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How to Become a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse

Becoming a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse requires completing an approved educational program. LPNs and LVNs must also have a license.


LPNs and LVNs must complete an accredited program, which takes about 1 year. These programs are commonly in technical schools and community colleges. They may occasionally be in high schools and hospitals as well. Practical nursing programs combine classroom learning in subjects such as nursing, biology, and pharmacology, with supervised clinical experience. These programs give certificates in practical nursing. Contact your state's board of nursing for a list of approved programs.


After getting a certificate, prospective LPNs or LVNs can take the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN. They must pass the exam to get a license and work as an LPN or LVN in all states. 

Important Qualities

Compassion. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses must be empathetic and caring toward the people they serve.

Detail oriented. LPNs and LVNs need to be responsible and detail-oriented because they must make sure that patients get the correct treatment at the right time.

Interpersonal skills. Interacting with patients and healthcare specialists is a big part of their jobs, so LPNs and LVNs need good interpersonal skills.

Patience. Dealing with sick and injured people is often stressful. LPNs and LVNs should be patient so they can cope with stress that can come from providing healthcare to these patients.

Speaking skills. It is important that LPNs and LVNs be able to communicate effectively. For example, they might need to relay a patient’s current condition to a registered nurse.

Stamina. LPNs and LVNs should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as bending over patients for a long time.


With experience, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses can advance to supervisory positions. Some LPNs and LVNs advance to other medical occupations, such as registered nurses, by getting more education through LPN to RN (registered nurse) education programs. For more information, see the profile on registered nurses.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition