Finding the Right LPN Program

There isn’t a faster way to enter the field of nursing than obtaining a Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) Certificate. These programs help students learn to become competent nurses and learn the basics of nursing terminology and responsibilities without the necessary time investment that comes with a more in-depth registered nurse degree or Bachelor’s degree in nursing. While the LPN certification programs often teach similar curriculums, not all LPN certification programs are created equal. Finding the right LPN program can be a complicated process and enrolling in the program is a combination of meeting the admission standards and ensuring that the particular program has a proven track record of success. Obtaining an LPN license not only offers nurses access to a stable and large job market, but it also helps nurses get their start in the industry and leads to opportunities to continue the nursing education in the future.

Education Prerequisites

The prerequisites to earning an LPN degree certificate largely depend on what type of LPN program it is. Some schools offer an Associate’s degree in licensed practical nursing and those programs usually have a stricter set of admissions standards than programs that just offer the certificates. Most – although not all – certificate-only programs are offered at private schools and those schools have more freedom when it comes to determining which students they can accept and which they can’t.

This doesn’t mean that applicants to certificate-only programs don’t have to meet certain admissions criteria. Applicants to certificate-only programs are generally required to complete an English comprehension test to prove they can communicate effectively with patients; a math test on everything up to geometry because licensed practical nurses are often required to deal with dosage amounts on a daily basis and thus must be proficient at math; and critical thinking and common senses that test applicants’ aptitude when it comes to thinking on their feet and avoiding easy mistakes. Associate’s degree programs generally require applicants to complete all of the aforementioned exams as well as a number of college-level general education courses. For example, most community college programs ask that applicants have completed courses in subjects such as Human Anatomy and Physiology, Psychology, Human Development, and CPR for Health Care Provider. There are also additional aptitude exams that may be required of applicants depending on the program and its standards of admission.

Depending on the program, obtaining an LPN certificate takes 1-2 years. Most Associate’s degree programs are two years in length while some private schools choose to offer a more compressed, one-year program. It may sound much easier to enter and complete a one-year program, but be forewarned that those programs teach the same curriculum that is taught in an Associate’s degree program, it’s just taught at a faster pace.

Program Coursework

A LPN certificate combines classroom (or online) learning with hands-on training in professional healthcare settings that are known as clinicals. Clinicals are not only meant to give students an opportunity to gain real-world experience performing the responsibilities that are taught in the theory part of the program. They are also an opportunity to expose aspiring nurses to different types of nursing in an effort to help nurses pick their niche. Most LPN programs start with intensive coursework on terminology.

Once students are able to understand anatomy and biology terminology, they will have a much better understanding of how to diagnose and treat patients, so LPN programs drill students on the terminology. This part of the program requires a lot of memorization and reading, because instructors are nit-picky about the quality of the work. They will learn both basic nursing responsibilities such as how to draw blood and how to administer medication, as well as proper nursing procedures that address acute and chronic conditions. There will also almost certainly be coursework on leadership and management skills as well as ethics and legal approaches related to patient care.

Factors to Consider

All programs are different. Yes, there will be plenty of overlap, but each program is going to have unique characteristics that may fit with some students better than they fit with others. Prospective students should consider the following issues and factors when they are choosing the program that fits their needs:

  • Length of the program
  • Faculty credentials and experience
  • Facilities and resources available to students
  • State requirements for licensed practical nursing programs
  • Tuition fees and the availability of financial aid
  • Connections with potential employers


By pursuing an LPN license, students are getting their foot in the door of the nursing industry and there aren’t many more stable industries. A LPN certificate isn’t necessarily the end of the road for nurses interested in growing their skills; interested nurses may consider applying to a BSN, RN, or even MSN program in the future.