RN vs. LPN Salary – Find out the Difference?

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

The field of nursing offers many opportunities for those who want to provide a hands-on approach to patient care. If you are considering becoming a licensed practical/vocational nurse or registered nurse, one of the most important things for you to consider is the difference in an RN vs LPN salary. In this article, we will discuss the salary difference between LPN and RN careers, as well as some of the factors that may contribute to these differences.

Registered Nurse vs. Licensed Practical Nurse: What Do They Do?

While the duties of both nurses vary depending on the setting where they work, there are distinct differences in each role.

Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN)

LPNs are responsible for providing primary nursing care that is supervised by a registered nurse or other licensed healthcare providers. In some settings, an LPN may have a supervisory role such as team leader, charge nurse, or assistant director of nursing. However, they are always under the direct supervision of registered nurses.

The role and responsibilities of LPNs may include:

• Monitor vital signs
• Provide wound care
• Patient assessments (other than initial nursing assessment)
• Administer medications
• Educate patient and family and about illness and medication management


Registered Nurse (RN)

RNs perform all the duties that an LPN can perform. Additionally, they may:

• Develop patient-specific care plans
• Collaborate with the healthcare team to administer care
• Patient education
• Administer medications

• RNs may also specialize in a specialty area (geriatrics, pediatrics, orthopedics, etc.)

Entry-Level RN vs. LPN Salary

The difference in the entry-level salary of LPN versus RN, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is approximately $17,500, with LPNs earning a little more than $34,000 annually and RNs roughly $52,000. Privately owned clinics or hospitals may offer different rates of pay, even for entry-level nurses. Additionally, some nurses may see differences in entry-level salary offers based on the personal risk level associated with their chosen professional settings. For instance, nurses who work in psychiatric hospitals or drug rehabilitation facilities may see higher offers than nurses who work in a family practice clinic.

Nurses who hold specialty certifications may be offered higher salary ranges. Further, registered nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree can typically expect to make between $7,000 and $10,000 more than nurses with an associate degree. Registered nurses who hold a master’s degree may be offered between $20,000 up to $100,000 more each year.

OccupationEntry-Level Salary
Registered Nurse$52,080
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Hourly LPN vs. RN Salary

There is typically a $13 to $20 per hour or more difference in the hourly pay rate between registered nurses and licensed practical/vocational nurses. Many facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities, offer a shift differential for nurses who work evenings, nights, or weekends, as well. Years of experience, specialty certifications, and specialty-focused areas also contribute to hourly wage considerations of both licensed practical nurses and registered nurses.

OccupationAverage Hourly Pay
Registered Nurse$37.24
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Average Annual Salary of Licensed Practical Nurses vs. Registered Nurses

The difference between an LPN and an RN salary varies depending on geographical location, the type of setting where you may choose to work, area of specialization, and years of experience. Critical care specialty areas such as emergency rooms, surgery, intensive care units (ICU) are considered high-risk specialty areas, which means the pay in those areas is typically higher. These areas of critical care are usually staffed by registered nurses.

According to salary.com, the median salary for LPNs in the United States is approximately $41,808 and for RNs is $79,760. ZipRecruiter reports an average LPN salary of $49,826 and an RN salary of $70,335. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is the leading source of information on career outlooks, reports an average salary of $48,500 for LPNs and RNs $77,460.

OccupationAverage Annual Salary
Registered Nurse$77,460
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Experience-Wise LPN vs. RN Salary

When considering the salary difference between an RN and an LPN, it’s essential to keep in mind that several factors can contribute to the differences in salaries that are offered by employers. For example, years of experience, any specialty certifications, type of healthcare setting, and geographical location may each contribute to the differences in salaries.

On average, LPNs have a salary range from $34,560 annual entry-level salary and up to over $63,000 with twenty or more years of work experience. On the other hand, registered nurses can enter the field of nursing with a salary of approximately $52,080 and may earn more than $111,000 annually with the same twenty or more years of experience.

Occupation Level of Experience Hourly Monthly Annual
Registered Nurse Starting (Entry-Level) $25.04 $4,340 $52,080
1-4 Years of Experience $28.90 $5,010 $60,110
5-9 Years of Experience $35.24 $6,110 $73,300
10-19 Years of Experience $43.63 $7,560 $90,760
20 Years or More Experience $53.47 $9,270 $111,220
LPN/LVN Starting (Entry-Level) $16.62 $2,880 $34,560
1-4 Years of Experience $19.62 $3,400 $40,810
5-9 Years of Experience $22.83 $3,960 $47,480
10-19 Years of Experience $26.94 $4,670 $56,040
20 Years or More Experience $30.46 $5,280 $63,360

Employee Benefits and Perks

Most healthcare facilities offer similar employee benefits and "perks" for both LPNs and RNs. Health insurance, paid time off, and sick leave are some of the most common employee benefits. While registered nurses historically make higher salaries and may enjoy more of the perks offered, LPNs do typically receive the same type of benefits.

LPN vs. RN Salary Outlook

The need for qualified nurses to provide care for a population that is aging and that is dense with chronic illness and diseases means that employers may be more competitive when offering satisfactory salaries to both LPNs and RNs. As with other career paths, a nurse's level of education and licensure also influence what their expected income may be. For example, registered nurses with a bachelor's degree may see a slight difference in their annual or hourly in comparison to that of an RN with an associate degree.

State-Wise RN vs. LPN Salary

As previously stated, the geographical area that a nurse chooses to practice in is likely to be a determining factor in estimated earning potential. States with a higher cost of living typically pay higher salaries, and states with lower living expenses usually pay less.

For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, South Dakota is the lowest paying state in the United States for RNs, and West Virginia is the lowest paying for LPNs. The anticipated income that registered nurses in South Dakota can expect is approximately $59,540. LPNs in West Virginia typically have an average $37,500 annual income. Comparing the rates of the lowest paying salaries, there is about a $22,000 difference in annual salaries between RNs and LPNs. Currently, California is the state with the highest paying job opportunities for nurses. In California, RNs typically earn approximately $113,240 annually, and licensed practical/vocational nurses may earn around $60,240. This equates to about a $53,000 difference annually between RN vs LPN salary in California.

State RN LPN/LVN The Difference in Salary Between RNs and LPNs/LVNs
Alabama $60,230 $39,310 $20,920
Alaska $90,500 $63,850 $26,650
Arizona $78,330 $54,290 $24,040
Arkansas $61,330 $40,760 $20,570
California $113,240 $60,240 $53,000
Colorado $76,230 $53,180 $23,050
Connecticut $83,440 $57,380 $26,060
Delaware $74,100 $53,520 $20,580
District of Columbia $94,820 $54,220 $40,600
Florida $67,610 $45,580 $22,030
Georgia $69,590 $42,570 $27,020
Hawaii $104,060 $51,010 $53,050
Idaho $69,480 $46,430 $23,050
Illinois $73,510 $53,290 $20,220
Indiana $66,560 $46,050 $20,510
Iowa $60,590 $44,220 $16,370
Kansas $62,450 $44,260 $18,190
Kentucky $63,750 $42,740 $21,010
Louisiana $65,850 $40,300 $25,550
Maine $69,760 $46,930 $22,830
Maryland $77,910 $55,020 $22,890
Massachusetts $93,160 $60,340 $32,820
Michigan $73,200 $50,300 $22,900
Minnesota $80,130 $48,460 $31,670
Mississippi $59,750 $39,020 $20,730
Missouri $64,160 $43,410 $20,750
Montana $69,340 $44,730 $24,610
Nebraska $66,640 $44,450 $22,190
Nevada $88,380 $58,470 $29,910
New Hampshire $73,880 $54,220 $19,660
New Jersey $84,280 $57,510 $26,770
New Mexico $73,300 $48,330 $24,970
New York $87,840 $49,860 $37,980
North Carolina $66,440 $45,880 $20,560
North Dakota $66,290 $46,760 $19,530
Ohio $68,220 $45,020 $23,200
Oklahoma $64,800 $42,090 $22,710
Oregon $92,960 $54,740 $38,220
Pennsylvania $71,410 $49,200 $22,210
Rhode Island $82,310 $59,860 $22,450
South Carolina $64,840 $42,190 $22,650
South Dakota $59,540 $38,760 $20,780
Tennessee $62,570 $41,270 $21,300
Texas $74,540 $47,370 $27,170
Utah $67,970 $49,660 $18,310
Vermont $70,240 $50,210 $20,030
Virginia $71,870 $46,070 $25,800
Washington $86,170 $57,940 $28,230
West Virginia $63,220 $37,500 $25,720
Wisconsin $72,610 $46,550 $26,060
Wyoming $68,690 $46,980 $21,710
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Annual Job Openings Comparison

The anticipated number of annual job openings for registered nurses and licensed practical/vocational nurses combined is over 275,000. This increase includes an estimated 66,000 LPN jobs and more than 210,000 RN jobs becoming available. Openings may occur due to current nurses in the workforce changing the type of nursing position they hold as they age, retirement from the workforce altogether, or changes in career paths.

Occupation New Replacement Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)
Registered Nurse 37,150 173,250 210,400
LPN/LVN 7,810 58,490 66,300
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Job Outlook Comparison

As the population ages, the outlook for jobs for both LPNs and RNs is promising. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an approximate ten percent job growth for LPN between 2018 and 2028. According to the same source, registered nurses can expect to see a little greater increase in job opportunities at about a twelve percent increase.

The anticipated increase in job growth is being attributed to an increased rate of chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, an increased emphasis that is placed on preventive care, and the longer lifespan of the aging population.

Some examples of high demand registered jobs include nursing education, psychiatric nursing, critical care nursing, and trauma nursing. LPNs make up most of the nursing staff in residential and long-term care centers and may hold supervisory or administrative positions in those settings.

Occupation Employment New Employment Growth (2018-2028)
2018 2028 Number %
Registered Nurse 3,059,800 3,431,300 371,500 12.14%
LPN/LVN 728,900 807,000 78,100 10.71%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The Bottom Line

If you have decided that nursing is a career that you want to pursue, researching the difference between licensed practical nurse vs registered nurse salary is an important consideration. Registered nurses hold a minimum associate degree while LPNs typically graduate from a diploma program. The level of education you choose to pursue will have a significant impact on your overall earning potential. Because the overall health and well-being of the population change dramatically, especially as the population ages, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses can both expect to find a sense of security in this career path.

Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years' experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).