Becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) is one of the fastest ways to enter the nursing profession. However, LPNs don’t have the same level of patient responsibility as registered nurses (RNs). If you’re an LPN and want to take the next step in your nursing career by becoming an RN, you’ll need to go back to school.
Fortunately, you may not need as much additional education as you might think. Because you’ve already taken several nursing courses and have real-world nursing experience, you won’t have to start from scratch. Multiple LPN to RN programs in North Carolina provide the education necessary to become an RN by earning an associate degree—a fast path to make more money, qualify for more nursing roles, and provide higher-level patient care. In this guide, we’ll help you learn what to expect from these programs and begin your search for the one that’s right for you.
The Best LPN to RN Programs in NC for 2023
North Carolina is home to many traditional and online LPN to RN programs. This variety provides ample opportunity to find the perfect program to meet your academic and professional needs. To help you sort through the options, we selected three notable LPN to RN bridge programs in NC. These schools stand out in terms of academic quality, learning flexibility, affordability, and student support services.
These three programs are also approved by the North Carolina Board of Nursing and have programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), or the NLN Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLN CNEA).
Stanly Community College
Stanly Community College offers students a convenient way to use their prior LPN training and education to quickly earn an associate degree in nursing. Graduates from this NLN CNEA–accredited program will be ready to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and become registered nurses. The school has an impressive three-year NCLEX-RN average passage rate of 98%.
In this hybrid program much of the coursework can be completed online, with students expected to attend on-campus classes or an in-person clinical at least one day a week. This is a competitive program; interested students must take the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) exam. But unlike some schools, there’s no minimum TEAS score for admission. Instead, the exam is used to identify the top 16 student scores to facilitate the admission process. Once admitted, students complete the 41-credit, two-year LPN to RN curriculum and then sit for the NCLEX-RN.
Catawba Valley Community College
The LPN to RN Bridge program at Catawba Valley Community College has several features that make it an attractive option for current LPNs who wish to become registered nurses.
In this hybrid program, students complete curriculum requirements online and on campus, and they complete clinicals on site. For added convenience, the online classes are usually offered in an asynchronous format. This allows students to complete their online coursework at a time that’s most convenient for them. The in-person requirements are scheduled so students can typically continue working while in school. For example, most classes held on campus take place in the early evenings and clinicals normally occur during weekends.
Graduates of the LPN to RN online program at Catawba Valley Community College receive excellent preparation for the NCLEX-RN exam, with a three-year pass rate average of 95%. In addition to having approval by the North Carolina Board of Nursing, the LPN to RN program is also accredited by the ACEN.
Cape Fear Community College
The LPN to RN program from Cape Fear Community College is one of the best when it comes to preparing students to become registered nurses. In fact, the school’s NCLEX-RN pass rate three-year average is 99%.
One way Cape Fear Community College’s ACEN-accredited LPN to RN program achieves such impressive results is by providing flexible learning options. Coursework can be completed both online and on campus, making it easier to continue working as an LPN while in school. In fact, this is one of the requirements for admission into the program; applicants must be currently working as LPNs while also having graduated from an LPN program within the last year. Alternatively, applicants must have at least one year of experience working as an LPN and this experience must have been earned within the last two years.
Another notable aspect of the online LPN to RN program is that it takes just two semesters. Students complete this condensed curriculum with the help of at least 144 hours of clinical practice tied to each LPN to RN nursing course.
Curriculum for North Carolina LPN to RN Bridge Programs
LPN to RN bridge programs in North Carolina are very similar to the traditional associate nursing degree in terms of course requirements. However, because an LPN has already taken many nursing courses, they can bypass several of the RN nursing curriculum requirements.
For example, at Guilford Technical Community College LPN to RN students receive advanced standing credit for three 100-level nursing courses and one 200-level nursing course. LPN to RN program students take a combination of classroom and experiential courses. The latter are usually in-person clinicals at a real-world healthcare facility under the supervision of a nursing instructor.
LPN to RN students will need to take some general education courses to round out their college degree. Below is a sampling of the typical nursing-related courses LPN to RN students can expect to take. Note that some of these courses could be prerequisites for LPN to RN programs and most of these requirements include an in-person clinical component completed under the supervision of a registered nurse.
Students review the therapeutic benefits, side effects, and legal issues relating to various medications and receive training on how to safely calculate dosages and properly administer medications.
Family Health Concepts
This class examines the various health challenges and personal issues that typically arise in the family health context. Concepts reviewed include reproduction, grief, personal behaviors, family communication, and individual development and maturity.
Holistic Health Concepts
This is an examination of how various aspects of a person’s life can influence their health outcomes, including how emotional state, physical conditions, psychological identity, and spirituality interact to produce particular medical results.
LPN to RN Concepts I
Usually the first of a two-part curriculum requirement, this class builds on an LPN’s prior training and experience to teach more advanced nursing skills in various medical areas across the individual, nursing, and healthcare domains. The course addresses professional nursing standards, patient safety, and patient coping mechanisms.
This is an overview of how a patient’s diet affects their health and medical treatments. Students learn about dietary and nutritional recommendations as established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and how these can be adjusted based on the patient’s unique health considerations.
Online LPN to RN Programs in North Carolina: What to Know
Colleges in NC offer many online LPN to RN programs, although they differ in how much coursework can be completed online. At some schools, such as Sampson Community College, most of the classroom instruction is available online, but students must go to the campus to take tests and complete certain course activities. At other schools, classroom instruction is delivered both online and on campus, as is the case at Catawba Valley Community College. Other online LPN to RN programs offer only general education or prerequisite courses online. Rockingham Community College is one such school.
Regardless of which blended or hybrid online learning format a school uses, all LPN to RN programs in NC require students to complete in-person clinicals. These are typically held at healthcare facilities near the main campus. To learn more about what to expect once enrolled, please check out our online LPN to RN programs guide.
Examples of Quality Online LPN to RN Programs in NC
- Cape Fear Community College
- Catawba Valley Community College
- Durham Tech
- Rockingham Community College
- Sampson Community College
Frequently Asked Questions About LPN to RN Programs in North Carolina
How much time does it take to finish an LPN to RN bridge program?
Most LPN to RN programs in NC can be completed in two or three semesters. Even when a program requires three semesters, many students can fit that into just one year. For instance, at Wake Tech, students take classes during the fall, spring, and summer semesters. If an LPN to RN program takes longer, such as four semesters at Coastal Carolina Community College, it’s usually because the program includes courses that other LPN to RN programs in NC count as general education classes or prerequisites.
LPN to RN students can speed up the time it takes to earn their nursing associate degree if they have already completed college courses at another school. These transfer credits typically apply to general education and prerequisite courses, as the LPN to RN program already takes into account the nursing courses LPN students automatically get credit for.
What are the admissions requirements for LPN to RN bridge programs in NC?
The admissions process for LPN to RN programs in NC usually begins with applying for general admission into the school. This typically requires students to:
- Complete an application.
- Provide official copies of high school and any post-secondary coursework.
During this general admissions process, students indicate their intent to apply for the nursing program. Applicants must attend a nursing program information session.
After admittance, students take prerequisite courses covering subjects such as mathematics, writing, and science. They must maintain a minimum GPA.
The next step requires students to file an “Intent to Apply” with the nursing department at their school and show they’ve met the requirements for admission into the LPN to RN program.
In addition to showing they’ve completed the required courses with the required GPA, applicants must also provide evidence of an unrestricted LPN license from North Carolina or a compact state. LPN to RN programs also have special conditions concerning an applicant’s prior LPN training and real-world experience. For example, at Sampson Community College all applicants must have at least two years (and at least 2,000 hours) working as an LPN at a qualified healthcare facility. And at Cape Fear Community College, the applicant must have earned their LPN credentials within the past year and be currently employed as an LPN or have at least one year of experience working as an LPN within the past two years.
Applicants must earn a minimum passing score on a particular test to be eligible for admission. At Forsyth Tech Community College, applicants need at least a 60% total score on the TEAS. Alternatively, some students, such as those at Lenoir Community College, have the option of taking either the TEAS or ACT.
How much do LPN to RN bridge programs typically cost?
After you graduate with your associate degree in nursing and begin working as a registered nurse, you can expect an increase in income to recover your financial investment of your NC LPN to RN program. To get an idea of what your LPN to RN degree will cost, take a look at the following three schools, their credit requirements, and their tuition rates.
Remember that not all LPN to RN bridge programs in NC require the same number of credits to graduate. Additionally, most LPN to RN programs are offered by community colleges, which have tuition rates set by the North Carolina state legislature.
Johnston Community College
Associate Degree Nursing Advancement Placement
Total Credits: 71
$76/credit (in state); $268/credit (out of state)
Craven Community College
Transition Nursing AAS Program
Total Credits: 49
$76/credit (in state); $268/credit (out of state)
Associate Degree Nursing: LPN to RN Option
Total Credits: 80
$76/credit (in state); $268/credit (out of state)
What should I look for in an LPN to RN program in North Carolina?
Going back to school to earn an associate degree in nursing is a major decision. To ensure you get the biggest return on your investment of time and money, you’ll want to select an NC LPN to RN bridge program that has several important features:
- It must be approved by the North Carolina Board of Nursing.
- It should have programmatic accreditation from the NLN CNEA, ACEN, or CCNE. This isn’t required to become a registered nurse in North Carolina, but it serves as additional assurance that you’re receiving a quality nursing education.
- Find a program with historically high NCLEX-RN pass rates. These vary each year, with better programs having higher passing percentages.
- Look at the types of student support services and activities available. Honors societies, networking events, and career mentoring can be useful for finding the perfect job after graduation.
LPN vs. RN in North Carolina: Job and Earnings Outlook
North Carolina needs both LPNs and RNs, but the latter position usually offers greater compensation and room for professional advancement thanks to increased patient responsibility and greater clinical skills. But you might be wondering how much more money you can earn and how easy it will be to find an RN position in a particular part of North Carolina.
How much more money can I earn going from an LPN to RN in North Carolina?
Going from an LPN to RN position will most likely lead to a 25% to 55% increase in annual income. Where you work also plays a major role in how much you can expect to make, with positions in major cities offering higher salaries.
Compared to the national median of $77,600, North Carolina RNs make a bit less. However, there are two caveats. First, according to Bestplaces.net, North Carolina has a cost of living that’s about 9% lower than the rest of the country, which more than offsets this lower median income for RNs. Second, of the five nonmetropolitan areas in the entire country with the highest percentage of employed RNs, two of them are in North Carolina (Piedmont and Southeast Coastal nonmetropolitan areas).
|LPN Median Annual Wage||RN Median Annual Wage||Earnings Increase|
|Durham-Chapel Hill, NC||$49,270||$62,710||27%|
|Greensboro-High Point, NC||$47,000||$75,000||60%|
|New Bern, NC||$45,130||$60,530||34%|
|Rocky Mount, NC||$45,720||$61,990||36%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021
How’s the job market for RNs in North Carolina vs. LPNs?
In addition to greater earning potential, there’s a great need for RNs in the state. From 2000 to 2021, the number of RNs per 100,000 residents increased from 90.0 to 99.3. In contrast, the number of LPNs per 100,000 residents dropped from 21.8 to 15.8. Despite these differences, the projected 10-year growth rate is still healthy for both professions. But as the chart below shows, RNs enjoy a higher projected growth rate and a far higher estimated number of yearly openings.
|Job Growth Rate|
|Average Annual Openings|
|LPNs in North Carolina||1,540||9.2||1,480|
|RNs in North Carolina||11,770||11.5%||6,780|
Source: Projections Central