CNA vs. LPN: Everything You Need to Know

CNA vs. LPN: Everything You Need to Know

According to the American Nurses Association, 1.1 million nurses are needed to address the current nursing shortage. If you’re considering a career in nursing, you may be wondering if you should become a CNA or LPN.

You’re not alone! Many people are unsure what these acronyms stand for or what their job duties entail. We’ve created this comprehensive guide on the differences between a CNA and LPN.

By the end of this article, you will better understand the benefits and drawbacks of both careers. Once you know the facts, you can decide which route is best for you.

Let’s look at each career type to determine which one suits you. Keep reading to learn about the differences and benefits of choosing either path.

What Are the Main Differences Between a CNA and an LPN?

So, which is better - CNA or LPN? Which one appeals to you more? Which of these vocations best represents your interests and goals?

The main difference between the two choices is the amount of responsibility and the level of training required. LPNs have more obligations and must complete an accredited LPN program. LPNs have more opportunities for advancement and earn a higher salary. If you are willing to commit to the extra education required, becoming an LPN may be the right choice.

Are you interested in becoming a nurse but don’t want to commit to the education requirements to become an LPN or RN? Becoming a CNA may be the right choice for you. CNAs can find employment in most communities and begin earning money faster with less formal education.

Both LPNs and CNAs are in high demand. They play vital roles in the healthcare industry and provide essential care to patients. No matter which route you choose, you will be entering a challenging and rewarding career!

What Is a CNA and What Does a CNA Do?

A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is a trained individual who provides basic nursing care to patients. They work under the direction of an RN or an LPN and may also be called a patient care assistant or health care aide.

A CNA provides primary bedside care to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities. They help patients with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, feeding, and grooming.

CNAs are responsible for serving and feeding patients meals. They make up beds and clean the patients’ rooms. CNAs may also help with more personal tasks such as providing emotional support and companionship.

CNAs measure vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure and report changes to the nursing staff. CNAs may also be responsible for providing CPR or simple wound care in some facilities.


Many people enjoy being in a caretaker role. They report feeling a sense of accomplishment when they help patients with their daily activities and see them improve over time. Becoming a CNA allows you to give back to your community by helping those in need.

CNAs have flexible job options. CNAs can find work in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and home health agencies.

There are many jobs available, and CNAs can find a job in nearly any city or town. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that CNA jobs will grow 11% from 2019 to 2029.


Because they have less responsibility, CNAs almost always make less money than LPNs. Make sure you understand the average salary of a CNA and an LPN in your state. The median annual salary for CNAs in many states is often quite a bit lower lower than that of an LPN.

You’ll have limited advancement opportunities. Once you become a CNA, there aren’t many ways to advance your career without furthering your education.

Burnout is real. It can be emotionally and physically draining to care for others full time. And the hours can be long and unpredictable. There is always the risk that a CNA may develop compassion fatigue or become overwhelmed by the job demands.

No one specific type of person should become a CNA, as they come from different backgrounds. A CNA is a compassionate, patient person who is good at following instructions.

CNAs must be able to work independently and have a strong sense of compassion for their patients. They must also be detail-oriented to complete their assigned tasks. If you have these qualities and are interested in working in the healthcare field, becoming a CNA could be a great option!

What Is an LPN and What Does an LPN Do?

While CNAs assist patients with everyday tasks, LPNs focus more on daily medical care. An LPN is a licensed practical nurse who provides primary nursing care. They work under the supervision of registered nurses and doctors.

These nurses take patients’ vital signs, administer medication, and assist with medical procedures. Typical LPN duties include administering medicine, vaccinations, and insulin, as well as updating patients’ charts. They can take blood or urine samples as needed and execute a nursing care plan under the direction of an RN.

Some patients come in with severe conditions. In such cases, an LPN cares for patients who require advanced medical interventions, such as ventilators and tracheostomy tubes.

LPNs enjoy stable career opportunities, reasonable working hours, and competitive pay. In general, LPNs report high job satisfaction rates. Many enjoy providing direct patient care and building strong relationships with their patients.


There are several benefits to choosing to be an LPN! Some of the most notable reasons to be an LPN are higher wages and more opportunities.

You will have increased job security and opportunities for advancement. Licensed Practical Nurses are in high demand, and the field is growing. With experience, LPNs can move into supervisory or managerial positions. And they can go on to complete their education as an RN if they wish.

As an LPN your pay and benefits will be competitive. The job typically has perks including health insurance, paid vacation time, sick days, and retirement savings plans. Some employers may even offer to pay for a portion or all of your college if you decide to further your education and become a registered nurse.

Because healthcare is a twenty-four hours a day industry, LPNs can have flexible working hours. Many LPNs work part-time if they choose to.


There are a few drawbacks to becoming an LPN. You’ll receive more perks, but there will always be some negatives.

While they may have more opportunities than CNAs, LPNs don’t always have the same job options or responsibilities as Registered Nurses (RNs). LPNs can only work in specific settings and cannot provide the same level of care as an RN.

LPN nurses have a narrower scope of practice and specialization than registered nurses. You may find that you work with an elderly patient population more often than not. As such, many of them work in a nursing home or hospice care.

There is also a limit to your career growth potential. Because of the narrow scope of their responsibilities, LPNs can only advance so far in their careers. Many LPNs choose to return to school and receive their RN degree.

You might work long or less-than-ideal hours. LPNs often work nights, weekends, and holidays. Additionally, while the pay is better for LPNs than CNAs, it is not always as high as other healthcare positions.

LPNs may be at risk for compassion fatigue or burnout due to the job demands. It is vital to have a support system to avoid these risks.

LPNs should have good communication skills, be detail-oriented, organized, and handle stress well. LPNs need to communicate with patients, families, and other healthcare team members. If you are thinking about becoming an LPN, consider if you have qualities that would make you successful in this role. You can also speak with several current and former nurses to get a well-rounded perspective.

How Hard Is the NCLEX-PN Test to Become an LPN?

LPNs must pass the NCLEX-PN exam. It is a computerized test that measures your understanding of key nursing concepts. It is well-respected because it applies your knowledge to real-world scenarios. It covers topics from primary nursing to pharmacology and patient assessment.

The test is challenging, but you can feel confident to pass it with enough practice. Study the content outline and take plenty of practice tests to become comfortable with the question style.

You should also get as much hands-on experience as possible in a clinical setting to become familiar with the day-to-day tasks of the job. You will receive some of this in the clinical portion of your LPN training, but securing employment in a healthcare setting while you’re still in school can also be beneficial. Many aspiring nurses first work as aids, in food service, or as unit secretaries to become more familiar with the medical environment before they begin their new careers.

LPN vs CNA: Which Is the Better Choice for You?

We’ve looked at some pros and cons of becoming a CNA vs an LPN, but it’s up to you to decide which one best suits you. If you’re looking to begin your career sooner, you might decide becoming a CNA is the best choice. If you’re looking for more money and opportunities for advancement, becoming an LPN might be a better fit.

No matter which career you choose, our test prep can help you achieve the score you need on your LPN or CNA certification exam. Our free practice tests, lessons, study guides, and flashcards will help you learn at your own pace, in your way. We’re excited to help you on your path to a fulfilling career. Get started for free today with Union Test Prep.

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