CNA to LPN Programs: Advantages, Admission Requirements, Cost, and Scope

CNA to LPN bridge program is a good option for the CNAs who are ready to climb the ladder in their profession. The program gives an opportunity to explore better aspects associated with the nursing and earn a better salary. Some colleges have the provision of transferring the college credits that you received during the CNA program to LPN program that shortens the duration and coursework. In this program, you shall be trained to work as an Licensed Practical Nurse through classroom sessions and clinical experience. Aspiring students can enroll themselves into the CNA to LPN course in community colleges or vocational training schools. Some of the colleges offer online CNA to LPN Program.

The topics covered in the CNA to LPN bridge program include anatomy, nursing fundamentals, first aid, pharmacology, Physiology, and surgical nursing. The program also comprises of communication and computer subjects. The duration of the Program may vary from school to school depending on the state’s requirement. However, on an average the program length is around two years.

Who is a CNA?

Certified Nursing Assistants help fulfill the needs of the patients under the supervision of the senior doctors, RNs, or LPNs. CNAs are the entry-level nurses, but it does not make them less than anyone. They serve meals to the patient’s, dress and bathe them, record their vital signs, keep the room clean, observe the changes in the patient’s condition, set up the medical equipment and assist the doctor during a medical procedure. CNAs help the clients in the activities they are unable to do on their own. They let the LPNs and RNs handle more complex duties by performing the basic tasks. The majority of the nurses start their career by stepping into the shoes of a CNA as it gives the experience to tackle the difficult situations that arise in the profession.

How to Become an LPN When You Are a CNA?

CNA programs require the candidates to have a high school diploma. CNA programs get completed in a short span of 2 weeks or may take 12 weeks if they are part-time or weekend-based.

The position of an LPN comes with power and responsibility. It requires the students to acquire skills and have command over particular subjects. Topics such as wound care, medication administration, patient assessment, and catheter insertion must be learned. CNAs who are turning into an LPN always have an added advantage as compared to the other students, who do not have any nursing background.

Complex problem-solving and critical thinking abilities are the desirable traits in the LPNs. The school chosen should be able to cultivate the required qualities along with the academic skills. In addition to this, the school must be state-approved and possess a good NCLEX-PN pass rate. The major question seeked by individuals is that can an LPN work as a CNA legally? Well, for that you need to check with the local Board of Nursing as each state has different regulations and requirements. An LPN can work as a CNA only on one condition that says that they need to be CNa or MA certified. Many states allow the LPNs to work as a CNA without any certification. However, practitioners need to fulfill the standards of their license.

Difference Between CNA and LPN

Though both the positions are meant to take care of the patient and share similar work settings such as home health care, nursing homes, and medical facilities. There are many other differences between the two roles in terms of certification, licensure and job responsibility. A CNa assists the nursing team and perform some basic nursing duties under the supervision of an LPN or Registered Nurses. On the other hand, an LPN performs additional tasks under the supervision of RNs. LPN training program is lengthy than the CNA training program. The salary of CNAs is lower in comparison to the LPNs.

LPN vs. CNA Licensing & Certification

The LPN candidates are required to qualify National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) after the completion of their state-approved and accredited LPN degree program. After  passing the exam, the individuals can start working as an LPN.  On the other hand, the CNA’s are required to pass a state competency exam that makes them eligible to practice. The eligibility criteria for a CNA exam varies from state to state, but commonly it includes LPN degree, high school diploma, and minimum number of CNA training hours. The CNA exam candidate is also required to go show TB test results and go for a background check before appearing in the exam. Only after passing the exam, candidates can be permitted to work as a CNA.

Comparison of Annual Salaries of CNAs and LPNs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor in A Statistics report of May 2016, the mean annual salary for Certified Nursing Assistants was $26,590. While, the mean annual salary of LPNs was $44,840. There are some major factors that influence the salary of both the professions such as type of employer, geographical location, education level, and years of experience. However, it has been witnessed that the CNAs make less than LPNs. But, nurses use their CNA experience to pursue further education and get into a high paying nursing profile.

Here is a complete state-wise table to compare CNA to a LPN salary:

StateCNA Annual SalaryLPN Annual SalaryPercent Increase
Alabama$22,150$36,10062.97%
Alaska$37,300$54,40045.8%
Arizona$28,890$49,97072.9%
Arkansas$22,070$36,37064.7%
California$31,110$51,87066.7%
Colorado$29,380$47,53061.7%
Connecticut$31,890$55,63074.4%
Delaware$28,360$49,41074.2%
District of Columbia$32,680$53,10062.5%
Florida$24,510$42,32072.6%
Georgia$22,650$38,82071.4%
Hawaii$30,780$46,82052.1%
Idaho$24,340$39,87063.8%
Illinois$26,080$47,19080.9%
Indiana$24,330$40,73067.4%
Iowa$26,300$39,73051.06%
Kansas$23,990$40,04066.9%
Kentucky$24,480$39,18060.04%
Louisiana$20,910$37,96081.55
Maine$25,210$42,41068.2%
Maryland$28,740$51,14077.9%
Massachusetts$30,130$54,16079.7%
Michigan$27,990$45,53062.66%
Minnesota$28,670$42,44048.02%
Mississippi$21,290$36,73072.5%
Missouri$23,880$38,38060.72%
Montana$25,200$39,49056.7%
Nebraska$25,330$39,71056.7%
Nevada$32,710$52,63060.8%
New Hampshire$29,740$47,80060.7%
New Jersey$28,310$53,30088.2%
New Mexico$26,750$46,76074.8%
New York$33,390$46,50039.2%
North Carolina$23,030$41,94074.02%
North Dakota$29,520$41,25039.7%
Ohio$25,150$41,06063.2%
Oklahoma$22,890$38,59068.5%
Oregon$30,140$49,16063.1%
Pennsylvania$28,460$44,57056.6%
Puerto Rico$19,400$22,54016.2%
Rhode Island$29,090$55,23089.8%
South Carolina$24,100$39,41063.5%
South Dakota$24,290$36,27049.3%
Tennessee$22,920$37,27062.6%
Texas$24,550$45,13083.8%
Utah$23,960$43,11079.9%
Vermont$27,600$45,83066.05%
Virgin Islands$24,560$42,60073.5%
Virginia$25,100$41,19064.1%
Washington$29,430$49,98069.8%
West Virginia$24,080$35,68048.1%
Wisconsin$27,420$43,14057.3%
Wyoming$28,020$44,08057.3%

Information Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics

CNA to LPN Program Advantages

The CNAs who are enrolled for the CNA to LPN bridge program definitely have the edge over the students who directly enter into an LPN school. Moreover, the work experience earned by the CNAs makes them familiar with the nursing environment. The length of the program varies depending on the college.

The benefits of CNA to LPN programs are mentioned below.

1. Better Pay Scale : As discussed above, the LPNs have a better pay scale as compared to the CNAs. On an average, they earn 59% more than the nursing assistants.

2. Increased Knowledge : Unlike CNA programs, the LPN program includes specialty topics such as nutrition, mental health, geriatrics, nutrition, and medication administration, and pay more focus to clinical practice.

3. Further Education : The career prospects for LPNs are much brighter than CNAs. After becoming an LPN, the aspirants may further advance in their career by pursuing RN to BSN programs.

4. Job Satisfaction : According to a survey conducted by the Journal of Nursing Management, the nursing assistants who were employed for a longer time were not satisfied with the job. The CNA is the stepping stone to the nursing industry; the candidates can further grow in terms of knowledge and earnings by opting for LPN or other programs. The LPNs do not face this problem as there are many opportunities to grow in the field and earn certifications in nephrology, dementia, and developmental disabilities.

CNA to LPN Transition

Some states allow CNAs to transfer their credits to the LPN program. The students should consider the following points before going for a CNA to LPN bridge program.

1. Select the Type of Program

The students must decide the kind of award they want; a diploma, certificate, or associate degree. The certificate and diploma courses take almost one year to complete, whereas the associate degree program completes in two years. The associate degree has an advantage over the former two as it lets you transfer the credits to the RN to BSN program if you wish to pursue an RN course further.

2. Review the State-Specific Education Requirements

Once the student is sure about the type of course s/he wants to apply for, s/he must consider the state’s or college’s requirements regarding the course. Generally, most of the colleges expect the candidates to complete credits in Physiology, Anatomy, Lifespan Psychology, Math, and English. There is an entrance test- TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills), which needs to be cleared to get the admission.

3. Complete the Accredited Nursing Program

Once the students fulfill the required conditions of the college and get enrolled in the program, they are trained in various subjects like adult and child nursing, medical administration, and basic medical principles.

4. Attaining the Licensure

At the completion of the course, the students must fill the application for the licensure exam. The applicants must attain the minimum score to get the licensure. If the candidate gets less than that, s/he can appear for the test again after 45 days.

5. Working as an LPN

When the candidate starts working as an LPN, s/he needs to maintain a certain number of continuing education units as specified by the state. It is essential to keep the license active.

Admission Requirements

Although the admission requirements may differ from school to school, there are some basic criteria that need to be fulfilled.

  1. A proof of CNA program completion
  2. Submission of college transcripts
  3. The candidate should be at least 18 years of age.
  4. Documents showing good work history as a CNA
  5. The overall GPA should not be less than 2.0.
  6. Admission application and application fees

How Much Does It Cost?

The cost for the CNA to LPN program varies in different colleges. The tuition fee can be as low as $750 and can extend up to $2,250. Other costs are also involved like labs, uniforms, books, and supplies.

Duration of the Program

CNA to LPN program can last for nine months to a year. The training is broadly divided into three sections: laboratories, classroom studies, and clinical practice. The clinical experience is gained in medical institutions, clinics, or hospitals.

Online CNA to LPN Programs

An accredited online CNA to LPN program is equivalent to the traditional regular courses in terms of delivering academic studies. The students can communicate with the professors through online chat, forum discussions, collaborative wikis, and real-time video lectures. The online program comes with an advantage of flexibility and convenience. Moreover, the costs of transportation and uniforms are saved, and the student can devote more time to studies rather than worrying about these things.

The majority of the colleges allow the students to complete the assignments at their own pace; however, some professors ask the students to log in at a particular time.

Course Curriculum

The curriculum of an online program is same as its brick and mortar counterpart. The prospective LPNs cover a variety of topics in theory and clinical sessions.

1. Medical Administration

The students are taught about the medicine and drug dosages that should be given to the patients.

2. Communication in Nursing

The LPNs are required to communicate with the patients and their families. Along with this, the practical nurses indulge in professional communication with the senior doctors and health care teams. They learn the medical terminology and how to interact with others.

3. Health Assessment

The students are supposed to perform various detailed assessments of the patients at different stages. The methods of obtaining the health history are also taught to the students.

4. Clinical Skills Lab

The aspirants learn the practical implementation of the knowledge gathered. They learn decision-making as well as the technique of handling the medical equipment.

5. Pathophysiology

This helps the students determine how the body reacts to diseases physiologically. Moreover, they get to know the risk factors involved along with the knowledge of pathophysiological processes.

6. Gerontology

The future LPNs learn how to treat the elderly patients. The emotional and biological factors are considered so that they can be provided with proper care.

Career Scope After Being an LPN

The scope of a nurse broadens after completion of an LPN course. The practical nurses can work in emergency rooms, postpartum care, and other health care departments. However, the candidates can advance in the career by opting for any of the following courses.

  • Clinical Specialist Nurse (CSN)
  • Nursing Practitioner (NP)
  • Advanced Nursing Practice (ANP)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)