It is essential to have a clear idea of different nursing programs before you choose to study them. You have to dig deep down to understand what particular nursing field or area offers your interest. There are two main categories of nursing that include practical nurse (PN) and registered nurse (RN). Being an inspiring nurse, you must know which of these nursing fields suits you best. You have to know the differences and similarities to make the right decision for your educational and professional career. 

RN offers direct care to the patients while PN assists registered nurses, doctors, and other medical experts. As an RN, you can seek licensure after a 4-year graduation program. Licensure is mandatory for advanced practice and graduates nursing programs. PNs and RNs must clear the NCLEX licensure exam to get employed. The roles and responsibilities of both these nursing positions depend on the medical facility and the state regulations. You can find RNs and PNs in all healthcare settings, but you must know their differences to choose the right career. Let’s explore the differences between RN and PN in nursing. 

Educational Requirements 

The significant difference between the two nursing types is their educational requirements. It is essential to earn a professional degree if you want to become RN. You can consider different options to pursue education for becoming an RN. From a hospital-based diploma program to a four-year bachelor of science degree, you can go for any opportunity. To strengthen your academic profile, you can also go for a high-level degree. Considering the pandemic threat, you can consider the option of virtual education. 

In that case, accredited online msn programs can be the right fit for you. While if you want to become a PN, a college degree is not required. You need to complete the high school degree and do a practical nursing course afterward. A suitable nursing course usually takes one year to complete. Such type of nursing program is offered at community colleges and technical schools. You will get a certification once you complete the course. According to your residential state, PNs and RNs must complete different courses to keep their licenses active. See guide to nursing certifications.

Job Responsibilities 

It may seem to you that the job duties of RNs and PNs are the same, but in reality, there is a big difference. RNs have to fulfill more responsibilities than PNs. They have to keep an eye on the workers like nursing students, PNS, and aides. Also, RNs have to create care plans, govern the treatments and medications, give patients instructions, examine test results, and do diagnostic tests. 

RNs need to be well-trained to analyze things from a bigger perspective. They have to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills by assessing information and as per medical conditions. They have to create the care plan accordingly to meet the exact needs of patients. RNs also have to deal with complex and high-risk tasks such as inserting a central venous catheter or modifying the patient’s medication. 

On the other hand, PNs are more focused on bedside care. Their duties include dressing wounds, helping patients in performing different activities, and noticing vital signs. Their primary concern is patients’ comfort, so they have to ensure that nothing goes wrong there. PNs work under the command of physicians or RNs. They do not have the authority to examine a patient, make decisions, or interpret data. They only have to provide primary care to the patients. 

Salaries and Growth Outlook

PNs are most likely to earn less than RNs. Due to the massive educational and training difference, RNs can carry out complex duties in different healthcare settings to deal with patient care. Average salaries in both nursing areas depend on qualification and experience. 

According to statistical studies, PNs earn around $47,000 per year while RNs earn $78,000. PNs make $22 per hour, while RNs make $37. As you can see, there is a vast difference between the salaries of both nursing areas. It is evident that with a higher pay scale, you have to fulfill more responsibilities. Being an RN, you may also have to work extra shifts. So, if you want to earn more, RN can be the right choice for you, but you also have to be prepared to deal with complex patient care. 

Career Advancement Chances

Whether you are RN or PN, you do not have to worry much because there will be more opportunities for both nursing fields in the future. Due to the pandemic of COVID-19, there is already a demand for nurses across the globe. According to a study, employment is expected to increase for PNs by 25%. On the other hand, the career advancement opportunity for RNs is 19%. 

You will have more career advancement options as an RN, like becoming a nurse practitioner by enrolling in an RN to NP online program. Most nursing institutions also prefer RNs to hire so that nursing students can make the best out of their experience. But responsibilities of RNs and PNs can vary according to the healthcare setting. For example, suppose you get hired at the nursing home as a PN. In that case, you will have more opportunities for promotion than in the hospital. 

Time Duration to Become PN and RN

It requires at least a year to become PN. You have to complete a course right after completing your high school degree. While becoming RN can vary. If you do not have any prior nursing qualification, it will take about two years to earn the associate degree. Earning a bachelor’s degree can take at least four years. 


It is crucial to know the different aspects of any field or profession you wish to enter. Firstly, you have to analyze your passion and think if it is the right choice for you or not. Then, you need to do complete research on what type of degrees you have to earn to become eligible to enter that particular field. When it comes to nursing, you have to be crystal clear in choosing your career path. You should know all the differences and similarities among all kinds of possibilities to make the right choice. So, whether you want to become RN or PN, you have to analyze your interests and needs to make the right career choice. It will help you accomplish your career goals and to serve society.