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LPN or RN: What's the difference?

Similarities and Difference Between LPN and RN

A registered nurse (RN) and a licensed practical nurse (LPN) meet many of the same fundamental nursing needs. Both types of nurses care for people suffering from illness and injury, and provide medical and functional assistance to help them recover as quickly and comfortably as possible. LPNs and RNs both perform work that can be mentally and physically demanding, serving patients across the lifespan.

While LPNs and RNs differ in their scope of practice, their daily duties often overlap. RNs usually have more autonomy, while LPNs primarily handle basic nursing care. Likewise, RNs and LPNs usually work in different settings and hold distinct job duties and responsibility levels.

Roles and Responsibilities

RNs and LPNs have a lot of similar duties working to promote good health, comfort, and prevent illness. However, their roles often differ, especially considering where they work. In all situations, RNs have more responsibilities compared to LPNs.

In nursing care facilities, hospitals, and physician offices, LPNs serve as support staff to assist RNs. LPNs work in teams under the management of RNs and physicians to perform basic nursing care and support for patients and their families. Registered nurses (RNs) work to educate patients and the public about various medical conditions, treat patients and help in their rehabilitation, and provide advice and emotional support to patients’ families. RNs use considerable judgment in providing a wide variety of services.

Work Settings

The changing landscape of nursing has created an increased demand for RNs and LPNs, primarily in settings that provide healthcare to aging populations and outpatients. Healthcare industries in the U.S. employ about 3.1 million RNs and about 728,900 LPNs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many LPNs (about 38%) work in residential care facilities helping older individuals. They also find jobs in state and local hospitals, physician offices, home healthcare service, and government agencies.

Hospitals remain the largest industries of employment for RNs, with about 60% of the workforce. RNs also find work in ambulatory healthcare services, nursing care facilities, government agencies, educational services, and many other settings.


Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) vs. Registered Nurses (RN). (2020, October 15).

Registered Nurse Pathway

First Semester - Prerequisites

View Registered Nurse Prerequisites

Apply for ASN-RN Program

ASN-RN Program is Four Semesters

Course Requirements After Formal Acceptance

Graduate and sit for NCLEX-RN exam

Go to work as an RN


Apply for an ASN to BSN completion program

If desired

Licensed Practical Nurse Pathway

First Semester - Prerequisites

View Licensed Practical Nurse Prerequisites

Apply for CAS-PN Program

CAS-PN Program is Two Semesters

Course Requirements After Formal Acceptance

Graduate and sit for NCLEX-PN exam

Go to work as an LPN


Apply for an ASN program

If desired

LPN to RN Pathway

Graduate from an LPN program and sit for NCLEX-PN exam

Go to work as an LPN

First Semester - Prerequisites

Registered Nurse Prerequisites

Apply for ASN-RN program

ASN-RN program is Four Semesters with the following course substitutions based on previous coursework or experience

NRSG232 Foundations of Nursing

NRSG233 Foundations of Nursing Lab

NRSG234 Adult Nursing I

NRSG235 Adult Nursing I Clinical

Graduate and sit for NCLEX-RN exam

Go to work as an RN


Apply for an ASN to BSN completion program

If desired

Transfer From Another Nursing Program

Apply to GFC MSU with submission of official transcripts

Verify with your assigned academic advisor that the courses you have taken meet the required prerequisite criteria to be eligible to apply for the nursing program you are interested in.

Kaplan Admissions Exam (if interested in the ASN-RN program)

Test Outline and Suggested Preparatory Text

Apply for ASN-RN or PN program

If accepted to the nursing program...

previous nursing program coursework will be reviewed for equivalencies and substitutions if able.


If transferring from another Montana in-state program with common course numbers...

NRSG courses will be accepted and transferred.

For more specific program information, please review the appropriate pathways and websites.