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Choosing an LPN Program in Pennsylvania

For some Pennsylvania students, geography may be the primary determining factor when choosing an LPN program. Others may find themselves with a lot of choices. Many programs are located in rural counties, and even some counties that don't technically have a program have one operating a satellite location. The following is a guide for evaluating your options.

Choosing a School

There are a lot of very different institutions running nursing programs! Your experiences may be different based on what type of facility houses the program. According to the 2012 annual report of Pennsylvania nursing education, more than half majority of Pennsylvania's practical nursing programs are housed at vocational/ technical schools. There are also a number of community college and licensed private school options. Only one program is hospital-based.

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Credit Awarded

Be aware that not all LPN programs award academic credit. This will affect your eligibility for some types of financial aid. This will also mean that you have no credits to transfer if you decide to do a degree program later. This is not necessarily a big concern. If you decide to do a registered nursing program later, you may still be granted advanced placement or allowed to skip some nursing coursework. LPNs don't usually have a lot of non-nursing courses that they can transfer.

The Admission Process

Not only do practical nursing programs have lesser admission requirements than RN programs, they are able to admit a larger percentage of qualified applicants. Choice of programs will be a big factor in determining whether you get a seat. According to the most recent annual report, a majority of Pennsylvania practical nursing programs do have open seats, but it's a slight majority. Many programs are turning away qualified applicants. You can expect some selectivity in the admission process.

NCLEX Pass Rates in Pennsylvania

In a sense, the real final exam comes after program completion. In order to become an LPN, you must pass the NCLEX-PN. NCLEX pass rates are considered an important indicator of program quality, though they may also reflect admission policies. The Pennsylvania Board makes pass rates public.

Attrition Rates

You may also want to consider what percentage of students who begin a program actually finish it. The 2012 annual report reveals that Pennsylvania's LPN programs had a 34% attrition rate. There were many reasons cited for dropping out of programs, but fully half did so because of academic failures. Attrition rate sometimes gives an indication of what level of support is available.

Paying for Nursing School in Pennsylvania

Students often have multiple financial aid options; these depend on financial need, individual circumstances, and (sometimes) on the school selected. Students at qualifying institutions may submit a FAFSA to determine eligibility for need-based programs like the Pell Grant and Stafford Loan.

Some students may qualify for funding based on military service. Others will qualify for assistance through Vocational Rehabilitation or the Workforce Initiative Act. Schools often have their own scholarships, funded by alumni or families of alumni.

Beyond Nursing School

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pennsylvania LPNs average $42,390 a year; that's $20.38 an hour (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm). This doesn't necessarily mean you can expect to start at this wage. Colleges sometimes have information about starting salaries for graduates in their area.

Often graduates are less concerned with their entry level salary than when they actually get a job and start paying off those loans. You may want to find out what job placement services are available. You may also want to inquire about the job placement rate. Placement rates and average debt are often included as part of a program’s gainful employment report.

Resources

LPN License Requirements in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Board of Nursing

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