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Should I Become an LPN or CNA?

Comparing two entry-level nursing careers: LPN and CNA

Written by Leanne on August 29th, 2011

Many people considering a career in nursing start by becoming a nurse aide or a licensed practical nurse. These entry-level positions offer an excellent starting point for a nursing career and can also become career positions themselves.

The benefit of being either a CNA or an LPN is that you gain hands-on experience as a nurse and can then decide whether you wish to pursue a more advanced career in nursing. More advanced nursing career options include becoming a Registered Nurse, becoming an RN and then specializing in one field of nursing, or completing a Master’s Degree of Science in Nursing to be a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners usually specialize and focus their practice on one particular area within nursing, such as oncology, labor and delivery or pediatrics.

When first starting out many people ask themselves whether they should become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). The CNA position has a very minimal amount of training, low prerequisite requirements and affordable cost of training and licensing. A qualified CNA training program must include at least 75 hours of training, which can be completed in about 6-12 weeks. Many community colleges offer CNA classes at a very affordable cost of around $300-$500. After completing the training courses you will take the CNA certification exam which costs $100 or less in most states. After passing the CNA exam you become a licensed CNA and can join the state Nurse Aide Registry and begin seeking employment. The downside of starting as a CNA is that your starting salary is usually around $10 per hour and if you choose to become an RN you will receive no credit for your CNA coursework. You can receive credit however for being a Licensed Practical Nurse when entering an RN program. A licensed practical nurse can complete an RN program in 1-2 years, but a CNA will take 2-3 years to become an RN. The average annual LPN salary in the US is around $43,000 per year, which is substantially higher than a nursing assistant.

Therefore, as one might expect, the CNA position offers easier entry but is more difficult to advance. The LPN career path offers higher initial pay and easier transition to further career advancement. The best choice depends on the individual’s career goals, personal preferences and what resources they have available.

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Written by Nurses Link