There are two types of nursing that do not require a degree: Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN/LVN). You don’t need to be in college to become a CNA or LPN, but both roles can be a starting point to long-term nursing career goals. Learn more about entry-level nursing jobs that don’t need a degree and how you can eventually go from LPN to RN to level up your nursing career.
Healthcare jobs that do not require a degree
Within the healthcare industry, there are several jobs that don’t require a degree. Many of these roles focus on distinct, targeted tasks that play a specific function in patient care.
Medical assistants, paramedics, and phlebotomists are examples of healthcare jobs that perform a specialized range of medical procedures such as taking blood, performing CPR, or working with technology such as sonography. A degree is not necessary because these healthcare roles get trained on specific tasks that are not dependent on additional education.
There are also types of nursing that do not require a degree. These entry-level positions play crucial roles in facilitating patient care.
Nursing jobs that don’t require a degree:
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): A CNA provides hands-on patient care. Daily tasks may include patient grooming, bathing, and dressing, as well as aiding in mobility, eating, and exercise.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): An LPN works under doctors and RNs to perform basic patient care. Daily tasks may include taking vitals, blood, and other fluid samples, as well as changing bandages, inserting catheters, monitoring health stats, and more.
Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN): LVN and LPN are the same role with slightly different titles, depending on the state. California and Texas use the “LVN” title while the remaining states use “LPN.”
CNAs, LPNs, and LVNs all work under doctors and registered nurses (RNs). Because doctors and RNs receive more education through their degree programs, they have more authority to make major patient-care decisions. CNAs and LPNs follow the care plans and recommendations made by healthcare professionals with higher education. All of these roles work together as a unit to ensure patients have all the care they need.
Do you need college to be an LPN or CNA?
No, you don’t need college to become an LPN or CNA. Registered nurses must complete either a 2-year associate’s degree or a 4-year bachelor’s degree through an accredited college, whereas LPNs and CNAs have to complete certification programs, often from a vocational school, community college, or online program.
Prerequisites for CNA and LPN certification may include:
High school diploma or GED
Physical health assessment
There are big differences in tuition costs and time spent when comparing CNA vs. LPN certification. While CNA hopefuls can get certified in a matter of weeks, LPN certification can take up to a year and a half. But, the more time you commit to your education, the more money you'll earn.
LPNs can pursue additional certifications in specialized care areas such as patient counseling, hospice care, and more. The more education you have, the more earning potential available.
Starting your career as a CNA or LPN is a great way to quickly gain experience before deciding whether to pursue an RN degree. Having a certification under your belt opens the door to RN bridge programs that fast track healthcare professionals towards their next career step.
What do you learn as an LPN or CNA?
CNAs and LPNs provide different levels of patient care. CNAs are responsible for much of the hands-on tasks that keep patients clean, fed, and comfortable, whereas LPNs are responsible for more administrative tasks such as updating records, handling medication, and more.
During the certification process, future LPNs and CNAs will learn:
Communication skills: LPNs and CNAs are part of a larger care team, and must share patient information quickly and accurately so important details don’t slip through the cracks.
Empathy: Nurses at all levels need compassion and understanding to relate to their patients’ needs.
Basic nursing skills: A major component of LPN or CNA certification will cover how to perform all the daily tasks of the role at hand.
Attention to detail: Updating patient charts and delivering medication requires accuracy every time, making precision crucial.
Medical terminology: Learning the language of healthcare enables LPNs and CNAs to effectively write and discuss patient status.
Flexibility: While healthcare is a science, things can change in an instant, so nurses must learn how to quickly change gears and adapt as necessary.
What can an LPN do vs. an RN?
Having a degree makes a significant difference between what an LPN can do vs. what an RN can do. The biggest difference in responsibilities is that LPNs handle practical, straightforward tasks whereas RNs handle bigger picture holistic tasks.
Typically, LPNs will carry out healthcare plans as set by RNs and doctors. They monitor overall health by checking vitals and reporting back to managing RNs. RNs can then perform diagnostic tests and advise on possible treatments.
Having a degree gives RNs more authority over patient care and other nursing team members. RNs often supervise LPNs and delegate work appropriately. While LPNs play a crucial role in patient comfort and care, RNs are ultimately responsible for calling the shots.
If you’re looking for more autonomy in your nursing career, pursuing an RN degree over an LPN certification may be worth it. While you’ll spend more time in school, you’ll also gain more education needed to make decisions and influence patient health.
RNs enjoy several benefits over LPNs, including higher pay and increased job opportunities. A degree in nursing sets you apart as a leader, and your career trajectory will reflect that.
Take the first step towards a nursing degree with Achieve Test Prep
You can go from CNA or LPN to RN with Achieve Test Prep! Our RN Bridge Program meets you where you are in your education and experience to help you move forward with confidence. While we are not a school and do not offer nursing degrees directly, we offer support and guidance to help make your education more manageable, especially when you’re balancing school, work, and family responsibilities. If you’re ready to take the next step in your nursing career, we can support your journey. Connect with our Advisor team to learn more!