What Is The Difference Between An LPN And CNA Program?

There are a number of different nursing careers that you can choose to become involved in when entering the nursing field. There are several LPN vs CNA differences that can be looked at. Although LPNs earn more, there are advantages to getting your CNA qualification first, as it will allow you to start working in the health care field with minimal delay. You could always use it as one of the many stepping stones that you will encounter in your nursing career.

LPN vs CNA – License vs Certification

There are a number of differences in terms of the educational requirements that you will have to undergo to become either a CNA or an LPN. These are one of the main topics under discussion when it comes to the concept of LPN vs CNA.

Training Requirements Of An LPN

An LPN needs to graduate from an accredited LPN training program. If the program is not accredited they will not be able to begin working as an LPN. In order to get into an LPN program in the first place the student has to be older than 18, have a high school certificate or GED and be able to pass the necessary background and health checks with flying colors. Once they have graduated from the program they will need to write the NCLEX-PN examination. This will give them a license to practice in nursing.

A CNA cannot be licensed, only certified. In order to become a CNA you will also have to go through training, but the training that you undergo can be completed in a matter of weeks or days while LPN training takes about a year. Many people choose to become a CNA because it means that they will be able to get into the nursing field and start working and earning money a lot quicker It is also important that the CNA looks into the accreditation of the program they attend as this can also be an important factor in their success.

Of course the differences in education are one of the main LPN vs CNA issues, but there are also a number of other differences to consider. Some people actually prefer being CNAs over LPNs based on some of the following factors:

Their Duties

As CNAs and LPNs have different levels of education they will of course be required to engage in highly different responsibilities, although there can be some overlaps. LPNs, with their higher educational level, generally have more responsibility and are more skilled than CNA. Below is an account of the various different duties that each type of nurse may perform. This comparison is very useful in an analysis of CNA vs LPN.

CNA Duties

We will first begin with an account of the duties that a CNA has to perform. These duties are very basic and are done by CNAs in order to give the LPNs, RNs and doctors more freedom to get on with doing the important tasks that they need to perform. A lot of people find that the job of a CNA is a little lacking in glamor. However if that is what you are looking for in a job, then you need to reconsider your choice of becoming a nurse in the first place. CNAs perform the more basic, but the ever necessary ad essential tasks involved in keeping a hospital or other health care facility going and they are vital members of the health care teams in which they work. The following list shows the basic duties of a CNA:

  • Are responsible for helping with a variety of different everyday tasks when working in a patient’s home.
  • Use medical terminology on a daily basis so a knowledge of this is important.
  • Will be required to give CPR if the need arises.
  • Are involved closely in infection control.
  • Must record vital signs including, but not limited to, blood pressure and temperatures.
  • Must keep a clean environment for patients.
  • Must help patients maintain proper hygiene.
  • Need to be able to follow directions that have been given by nurses or doctors.
  • Need to be able to rate a patients level of pain, as well as take their weight.
  • Often have to clean and sterilize equipment.

LPN Duties

These nurses have a lot more responsibility, however, they do not have the complete freedom to make decisions that we see in RNs. LPNs need to be guided at all times and their work must be monitored. LPNs can give directions to CNAs and delegate tasks to them that are within their scope of practice, but they in turn need to be able to take directions from doctors and senior nurses. The following list shows the basic duties of an LPN:

  • They have to take the vital signs of the patients.
  • They have to perform the first aid tasks.
  • Administer injections to patients in most cases.
  • Have to keep a watchful eye on patients who are in serious conditions.
  • Are responsible for the basic needs of the patent such as hygiene and food.
  • Are qualified to provide therapeutic massages to patients.
  • Have to prepare patients who are to undergo surgeries.

Contact With Patients

LPNs are the more skilled of the two types of nurses and as a result they tend to have a lot more contact with the actual patients than either CNAs or RNs. This is an interesting consideration to keep in mind when considering LPN vs CNA issues. This is because a lot of people choose to enter the field of nursing specifically to work with people and to have interpersonal contact with patients. If this is the hope that you hold for your career as a nurse, then you may want to try to skip the CNA stage and go straight to learning to become an LPN.

The Salary

First we will take a quick look at the overall figures that LPNs and CNAs can earn. A CNA can earn an hourly rate of about $8.37 – $14.34 with overtime of about $7.93 – $21.54. They are also eligible for a bonus of up to $810. Their total pay is in the region of $17,555 – $31,988. Let us compare LPN and CNA salary. An LPN can earn an hourly rate of about $13.17 – $23.47 with overtime of about $15.52 – $35.28. They are also eligible for a bonus of up to $1,521. Their total pay is in the region of $27,364 – $51,834. So, as you can see at this basic surface level LPNs do earn more than CNAs. But because there are so many different factors affecting the salary that you actually come home with at the end of the day it is worth looking at some other salary statistics.


Popular employers for CNAs include the following. As you can see there are variations in salary depending on where you work.

  • HCR Manor Care Inc: $8.93 – $12.61
  • Kindred Healthcare: $8.79 – $13.66
  • Golden Living Centers: $8.73 – $14.06
  • Life Care Centers of America: $8.63 – $13.38
  • Home Health and Hospice Care: $8.07 – $12.79

Now in keeping with our theme let us look at LPN vs CNA salary in terms of employers:

  • Maxim Healthcare Services Inc.: $15.56 – $22.39
  • DaVita Inc.: $14.12 – $25.29
  • Kindred Healthcare: $15.32 – $25.27
  • HCR Manor Care Inc: $17.18 – $25.15
  • Life Care Centers of America: $13.97 – $26.73

It would seem that when it comes to a question of LPN vs CNA in terms of salary, LPNs earn more regardless of which employers they choose to work for.


When we consider the statistics in terms of the various industries that nurses can work in, we see that there is not only a difference in terms of which industries are popular but also in terms of how much each type of nurse can earn at each industry.

CNAs who choose to work in a nursing home earn about $8.52 – $13.81 an hour, while those employed on healthcare earn around $8.58 – $14.47 an hour. Those CNAs working in long-term care and rehabilitation can earn in the region of $8.51 – $13.83, and CNAs that choose to work in a hospital earn about $8.87 – $14.99 an hour. Lats but not least, we see that CNAs in home health care can earn $8.18 – $14.46 an hour. Let us see how things compare in terms of CNA vs LPN in this regard. An LPN nurse working in healthcare gets $13.23 – $24.07 an hour, and LPN working in a nursing home gets $13.35 – $23.93 an hour, and LPN working in long-term care or rehabilitation gets $13.66 – $24.10 an hour, an LPN working in family medicine gets $12.96 – $23.35 an hour, and an LPN working in a hospital gets $13.52 – $24.58 an hour.


There are differences in terms of LPN and CNA statistics when we look at gender, but these differences are slight. 90% of CNAs are women, while 92% of LPNs are women. In both cases there is a higher percentage of women than men. The average hourly rate for female CNAs is $9.32 – $12.23 and the average hourly rate for male CNAs is $9.51 – $12.46. The average hourly rate for female LPNs is $15.24 – $20.32 and the average hourly rate for male CNAs is $15.30 – $20.43. Men do, as we can see, earn slightly more than women in both professions.


When it comes to being a CNA, the following education options will earn you the following salaries:

  • Associate’s Degree: $8.70 – $14.79
  • Bachelor’s Degree: $8.41 – $14.45
  • GED or High School Diploma: $8.23 – $14.74
  • High School Diploma: $8.18 – $14.96
  • Certificate (Cert), Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): $8.65 – $14.42

Let’s see how this compares in terms of our LPN vs CNA theme:

LPNs with the following qualifications can earn the following amounts of money:

  • Associate’s Degree: $13.20 – $22.93
  • Bachelor’s Degree: $13.13 – $23.31
  • Diploma of Nursing (DN): $13.78 – $23.31
  • Certificate (Cert), Nursing: $13.14 – $24.07
  • Diploma (Dipl), Nursing: $13.18 – $22.76

Top Paying Cities

We can also see the differences in terms of which states pay the highest. The highest paying states for CNAs are St. Paul, Minnesota; San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Boston, Massachusetts; Washington, District of Columbia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Phoenix, Arizona; San Jose, California; Fort Myers, Florida; Allentown, Pennsylvania; Sacramento, California; Denver, Colorado; Baltimore, Maryland; Portland, Oregon; Las Vegas, Nevada; Madison, Wisconsin; Portland, Maine; Mesa, Arizona; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Providence, Rhode Island. The highest paying states for LPN nurse practitioners are Boston, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Mesa, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Baltimore, Maryland; New York, New York; Phoenix, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Charleston, South Carolina; Houston, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Tucson, Arizona; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Raleigh, North Carolina; Sarasota, Florida; and Naples, Florida.

Now that you have all of the facts you should be in a good position to make your decision about which type of nursing career is better for you. Generally speaking it is a safe bet to start out as a CNA as you will be able to see whether or not you like nursing with only a small amount of time given to studying. However if you are sure about where your interests lie and that becoming a nurse is definitely the path for you to take then you should go for it and study to be an LPN, and perhaps even an RN, right from the beginning to save time later.

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