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How is a registered nurse (RN) different from a licensed practical nurse (LPN)?

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) typically have one year of education and are prepared to perform simple to complex medical procedures and tasks. They operate under the supervision of a registered professional nurse or a physician. Registered nurses (RNs) have two to four years of education and are prepared to practice in a variety of health care settings to meet the health needs of individuals across the life span.

Does Penn State offer an LPN-to-RN program?

Not specifically. However, LPNs do receive 4 college credits toward completion of the B.S. program.


What is required for an RN license?

To obtain an RN license, the individual must have graduated from a nursing program approved by a state board of nursing, meet all the requirements to sit for the licensure examination (including no felony convictions within the past ten years), and successfully pass the examination. There are several educational pathways that lead to the RN licensing exam, but all require completion of an approved nursing program.


What are the different types of RN programs?

Many diploma programs, which offer a diploma in nursing, are connected to hospitals. Often, though, diploma programs are affiliated with colleges, where the sciences and other required general education courses are taught. Some affiliations allow the diploma student to earn an associate degree in a general area, such as liberal arts, as a complement to the nursing diploma.

Associate degrees (two-year programs) are offered at technical schools, community colleges, or universities. They focus on a core of nursing information, the sciences, and general education to support nursing. These programs provide the foundation to enter the nursing discipline at a beginning level. Penn State’s College of Nursing supports the national movement toward baccalaureate degrees for entry-level nurses and encourages associate degree graduates to pursue baccalaureate or higher-level degrees.

Baccalaureate degrees (four-year programs offered at colleges and universities) prepare nurses to provide comprehensive service to individuals, families, groups, and communities. These programs are designed to develop critical thinking and nursing skills at a higher level.

All three types of programs prepare students to sit for the same National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which tests for entry-level competency and safety, and which is required to become a registered nurse. The difference is in the academic credential conferred by the hospital, college, or university. Many facilities will hire RNs from any level of program; others hire only those with associate or baccalaureate degrees, while a few accept the baccalaureate degree only. Most management opportunities go to those with the higher degrees. A baccalaureate degree in nursing is needed to pursue graduate nursing education.