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Choosing an LPN Program in Alabama

In order to become a Licensed Practical Nurse in Alabama, one needs to complete an approved program. Alabama has 23 approved practical nursing programs! While there is more similarity between LPN programs than RN programs, they are not all the same. What, besides location, should you consider when choosing a program?

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Cost Considerations

An LPN should be prepared to pay at least $8,000 for tuition and other associated costs. The actual cost varies by several thousand from school to school.

However, a prospective LPN will not necessarily be paying the full cost. There are several potential sources of funding for needy students.

The Workforce Initiative ACT (WIA) is a program for those who need help re-entering the workforce and who don't have the skills or work history to make it without training. Meeting WIA eligibility criteria does not guarantee an award -- merely that consideration will be given. An award, though, could pay a substantial chunk of the $8,000 to $12,000 that Alabama's WIA-eligible programs ask. There is no need to make a commitment until financial support has been granted. Students who are approved won't necessarily be shopping for a program -- they will be placed where there is a spot for them.

LPNs are also eligible for other national and state financial aid. The Alabama Commission on Higher Education (http://www.ache.alabama.gov/StudentAsst/Programs.htm) can be a good starting place. Individual schools are also good sources of information.

Quality Indicators

There are a number of statistics that differentiate programs: completion rate, training placement rate, and employment placement rate. Detailed information for some schools is available on the Alabama Workforce Investment Board site; you can learn about everything from the maximum class size to the equipment used for training (https://www.etpl.alabama.gov/vosnet/MenuLandingPage.aspx?enc=Kt8ubp6xpBXFjGGwpUEHTJrEFXsfohStfgt3JXg+sRo=).

Another consideration is NCLEX pass rate. LPN candidates across the nation are required to take the NCLEX-PN; a program’s pass rate is one indicator of quality. The Alabama Board of Nursing posts NCLEX pass rates by program (http://www.abn.alabama.gov/Content.aspx?id=195).

Alabama's NCLEX scores for the 2010-2011 through 2012-2013 years have been well above the national average. Programs that repeatedly fall below Alabama standards will lose their approval.

A nursing student may want to consider whether the program has been accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or ACEN (formerly the NLNAC). The good news? Most Alabama programs have this accreditation.

The Application Process: Requirements and Timelines

One thing to take into account is the time it will take to earn the certificate. It’s not just the number of semesters that matters, but the amount of time that elapses before you can enroll. Despite job growth projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing schools are limited in the number of students they can accept. Programs handle this by becoming more selective in their admission process and/ or instituting a wait list. While LPN nursing programs set academic requirements lower than associate level programs, meeting minimum standards will not necessarily guarantee a spot.

There is some parity in expectations among Alabama practical nursing schools. They typically expect a 2.5 GPA in high school coursework or a 2.0 or 2.5 in college coursework (depending on when/ where the coursework was completed). They take into account TEAS, COMPASS, or (in some cases) ACT scores. However, the requirements are not identical.

Beyond the Certificate

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Alabama's LPNs earn, on average, $16.50 an hour or $34,520 a year (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm). This doesn't mean that a new graduate can expect to make this straight out of schools. An important factor is years spent on the job. However, even Alabama LPNs at the 10th percentile are making $12.10an hour (http://www.careerinfonet.org/occ_rep.asp). Some Alabama schools report starting wages around $14 or $15 an hour.

Additional Alabama LPN Program Resources

Nursing Licensure Requirements: LPN Requirements in Alabama

Alabama Board of Nursing: http://www.abn.alabama.gov/Default.aspx

Alabama Association of LPNs: http://www.nflpn.org/stateEvent.php

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