to meet the state requirements for clinical hours, making this program much shorter than attending the traditional ADN or BSN program all at once.

Small Class Sizes

Because this is not the traditional path most nursing students consider, class sizes may be smaller for LPN to RN bridge programs than ADN or BSN programs. This can be helpful when trying to find tutoring or asking questions during class. Many instructors will know the students by name and be available for help when needed. Closer bonds between students are also common, which is helpful for forming study groups and building an understanding of the course material.

Healthcare Experience

LPNs are usually working in the healthcare field as nurses while adding to their nursing education in their RN bridge program. This hands-on experience in healthcare is priceless. School can teach a nurse how to be safe and understand the human body, but nothing quite takes the place of gaining actual real-world experience.

Work During School

Most LPN to RN programs are scheduled with the working nurse in mind. Students can typically choose between part-time or full-time class schedules, with evening and weekend courses often available. The goal of many of these programs is to allow students to continue working (at least part-time) while completing their RN studies.

RELATED - During RN School & After

What Are the Requirements of LPN to RN Bridge Programs?

While requirements vary with each program and each school some similarities are likely to exist.

  • High school diploma or GED
  • 18 years old or older
  • Fluent in reading, writing, and speaking English
  • US citizen or permanent resident
  • Graduation from an accredited nursing school
  • GPA of 2.5 or greater
  • Prerequisite courses satisfied with LPN program or otherwise
  • LPN license in good standing with the State board of nursing

LPN to RN Classes and Curriculum

Many of the basics of nursing are learned during the first year of nursing school, which is the LPN program. So LPNs are already well-versed in the basics of patient care and the human body.

However, one of the hallmark differences is teaching the LPN to become a more independent critical thinker. After all, by law, the RN supervises the LPN, so the RN needs to be able to function safely and independently as an expert nurse while under the supervision of a physician.

The LPN to RN curriculum requires graduates to be experts in:

  • Advanced physical assessment
  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Advanced biology
  • Critical thinking

What Kinds of Clinical Hours Can I Expect in the RN Program?

State law requires additional clinical hours to be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN.

These hours may be in totally different settings than the LPN program or may be in the same areas. This all depends on the school's and state's requirements.

RN clinical areas may include:

  • Intensive care units
  • Medical-surgical floors
  • Telemetry units
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Community health settings
  • Psychiatric care facilities
  • Neonatal ICU
  • Pediatrics

Why Are Clinical Hours Important for Nurses?

Clinical hours are intended to apply classroom teaching to the "real world." Learning about a disease in a textbook and then actually taking care of a patient who has this disease are two very different things.

Textbooks teach the nursing student about a disease process by discussing:

  • Signs and symptoms
  • Predispositions
  • Disease characteristics
  • Nursing implications of the disease process, such as:
    • Risks for skin breakdown
    • Nutritional status
    • Airway management
    • Barriers to discharge

Clinical hours are intended to apply these abstract ideas to the practical use of patient care. The nursing student will solidify learning during supervised clinical rotations and put a human aspect to textbook disease processes.

What Happens After Nursing School Graduation?

Once the ADN or BSN is completed, the nurse may take the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for state licensure as an RN. This allows the nurse to apply for employment.

RELATED - Working as an RN and Registered Nursing Jobs

Many students network and explore employment opportunities during RN clinicals. This is a great way to find a job post-graduation. Networking with the nurse managers by asking for contact information and permission to contact upon graduation is a great start.