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LPN Associate Degree

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are an integral part of the health care system, providing care and comfort to patients in a wide variety of settings. Earning the associate degree in nursing can put LPNs on track for more responsibility in their chosen profession, give them a launching pad to a higher degree and allow them to open up their career prospects.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports job growth of 22 percent from 2010 through 2020 for licensed practical nurses. This healthy increase is attributed to an aging population and the growing popularity of outpatient care centers, where LPNs can offer attentive patient care. In 2010, 29 percent of LPNs worked in nursing care facilities, 15 percent worked in private hospitals and 12 percent worked in offices of physicians. The median annual wage for LPNs was up to $41,150 in May 2011 (bls.gov/oes, 2012).

About the associate degree in nursing

The associate degree in nursing may prepare students to administer health care to patients in a variety of settings. The LPN associate degree typically teaches nurses to be teachers, advocates, providers of one-on-one care and leaders of their nursing teams. The program offers both hands-on training and classroom instruction, some of which can be administered online. Students who enroll in the associate degree in nursing program take a blend of courses that include psychology, health assessment, pharmacology, anatomy, microbiology and more.

Earning the associate degree typically takes two years, however, those who engage in accelerated online learning might be able to earn their degree sooner while keeping up with their current workload. Students who have already met all the general education requirements might find that the LPN program takes one year or less.

Those who graduate from the associate degree in nursing program are typically prepared to take the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN. The associate degree also typically prepares students to pursue a higher degree, such as the bachelor's of science in nursing.

Admission requirements

Students who want to enter an LPN associate degree program must meet or exceed the eligibility requirements of their chosen institution. Though these requirements vary somewhat from one program to another, the basic requirements include a high school diploma or GED certificate, a transcript of records bearing a final grade point average (usually 2.0 or higher is required), and letters of recommendation from teachers or colleagues.

Some colleges require students to prove proficiency in math and show proof of passing grades in chemistry and other sciences. Some schools also require pre-admission testing. To be certain of the requirements for a particular program, speak to an admissions counselor.

Career opportunities for LPN associate degree holders

Earning an associate degree in licensed practical nursing opens the door to higher degree programs in the future, such as the LPN to Registered Nurse (RN) program. By earning an associate degree, nurses might also be eligible for promotions from their current positions. There is also the possibility of higher pay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that higher incomes are linked to higher degrees, and those with higher degrees generally enjoy lower unemployment rates (bls.gov/emp, 2013).

Those who earn their LPN associate degree can find work in a wide variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, health departments, clinics, hospice care, schools, civil services, a wide variety of industries and more. Nurses might also work in private practice in the offices of physicians or dentists, join a home health care team, or work with individuals as a private nurse.

Specializations

Those who choose to earn their LPN degree can take their education one step further by earning certifications that can make them more attractive to potential employers. Depending upon the job, some certifications can lead to pay raises or attention at promotion time. Certifications in advanced cardiac life support, neonatal resuscitation, pediatric advanced life support or wound care certification are just a few of the specializations a licensed practical nurse can choose to pursue.

Not only do these specializations get the attention of employers, they also provide intensive training in a new aspect of nursing care. This can lead a LPN to choose to pursue a slightly different career path. For instance, a nurse working in a hospital might choose to earn certification as an emergency medical technician and go to work for an ambulance service.

A final word on LPN associate degrees

The LPN associate degree can be either a great way to move into the workforce or a stepping stone to a higher degree. Licensed practical nurses who earn their associate degree may develop the nursing skills and knowledge helpful to passing the NCLEX-PN, but can also obtain the degree seen as a minimum requirement for many employers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For those who choose to build a career in nursing, the LPN associate degree can be a valuable step in a lifetime of caregiving.

Sources

"Associate Degree Nursing," New River Community College Arts and Sciences Division
"Associates Degree in Nursing," Tennessee State University
"Education," National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses
"Education Pays," Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013
"LPN Salary," Aspiring Nurse, 2012
Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012
Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition). Bureau of Labor Statistics

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