Becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse, or LPN, is one of the fastest ways to break into the field of nursing. If you want to kick-start your nursing career by becoming an LPN, you need to complete an accredited and approved LPN program first. Such programs typically have fairly minimal requirements, and chances are that you already meet them. Still, to avoid any unpleasant surprises, familiarize yourself with the most important LPN program requirements below.
Typical Admission Requirements for LPN Programs
LPNs are entry-level professionals. As a result, the barrier for entry into LPN programs tends to be quite low. Requirements vary not only from state to state, but from one program to the next also, so it is crucial to independently investigate each program to learn about its specific requirements for admission. In the meantime, familiarize yourself with the most common LPN program requirements, including:
- Age 18 or Older - Some confusion exists out there about the minimum age that you must be to enroll in an LPN program. Officially, the vast majority of LPN programs only accept students who are aged 18 or older. However, it is not unheard of for high school students to begin their training before graduating. Indeed, some programs allow students who are under 18 under certain circumstances. Also, in some school districts, LPN training is available to high school students through special vocational training programs, and this is well worth looking into if you are still in high school, but are confident that you want to work as an LPN.
- High School Diploma or GED - If you are already done with school, you'll need to provide your high school diploma to be accepted into most training programs. Of course, if you are still attending high school, some programs may accept you even if you don't have your diploma yet. Usually, however, you must demonstrate that you are on track to graduate and that you have a good grade point average. If you're already done with school, but don't have a diploma, you'll need to earn your GED to be accepted into most programs.
- Grade Point Average - Although it is not universally true, most LPN trainees are fairly young, so they finished high school not too long ago. As a result, most LPN programs have minimum requirements where grade point averages, or GPAs, are concerned. Most programs only accept students who graduated from high school with a 2.5 GPA or higher. However, some programs go as low as 2.0, and many will make exceptions depending on the circumstances. If you did poorly in high school, however, don't despair. It may take longer to find a program, but you should still be able to find one.
- Tuition - To enroll in any LPN program, you have to be able to pay the required tuition. Training programs are usually offered by vocational schools and community colleges. Since these programs can usually be completed in a year, you don't usually need too many credit hours. A program like this costs anywhere from around $2,000 to up to around $18,000 for tuition alone, so the total costs vary wildly. Make certain that you can afford to pay the tuition or that you have the financial aid that you need to do so prior to enrolling.
- Prerequisites - Since LPN training is often the very first step that aspiring nurses take in their lives, such programs don't usually have very extensive prerequisites. Prerequisites are classes that you are expected to already have completed prior to starting your training. Most programs have minimal general education requirements that are usually fulfilled during high school. If it has been many years since you graduated from high school, you might have to take extra entrance exams to test out of some of the prerequisites, if possible.
- Tests - Unlike many nurse training programs, LPN programs don't tend to be very competitive. Therefore, you shouldn't have to worry about taking a difficult entrance exam. However, you may have to take certain tests to demonstrate proficiency with general education requirements. Most commonly, this means sitting for the Test of Essential Academic Skills, or TEAS. Fortunately, this test is simple enough for anyone who has some degree of general education. Although it's less common, some LPN programs have proprietary exams that must be taken and passed before students can enroll.
- Criminal Background Check – Aspiring LPNs are often surprised to learn that they must undergo criminal background checks before being admitted into LPN programs. However, on-site clinical experiences are a major part of this training, and these usually take place at local healthcare facilities with real patients. As a result, these programs have to make sure that all students have clean records, as they will be in direct contact with patients while completing their training.
- Drug Screening and Physical - For the same reasons that criminal background checks are required, drug screening and health physicals are usually mandatory for LPN programs too. You will probably be asked to provide a completed physical assessment form from a physician. Many programs also require prospective students to undergo drug screening tests, so don't be surprised if this is asked of you as well. Once the training program receives confirmation that you have met this requirement, your application will be processed and you should be enrolled in short order.
Requirements for LPN programs tend to be fairly minimal. Most students are easily accepted into such programs. Still, requirements vary from one LPN program to the next, so it is in your best interest to contact any program that you are considering for more specific information.