LPN vs NA: Key Differences in Roles, Education, Pay

When considering a career in nursing, two options you may come across are Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and Nursing Assistant (NA). While both roles provide important patient care, there are some key differences between the two when it comes to duties, education requirements, salary, and career advancement opportunities. This article will break down the core distinctions.


Both LPNs and NAs play critical roles in healthcare. However, their responsibilities, education, pay grade and career mobility can differ quite a bit. Understanding these key variances is important when deciding which career trajectory is the best fit for your interests and aspirations. We will explore all of these factors in detail below.

Job Duties and Work

Environments LPNs tend to have a wider scope of practice than NAs. They can provide basic nursing care under the direction of an RN or physician. Typical LPN duties include:

  • Monitoring and recording vital signs
  • Administering medications and treatments
  • Changing wound dressings
  • Inserting catheters
  • Reporting the patient’s status to RNs and doctors

LPNs primarily work in nursing care facilities, physician offices, and hospitals. Some environments for LPNs include medical surgical hospital units, clinics, assisted living facilities, and private residences.

In contrast, NAs generally assist patients with activities of daily living (ADLs). These routine duties include:

  • Helping patients bathe, dress and groom
  • Turning or repositioning patients
  • Helping patients use bedpans
  • Transferring patients between beds and wheelchairs
  • Taking basic vital signs like temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiration

NAs mainly work in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and home health. They directly attend to resident needs on a daily basis.

Education Requirements

LPNs must complete an accredited LPN program. This usually takes about one year to complete. Coursework includes subjects like anatomy, nursing skills and pharmacology. Clinical rotations are also required to gain hands-on experience. After graduating, LPNs must pass the NCLEX-PN exam to become licensed.

NA positions typically only require a high school diploma or equivalent. While no formal education is mandatory, many complete a 4-12 week NA training program. Coursework is focused on daily tasks like feeding, bathing and transferring patients. Some states do require NAs to pass a competency exam after a training course.

In summary, LPNs must complete approximately one year of training while NAs may only receive a few weeks. An LPN license requires passing an exam while an NA credential may not.

Salary Differences and Job

Outlook Given the variance in duties, LPNs naturally have higher earning potential than NAs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual LPN salary is $48,820. Average NA salary is $30,590. Geographic region also impacts wages. The top paying state for LPNs is Connecticut at $63,510. For NAs, the highest salaries are in Nevada at $35,950.

In addition to better compensation, LPN job growth is projected to be 9% from 2020-2030. This is much faster than average across all occupations. As our population ages and more long-term care is required, LPN staffing needs are increasing. NA job growth is projected at 11% over the next decade. While on par with the average occupation, the aging demographic will sustain strong demand.

Career Advancement Opportunities

For those looking for more job mobility, LPN positions offer better long-term prospects. Ambitious LPNs can advance to registered nurse roles with further schooling. Opening even more advancement potential down the line. On the contrary, experienced NAs have limited career development options aside from supervisory roles in some larger facilities.

LPNs can also specialize in fields like pediatrics, oncology and cardiology with specialized training. Allowing them to earn higher compensation. NA skills are not always transferable should one wish to transition into another healthcare occupation.


While LPN and NA duties may appear similar at first glance, key differences become apparent when looking closer. LPNs have a wider scope of practice, higher pay and increased career mobility. NAs focus more on direct patient care activities of daily living.

When weighing options, interests in ongoing learning, treatment administration, career advancement and compensation may steer you toward an LPN role. If you wish to secure a credential quickly, help people hands-on with everyday needs and enter the medical field fast, NA may be a good fit. Evaluating duties, education, pay and growth for each position will ensure you choose the most fulfilling career path in healthcare

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